This project will take place at GWSDF Auchnerran in Aberdeenshire. This is a grass-dominated farm with a large sheep flock. The Trust has been managing this farm for a few years now and has undertaken a wide range of monitoring, revealing a very large population of various waders. The lapwing and oystercatchers in particular make much use of the pastures, which are heavily used by the sheep, and monitoring to date has suggested that the sheep might have a significant impact on productivity by trampling and eating eggs, although this is highly variable.
Using a variety of methods, including drone surveys, the successful candidate will monitor the spatial and temporal use of fields by both sheep and waders during the breeding season (approx. May-early July). We hope to discover whether ewes, tups or lambs pose the greatest threat and how this might vary through the season, and whether there is any sign that wader distribution (both nesting and foraging) is impacted by field use by the sheep. The student will gain valuable experience of field-survey techniques and of practical conservation issues, and of handling large datasets.
The successful candidate must be able to drive. Some experience of bird surveys, and their own transport, would be advantageous. They will work as part of a small team and there will be opportunities to take part in other research activities occasionally too if they so wish. Further training will be given.
Dr Dave Parish