The impact of forestry on Golden Eagles in Scotland: fully-funded PhD available

The University of Chester, in collaboration with Scottish group Natural Research Ltd, is offering a fully-funded PhD for a student to investigate the impact of forestry on golden eagles in Scotland.

This is a rare and pretty special opportunity, working with internationally-recognised experts in golden eagle ecology and biology and with access to an incredible satellite tag data set, comprising over 10 million records amassed over 15 years from more than 200 golden eagles.

[Photo by Peter Cairns]

Here is the project description:

Golden Eagles in Scotland have largely recovered from historically low levels over the past two centuries but their distribution is still constrained by persecution and habitat loss across parts of their former range. Afforestation represents a potential source of habitat loss for Golden Eagles as closed canopy conifer afforestation can result in a loss of open ground used by Golden Eagles. However, the effects of afforestation on Golden Eagles are currently unclear with some research indicating a marked reduction in breeding productivity or loss of territories and others demonstrating less dramatic effects. As part of their response to the climate crisis the Scottish Government aims 21% forest cover for Scotland by 2034. This increase in woodland cover, along with the maturation, and felling, of previously planted commercial forestry represents a significant land-use change for Golden Eagles.

This project aims to assess the response of individual Golden Eagle to forestry and their use, or avoidance, of woodland habitats within their home ranges. The project will use data from satellite tracking of a large number of individual territory holders and dispersing, young birds to investigate landscape-scale use of and reaction to afforested and woodland habitats. It will also focus on individual territories in order to create fine-scaled maps of forest habitats which can be used to investigate behaviour related to the spatial structure of forest patches as well behavioural changes associated with forest maturation. The project will also examine the use of forests as roost sites and investigate the characteristics of individual roost locations and their use both temporally and spatially by single and multiple individuals. The successful student will engage in several desk-based analytical processes and also be expected to undertake some field work in the main study areas.

Improving our understanding of the reaction to, and use of, forested woodland habitats by Golden Eagles in Scotland should lead to recommendations that can inform the future planting and management of forests by statutory bodies and foresters working in Scotland with the aim of contributing to the continued recovery and maintenance of the Golden Eagle population.

Project supervisors

  • Dr Matt Geary, Biological Sciences
  • Dr Lottie Hosie, Biological Sciences
  • Dr Alan Fielding, Natural Research Ltd.
  • Dr Phil Whitfield, Natural Research Ltd.

Qualifications and eligibility

The candidate should have an undergraduate degree (minimum 2.i) in a relevant subject area and, ideally a qualification at Masters level or relevant professional experience related to the project. Some experience with statistical modelling, particularly mixed effects models, and spatial analysis would be useful along with familiarity with statistical and GIS software.


University fees will be covered for up to three years full time or six years part-time. In addition, the student will receive an annual stipend, currently £16,602.

Application deadline: 16th June 2022

Interview date: TBA

Anticipated start date: 1st October 2022

For further details including how to apply, please see here.

3 thoughts on “The impact of forestry on Golden Eagles in Scotland: fully-funded PhD available”

  1. Thats it, study them into extinction, not rocket science is it, bleedin obvious, same as curlew decline,

    1. Sorry for being so cynical, theres such a lot of sadness in the countryside, im a bit distraught about it, curlews, and a whole lot more are going fast, too many humans, too much green deserts, too much decline grrr, road deaths ive seen 3 cock bullfinches road killed this spring,

      1. You have every right to be angry at the plight of so much wildlife.
        If you have never read it- have read of “Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.
        Whilst the book deals with concepts around ethics and speciesism, it is these fundamental concepts which are at the heart of human abuse and misuse of nature.

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