About me

I am an applied conservation biologist, with broad interests in securing populations of threatened species over the long-term, and achieving practical conservation solutions. I have a particular passion for international work, with first-hand experience in a variety of research projects around the world, ranging from sea turtle conservation in Tobago, freshwater ecology studies in Zambia, to social behaviour research on white-browed sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser mahali) in South Africa. My career began with a BSc (Hons) in Zoology at the University of Glasgow in 2006. After travelling the world for a year, my interest in birds first stemmed from a job as an Information Officer at the RSPB Lochwinnoch Reserve just outside Glasgow. I went on to complete an MSc in Conservation & Biodiversity in 2011 at the University of Exeter, Cornwall campus, before moving to Cambridge to work as a Research Assistant in the Science team at the BirdLife International Secretariat. I returned to Cornwall in 2013 to complete a PhD at the University of Exeter on the conservation and ecology of wetland birds in Africa. This focused on effective conservation planning in fragmented landscapes, and identifying realistic solutions for conservation that work for both biodiversity and local livelihoods. I used a group of birds endemic to papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) swamps in East and Central Africa as a model system, with challenging yet extremely rewording fieldwork in swamps in the south-west of Uganda.


I am a Senior Research Officer in the Conservation Science Department, focusing on species recovery. Most of my work is centred on translocation science, using mark-recapture analysis and population modelling to assess the effectiveness of translocation techniques. I am currently working on the effectiveness of head-starting to assist with the recovery of the breeding population of black-tailed godwits (Limosa limosa) on the Ouse Washes in the east of England. I am also determining the success of the recent reintroduction of the Eurasian crane (Grus grus) to Somerset.


I have a range of field skills (often proven in remote and challenging locations) including bird surveying, habitat sampling and mapping, bird handling and ringing (Trainee permit), nest monitoring, behavioural observation and distance sampling. I am proficient in R for data analysis, manipulation and handling, and am experienced in ArcGIS, DISTANCE, referencing software and social media. I was actively involved in teaching throughout my PhD, ranging from national and international field trips, to MSc and undergraduate courses in statistics, animal behaviour, terrestrial conservation and field techniques. I am also an experienced communicator, having delivered scientific presentations at a range of scientific conferences around the world, as well as participating in various outreach activities.


For a full list see my Google Scholar profile

Harrison, XA., Donaldson, L., Correa-Cano, ME., Evans, J., Fisher, DN., Goodwin, CED., Robinson BS., Hodgson, DJ. & Inger, R (2018) A brief introduction to mixed effects modelling and multi-model inference in ecology. PeerJ 6:e4794.

Donaldson, L., Wilson, RJ. & Maclean, IMD (2017) Old concepts, new challenges: adapting landscape-scale conservation to the twenty-first century. Biodiversity & Conservation 26 (3), 527-552.

Donaldson, L., Woodhead, AJ., Wilson, RJ. & Maclean, IMD (2016) Subsistence use of papyrus is compatible with wetland bird conservation. Biological Conservation 201, 414-422.