Job vacancy: scientist to assess ecological impact of releasing ~60 million non-native gamebirds in UK every year

The RSPB is recruiting a conservation scientist for a fixed-term (one year) position to assess the ecological impacts of releasing millions of non-native gamebirds in the UK countryside every year.

The exact number of gamebirds that are released in the UK for shooting every year is not known because, incredibly and unlike virtually every other European country, the game bird shooting industry in the UK has been astonishingly under-regulated. Nobody even knows how many game bird shoots there are because the people involved have not had to register anywhere, nor report on the number of birds released / shot each year, in order to get a licence (because there is no licence!). It’s been a great old wheeze for decades.

Although some new, limited, regulation has now been introduced, thanks to a legal challenge by Wild Justice, it will still be incredibly difficult to find out how many non-native birds are being let loose each year, (currently estimated at around 61.2 million per annum). The ecological impacts of releasing so many alien species in to the countryside has to be substantial.

[This photograph of non-native pheasants released for shooting was posted on social media by a gamekeeper in Scotland]

The RSPB has been reviewing and developing its policy on gamebird shooting (e.g. here) and the findings of the newly-recruited scientist will feed in to that on-going policy review.

It’s interesting to note that one of the four main areas of focus for this post is ‘a spatial analysis to investigate to what extent raptor persecution incidents are associated with gamebird releasing’. I’ll look forward to seeing those results.

Here is an overview of what the job entails:

Recreational shooting of gamebirds in the UK is underpinned by a suite of management practices, including the annual large-scale release of non-native pheasants and red-legged partridges. With an estimated 57 million birds released into the UK countryside annually, there is much interest in identifying potential positive and negative ecological impacts of released gamebirds and of associated management on wildlife and habitats.  This 1 year fixed-term role will work on identified knowledge gaps, producing outputs to inform and support RSPB policy and research development regarding ecological impacts of non-native gamebird release.

This desk-based role will include work on four main areas, with the post holder:

Organising, undertaking and analysing a survey of land managers to characterise potential and perceived impacts of gamebirds on protected sites and species.

Leading a spatial analysis to investigate to what extent raptor persecution incidents are associated with gamebird releasing.

Reviewing and critiquing current gamebird releasing sustainability guidance and synthesising the associated evidence.

Contributing to the production of peer-reviewed publications in relation to ecological effects of gamebird release.

Essential skills, knowledge and experience:

  • The ideal candidate for this role will have a proven scientific background (e.g. a PhD in a relevant subject or equivalent experience designing and conducting one or more research projects to a robust scientific standard).
  • A track record of scientific writing and peer-reviewed publication.
  • Experience of designing and implementing ethically-sound, ideally web-based, questionnaire surveys.
  • Experience of collecting, collating, manipulating and analysing large and complex data sets, including knowledge of how to apply complex analytical procedures such as the quantitative analysis of qualitative data arising from questionnaire surveys, and analysis of spatially-reference data.
  • Familiar with Microsoft Office applications and proficient in the use of R or similar statistical software for complex statistical analysis, and ability to learn new techniques and programmes.
  • Experience of summarising and communicating complex scientific information both to colleagues/peers and external audiences.
  • Self-motivated and able to work efficiently to plan and organise their work within a defined work plan to meet deadlines.

Salary: £27,574.00 – £30,590.00 Per Annum

Benefits: Pension, annual leave

Duration: 12 months

Location: Flexible

Closing date: 30th August 2021

For more information and to apply for this position, please click here.

13 thoughts on “Job vacancy: scientist to assess ecological impact of releasing ~60 million non-native gamebirds in UK every year”

    1. This looks a good position for anybody on the make and a complete waste of money because this government wont do anything about raptor persecution unless a relative of a leading politician is poisoned by a bait left out by a gamekeeper.

      1. “This looks a good position for anybody on the make and a complete waste of money because…”

        … you are not interested in the facts?

  1. Definitely a big step forward especially re investigating raptor persecution – the goshawk is to pheasant shooting what hen harriers are to driven grouse shooting, maybe it’s in an even worse predicament though when its population is sitting at about 6% of its projected level. Is it even easier to hide illegal persecution in a woodland rather than on an open moor? Like driven grouse shooting pheasant and red legged partridge shooting also involves massive changes to the physical environment it’s just that they are displaced from the site of the actual shooting. They are the virtually wildlife free intensively farmed fields producing the feed to raise the birds artificially and to provide supplementary feed once they are released into the ‘wild’. Soymeal can be used in raising caged birds so there’s almost certainly soya growing in recently cleared South American rainforest that’s destined to feed birds which will predominantly end up as fox fodder, roadkill or the contents of black bin bags. Yes pheasant and red legged partridge shooting almost certainly contributes to rainforest loss, but where will you ever hear that being mentioned?

    There’s also the issue of native flora and thereby fauna being driven from woodlands due to the suppressing effect of non native shrub species originally planted out as game cover which have established near monocultures (where have we seen that before?) – rhododendron was the species used initially and by god is that causing problems from Snowdonia to Sutherland. I’ve spent two separate week long conservation working holidays in the Forest of Bowland primarily clearing invasive rhoddie. There are latter, less infamous species like cherry laurel and snowberry which given enough time will catch up with it, as they are doing. Millions of pounds and thousands of volunteer hours are spent trying to rectify what isn’t merely a historical flaw of shooting fraternity now, because they are still knowingly planting out invasive species for game cover! BASC, GWCT and others should actually be joining forces with conservation groups to clear a problem largely caused by their ‘sport’ in the past. Fat chance! They aren’t and are still adding to it.

    I hope somehow these issues can find themselves under the remit of this research project. I know that this must be the quadzillionth time I’ve mentioned this here and I feel especially sorry for poor Ruth who has to review all comments before they can be added, but in all honesty I feel I have to take every opportunity to give them a platform anywhere I can because it’s only extremely rarely if ever they appear otherwise. I’ve challenged the game shooting sector about them and have been deafened by the ensuing silence, but at least that was expected. I’ve also contacted the conservation organisations, including the RSPB, to ask if they can incorporate these points in their reviews and campaigning work, and that’s been like getting blood out of a stone.

    If I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and someone shows me how then I’ll more than happily shut my trap, but they haven’t. It’s similar to the point about grouse moors compromising the potential through dropping muirburn, targeted tree planting and eventual return of the beaver to reduce flood risks to peoples’ homes, businesses and farms downstream. Slowly it’s getting better, but there must be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people potentially at risk from flooding at least partly because of grouse moors who have absolutely no idea that’s the case and that’s a bloody ridiculous failure of democracy. There’s a big pile of high calibre ammunition that’s not being brought into this fight, certainly by what are supposed to be the big guns, and instead it’s largely collecting dust.

    1. Brilliantly put.
      The points you raise are very valid.
      With the government proposing to change the rural payment scheme to one based on one of public money for public goods, and the proposed Environment Bill, which allegedly at its core is a commitment by the government to leave the environment in a better than state than they found it by halting the decline of nature. Then key to this success has to be habitat restoration.
      So now would be a very good time to raise the public awareness of these issues, and that is something all the various conservation charities could be doing as we approach CPO26.
      As far as I am concerned -raptor persecution isn’t just about the illegal criminal acts, such as poisoning or shooting. It’s also about the degradation and destruction of the natural native ecosystems, so that native British wildlife can not flourish. As raptors are at the top of the food chain- they are probably most effected by the degraded countryside.
      Don’t loose heart…and keep on raising these issue…they are extremely important, and in my belief, all part of the wider issues associated with raptor persecution.

  2. What an incredibly challenging job description and such a worthwhile job. But why is science and ecology so under paid.My daughter is an ecologist for NE and loves her job, but the pay half as much as she received as a science teacher.

  3. Neo-liberal economics demands short term results. Conservation science., is a generally a barrier against over exploiting unsustainable forces and the destrruction, or damage too, areas of activity. As such it tends to be treated in a similar fashion to the Social Sciences and low wages are designed to keep what they, neo-liberal Elites, see as the best minds from joining the opposition. Low wages can also severely affect morale after a time if one has to juggle their spending patterns simply to survive.

    1. Well, I worked in mathematical computing in engineering, nuclear physics, space science and environmental science, and the pay – along with that of all my colleagues – was poor after Thatcher was sacked. Not that I approve of Thatcher one little bit. “Scientists on tap, not scientists on top” was the motto of Government, and still is. They are still subject to a pay freeze…

  4. Same old fake/stitched pic of pheasants being dragged out and used yet again! Really! Have you a link to the “Scottish game keeper posted this on FB” and when? Many have called it out and laughed about it before.

    This position just shows what RSPB has become. Just a year? Really! With so little knowledge anyway. Desk based. Great to read they must have skills in manipulating data. Shame they top heavy and not investing in and retaining quality staff any more. Especially field workers. Many have poor field craft, box tickers or are taken advantage of. Others are not listened to or afraid to speak up. Especially if they are female as, still so much sexism in conservation. This is from folk i know and friends.
    Results in lot of floured data. See it just on local schemes RSPB/WT involved in. . . Going to be interesting what they come up with in the latest local turtle dove scheme. Survey area/boxes that cover my/our ground are taken on website yet we don’t know by who and there is no way they can see whole of sites or monitor the turtle doves or habitat. So how are they ever going to know anything about gamebirds? E.g released or wild birds? They Can’t!
    Wish they would make more of there data available. Why did they stop or refuse? Even reply!

    Time we all moved on! Many of us are! Keep talking! We don’t need to agree all the time! But more action is needed now to help wildlife!
    All need to look at the bigger picture! I see more raptors now than i have ever seen in my lifetime. And many more than my parents ever did! Amazing!

    Sadly this post will prob be deleted.

    1. “This is from folk i know and friends.”

      No it is not. You are just making it up.

      “Results in lot of floured data”

      Is that ‘floured’ as in ‘covered with flour’?

      “But more action is needed now to help wildlife!”

      Indeed, especially more criminal prosecutions of those wildlife abusers called ‘gamekeepers’.

      “Sadly this post will prob be deleted”

      Why? It simply demonstrates ignorance and dishonesty.

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