Principal Research Officer, Species Science

About me

I am a research scientist with broad interests in conservation, ecology, and behaviour. These interests began with a childhood chasing insects, climbing trees, watching birds and trying to catch fish in the Oxfordshire countryside where I grew up. After an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, and a NERC-funded MSc at Queen Mary, University of London, I completed a NERC-funded PhD on Mute Swan foraging ecology, supervised by Dr Matthew O’Hare (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology). I then spent over two years as a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Richard Stillman’s Individual-based Ecology group at Bournemouth University, developing individual-based models to inform the conservation of waterbird populations. Since joining WWT in 2014 as Principal Research Officer, I aim to use my research to investigate the threats faced by waterbirds and to advise conservation action to protect the birds and their habitats.

Work

As part of WWT’s Conservation Evidence team, I’m involved in developing and carrying out a wide range of research projects that provide the evidence needed to inform the conservation actions of WWT and our partners. I work extensively on the analysis of long-term data on the abundance and demography of waterbirds, including species such as the Bewick’s Swan, Common Pochard, and Common Eider. My research aims to identify and understand changes in waterbird numbers in terms of the demographic causes (e.g. changes in productivity or survival rates), as well as the environmental drivers responsible for these changes. Since 2017 I have been a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Aquatic Botany. I was also Chair of the scientific committee for the 6th International Swan Symposium.

Skills

  • Field ecology: I collect a range of ecological data, from counting birds, to measuring their behaviour (time-activity budgets), to measuring the abundance and community composition of aquatic plants.
  • Data analysis: Proficient in R, I carry out a wide range of statistical analyses, including linear and non-linear mixed-effects models, survival modelling using capture-mark-recapture/resight/recovery data, and moving average models.
  • Population biology: I analyse data that WWT and partners collect as part of our long-term monitoring and research programmes to estimate demographic rates including productivity and survival, and develop matrix population models to investigate how changes in demographic rates affect population dynamics.
  • Evidence synthesis: In addition to my own primary research, I use meta-analysis and reviews to synthesise the available evidence on key topics to strengthen the evidence-base for our conservation work.
  • Individual-based models: I develop individual-based models (also known as agent-based models) to improve our understanding of habitat and resource use by waterbirds, and to make predictions about the impacts of perturbations such as food loss or wind turbine collisions.
  • Editorial work: A member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Aquatic Botany since 2017, I have also served as Guest Editor for special issues of journals including Hydrobiologia and Wildfowl.

Publications

For full list see my Google Scholar profile

Wood, K.A., Hilton, G.M., Newth, J.L. & Rees, E.C. (2019). Seasonal variation in energy gain explains patterns of resources use by avian herbivores in an agricultural landscape: Insights from a mechanistic model. Ecological Modelling, 409, 108762.

Wood, K.A., Brown, M.J., Cromie, R.L., MacKenzie, C., Newth, J.L., Pain, D.J., Perrins, C.M. & Rees, E.C. (2019). Regulation of lead fishing weights results in mute swan population recovery. Biological Conservation, 230, 67-74.

Wood, K.A., O’Hare, M.T., McDonald, C., Searle, K.R., Daunt, F. & Stillman, R.A. (2017). Herbivore regulation of plant abundance in aquatic ecosystems. Biological Reviews, 92, 1128-1141.

Wood, K.A., Stillman, R.A. & Goss-Custard, J.D. (2015). Co-creation of individual-based models by practitioners and modellers to inform environmental decision-making. Journal of Applied Ecology, 85, 810-815.

Redpath, S.M., Gutierrez, R.J., Wood, K.A. & Young, J.C. (2015). Conflicts in Conservation: Navigating towards solutions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.