My main research interests fall under the umbrellas of conservation biology and ecology. What do different species do to survive, how do they use the landscape, what do they eat, how do they interact with each other, how have their ecologies changed over time, how are they influenced by human activities? These are just some of the fundamental questions which drive my research. I combine field ecology with quantitative techniques to find ways of answering these questions, and to generate new, important questions which can drive future research. When undertaking projects I frequently ask myself the following questions:
- Does the work expand our knowledge of this species or community?
- Does the work have the potential to benefit conservation or management processes?
- Will the project be of interest to and/or benefit local communities?
- Could the work have a positive influence on government policy?
I try to ensure that I can say ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions with my research. If I can answer positively to more than one question, then so much the better. I’m interested in all sorts of wildlife and have applied my skills and knowledge to a wide variety of terrestrial species, from newts to snakes, and from hares to birds of prey. It’s not so much the species which interests me - though they are all wonderful and fascinating - as the potential to learn, share what I’ve learned, and contribute to science and conservation.
My current primary research is focussed on hen harriers, a bird of prey which has a broad Eurasian distribution but which is endangered in Ireland. The Supporting Hen harriers in Novel Environments (SHINE) project aims to answer questions regarding the factors affecting the breeding success of hen harriers, including habitat, forest management, threats, and current conservation measures. In addition to the core work packages, I am also developing a number of satellite projects (conducted by undergraduate and Master’s students) which will add to our understanding of hen harrier ecology in Ireland.