About me

I fell in love with wildlife on a wet, muddy day at Slimbridge when I was seven years old. After that visit, I enthusiastically tried to start a bird club at school but with only my aunt and uncle willing to be members it didn’t last long! My passion for wildlife, and particularly birds, stayed with me through university and together with an interest in the human mind and health, led me to major in Biology and Psychology, squeezing in all the Ornithology courses on offer and graduating with a BSc in Neuroscience. With my new degree, some lab skills and one suitcase, I moved to the UK from Canada in 2005 and three months later, found my dream job – helping to look after the health of birds, back where it started, at Slimbridge.

I’m lucky enough to have lived near spectacular wetlands all my life. As a young child I played in the mud on the Welsh banks of the River Severn; after a move to Canada, my back garden was a vast swamp full of waterbirds, raccoons, beavers, snakes and colossal dragonflies; I’ve briefly lived next door to the Rhine and the Thames; and now I’m again living in sight of the awesome River Severn. Rivers, lakes, swamps and the many other types of wetlands are for me the best places on earth, and I feel lucky to work for an organisation fighting for these special places.

Work

My work at WWT has been varied. Between 2005 and 2009, I worked within WWT’s Wildlife Health Unit assisting in research on the health issues affecting wild and captive birds at WWT Centres and in the field, and working as an aviculturist on the breeding of captive flamingo flocks. In 2008, I completed a four-month secondment for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) where I coordinated the UNEP-CMS/FAO International Avian Influenza Task Force and the Central Asian Flyway Action Plan.

I have served as a member of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Chair of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group and the co-Chair of the BIAZA Flamingo Focus Group.

Since 2009, my work has focussed on wildlife re-introduction and translocation. In 2012, I authored the Guidelines for the Translocation of Waterbirds for Conservation Purposes: Complementing the IUCN Guidelines for the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), and I have authored or co-authored a range of other re-introduction plans and studies, including a feasibility study on the re-establishment of the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Fennoscandia for the Norwegian Government, and a review of reintroduction success for AEWA.

I am currently working on projects to save the spoon-billed sandpiper, restore breeding black-tailed godwits at the Ouse Washes, and ensure the long-term survival of the released population of Eurasian cranes in the south west of England. My mission is to improve the success of re-introduction efforts, for WWT’s own projects and projects around the world, through better planning, risk management and decision making.

Skills

  • Assessing the feasibility of proposed re-introductions and translocations, and the success of completed projects.
  • Planning and coordinating re-introduction and translocation projects.
  • Project management and administration, including planning, budget development and monitoring, infrastructure development, grant management, procurement and contract management, risk management and reporting.
  • Data management and analysis, including the creation and management of relational databases.
  • Spreadsheet wrangling, painting and falling over at any hint of mud or ice.

Publications

Clark, NA, GQA Anderson, J Li, EE Syroechkovskiy, PS Tomkovich, C Zockler, R Lee & RE Green. 2016. First formal estimate of the world population of the Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper Calidris pygmaea. Oryx, 52: 137–146.

Cromie, R, N Davidson, C Galbraith, W Hagemeijer, P Horwitz, R Lee, T Mundkur & DA Stroud. 2011. Responding to emerging challenges: multilateral environmental agreements and highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 14: 206–242.

Cromie, RL, R Lee & B Hughes. 2006. Avian influenza: A short review of the disease in wild birds, and of European wild bird surveillance during winter 2005/06. Wildfowl, 56: 197–202.

Lee, R & B Hughes. 2008. Review of Waterbird Re-establishment in the AEWA Region. WWT report to the Fifth Meeting of the Standing Committee of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: StC 5.18.

Lee, R, F Arengo & A Bechet (eds). 2011. Flamingo, Bulletin of the Wetlands International/IUCN-Species Survival Commission’s Flamingo Specialist Group, No. 18. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

Lee, R, P Cranswick, RL Cromie, GM Hilton, NS Jarrett & B Hughes. 2012. AEWA Guidelines for the Translocation of Waterbirds for Conservation Purposes: Complementing the IUCN Guidelines. AEWA Conservation Guidelines No. 13, AEWA Technical Series No. 49. Bonn, Germany.

Lee, R, PA Cranswick, GM Hilton & NS Jarrett. 2010. Feasibility study for a re-introduction/supplementation programme for the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus in Norway. WWT Report to the Directorate for Nature Management, Norway.

Lee, R. 2015. Justification assessment for a translocation of Black-tailed Godwit to supplement the Ouse Washes breeding population. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

Lee, R. 2016. Feasibility assessment for a supplementation of the UK breeding population of black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa limosa by headstarting at the Ouse Washes, East Anglia, UK. A report prepared as part of the LIFE Blackwit UK LIFE15 NAT/UK/000753 project. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

McCully F, D Croft, R Lee, P Tovey, M Roberts & P Rose. 2014. Personality as a characteristic of social position in captive flamingo flocks. Conference paper at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Winter Conference 2014, ZSL London Zoo, London, UK.

Rose PE, R Lee & D Croft. 2014. Understanding the social nature of flamingo flocks to determine who is friends with whom and why. Conference paper at the Third International Flamingo Symposium, San Diego, California, USA.

Rose, PE, DP Croft & R Lee. 2014. A review of captive flamingo (Phoenicopteridae) welfare: a synthesis of current knowledge and future directions. International Zoo Yearbook, 48: 139–155.

Sutherland, WJ, D Armstrong, SHM Butchart, JM Earnhardt, J Ewen, I Jamieson, CG Jones, R Lee, P Newbery, JD Nichols, KA Parker, F Sarrazin, PJ Seddon, N Shah & V Tatayah. 2010. Standards for documenting and monitoring bird reintroduction projects. Conservation Letters, 3: 229–235.