About me

I am a conservation ecologist with wide-ranging interests. My passion for the outdoors, nature and biology led me to study BSc Zoology at University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where I won the George Heslop-Harrison award for female achievement in science. I went on to study MSc Biodiversity and Conservation at University of Leeds. I then swapped the studies for something very different and joined WWT as an aerial surveyor, which involves identifying and counting seaducks and seabirds from a small plane. Some of the most exciting times of my life were spent crammed into that aircraft, from the rush of counting thousands of Common Scoters within a few seconds and spotting Minke Whales in the North Sea, to flying alongside White-tailed Eagles and counting Long-tailed Ducks in icy Norwegian Fjords. From this I developed an interest in seaducks, and I took part in a number of expeditions to Iceland and Norway to catch and fit geolocatiors to Common Scoters, working with Aarhus University.

Much of my research experience is in spatial ecology, including habitat suitability modelling to determine factors influencing species’ distributions, and predicting and mapping habitat suitability to inform conservation management decisions. I’m interested in the function and biodiversity of wetlands, in particular how wetlands can provide multiple benefits to society.

Work

I joined WWT Consulting Ltd in 2006, specialising in aerial surveys of waterbirds around UK offshore waters: designing and conducting surveys, reporting to government departments and developers to inform spatial planning of wind farms and SPA status. I also managed and delivered a range of ecological survey, habitat restoration and visitor centre planning and design projects.

I have worked in WWT’s Conservation Science department since 2011. I spent four years as Senior Species Recovery Officer, coordinating the delivery of the scientific elements of the EU Life project ‘Conservation of the wintering grounds of the globally threatened Red-breasted Goose’, working with Bulgarian Birdlife Partners BSPB, RSPB, and local stakeholders. Our research aimed to understand habitat use by geese and the extent of threats from wind farm development, hunting and agriculture, to inform sensitive spatial-planning and management. My role involved design and coordination of fieldwork activities, data analysis, reporting and scientific publication. I also worked on a study to model habitat selection of Greenland White-fronted Goose on Islay, Scotland, to inform conservation management, and co-authored the AEWA International Species Action Plan for Long-tailed Duck.

My current role is focused on wetlands: specifically, developing, delivering and communicating research to inform the conservation of wetlands and wetland nature. Our research hopes to demonstrate the multi-functional benefits of wetlands to society, from biodiversity and water quality improvements to flood attenuation and human health and wellbeing.

A particular focus lies in investigating the multiple benefits of working with natural processes to reduce flood risk, aka Natural Flood Management (NFM). There is real potential for these catchment-scale NFM to deliver a wide range of societal and ecological benefits. My role is to quantify these benefits as evidence to drive the wider adoption of NFM.

I also contribute in-house GIS (I’m a bit of a map geek), habitat suitability modelling and remote sensing expertise to a range of projects within the Centre for Conservation Science.

Skills

  • Project management
  • GIS & remote-sensing
  • Species distribution and sensitivity mapping
  • Designing and coordinating monitoring programmes
  • Statistics – mixed modelling in R, Distance analysis
  • Aerial, boat-based (ESAS) and digital seabird surveys
  • River Habitat Survey certification
  • Modular River Physical Habitat (MoRPh) surveys
  • Vegetation surveys, including NVC
  • Water quality sampling
  • Handling large datasets
  • Species action-planning

Publications

For full list see my Google Scholar profile

Harrison, A.L., Petkov, N., Mitev, D. Popgeorgiev, G., Gove, B. and Hilton, G. M. (2018). Scale-dependent habitat selection by wintering geese: implications for landscape management. Biodiversity and Conservation. 27: 167.

Petkov, N., Harrison, A.L, Stamenov, A. and Hilton, G. M. (2017). The impact of wintering geese on crop yields in Bulgarian Dobrudzha: implications for agri-environment schemes. European journal of Wildlife Research. 63: 66.

Wood, K.A., Nuijten, R.J., Newth, J.L., Haitjema, T., Vangeluwe, D., Ioannidis, P., Harrison, A.L., Mackenzie, C., Hilton, G.M., Nolet, B.A. & Rees, E. C. (2018). Apparent survival of an Arctic‐breeding migratory bird over 44 years of fluctuating population size. Ibis, 160, 413-430.

Wood, K.A., Newth, J.L., Brides, K., Burdekin, M., Harrison, A.L., Heaven, S., Kitchin, C., Marshall, L., Mitchell, C., Ponting, J., Scott, DK., Smith, J., Tijsen, W., Hilton, G.M., Rees, E.C. (2018). Are long-term trends in Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) numbers driven by changes in winter food resources? Bird Conservation International. 1-18.

Hearn, R.D., Harrison, A.L. & Cranswick, P.A. 2015. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis). AEWA Technical Series No. 57. Bonn, Germany