The RSPB science award medal

Conservation Science Awards

The RSPB's three annual awards to recognise and celebrate excellence in conservation science.

Conservation Science Awards

We offer annual awards to recognise and celebrate excellence in conservation science.

Awards are given for: 

  • An outstanding PhD thesis in conservation science
  • A scientific paper of high conservation value
  • An outstanding RSPB conservation scientist

If you are a PhD supervisor and would like to nominate your student for the PhD award, please download our award criteria information.

Award for an outstanding PhD 2019

This prize is awarded to a postgraduate who has been awarded a PhD in any area of conservation science at a UK university within the last two years. Students will be nominated by their academic departments, before the winner is chosen by our team of scientists. The winner will receive a specially commissioned medal and cash prize.

Winner: Janine E. Robinson

Thesis title: Supplying the Exotic Pet Trade: Conservation and Livelihood Implications

Institution: University of Kent

Janine’s thesis investigates the exotic pet trade, with emphasis on socio-economic implications of wildlife trade chains, and how these interact with conservation and sustainable use in supply countries.

Whilst this trade represents a significant threat to biodiversity, it may also provide opportunities where poverty rates are high. Janine identified key gaps and focused on complex and less understood areas, such as socio-economic implications in developing countries, and associated incentives for conservation.

Janine interdisciplinary approach has revealed novel contributions to our understanding of the wildlife trade; including the first global analysis of CITES reptiles revealing a shift from wild sourcing to more intensive production systems such as ranching and captive breeding, and highlighting possible implications regarding benefit flows.

Her comprehensive analysis of socio-economic implications of wildlife trade in Madagascar has provided some of the most in-depth understanding of the importance of wildlife trade to local people, and whether this incentivises conservation. This included a unique study of the entire length of a wildlife trade supply chain.

Janine’s work has given Madagascar authorities essential information used in the management of the trade, allowed more informed and holistic exploration of conservation measures taking into account socio-economic considerations, provided realistic recommendations for improved trade and informed dialogue on the future of the exotic pet trade in particular.

Her PhD has resulted in five publications, including one in Conservation Biology in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC highlighting common pitfalls associated with analyses of CITES trade data.

Award for a scientific paper of high conservation importance 2019

This award is given for a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal that is likely to have a significant impact on conservation. The award is open to papers from around the globe, but excludes papers co-authored by our RSPB scientists.

Winner: Manuel Dureil

Paper: ‘Elevated trawling inside protected areas undermines conservation outcomes in a global fishing hotspot’

Authors: Manuel Dureil, Kristina Boerder, Kirsti A. Burnett, Rainer Froese, Boris Worm

With marine protected areas (MPAs) increasingly being used as a primary tool to conserve biodiversity, Manuel’s paper is timely and has huge implications for the management of these critical areas.

This is especially relevant for heavily exploited fisheries hot spots such as Europe, where MPAs now cover 29% of territorial waters, with unknown effects on fishing pressure and conservation outcomes.

Manuel investigated industrial trawl fishing and sensitive indicator species in and around 727 MPAs designated by the European Union by overlaying two large publicly available datasets.

He found that nearly 60% of MPAs were subjected to trawling and at a 1.4-fold higher intensity within the areas as compared with non-protected areas. Interestingly, the abundance of sensitive species (sharks, rays, and skates) decreased by 69% in heavily trawled areas, especially the critically endangered species.

Whilst we’ve made great strides in UK and have exceeded the Aichi biodiversity target 11 to ensure 10% of marine areas are “protected” by 2020, Manuel’s paper shines a light on the need to focus on how those so-called “marine protected areas” are managed.

Half the MPAs in Europe do not have management plans so whilst the network of European MPAs is spatially impressive, currently they may amount to little more than paper parks, and give a false sense of security.

The widespread industrial exploitation of MPAs undermines global biodiversity conservation targets, elevating recent concerns about growing human pressures on protected areas worldwide.


Award for an outstanding RSPB conservation scientist 2019

The award is given to a colleague who's made a very significant contribution to the RSPB's science over the previous year. This contribution can encompass any aspect of our scientific work, from initial ideas and innovation to implementation, a one-off or a general contribution, field or deskwork, administrative, technical or scientific work.

Our science team submitted nominations and, after short-listing three, voted for their winner.

2019 winner: Daniel Hayhow

His colleague Mark Eaton said: “For a stunning performance in delivering the State of Nature report, a huge multi-faceted project with numerous partners, tight deadlines, multiple aims – including analysis, writing, editing, design, communications, media work and co-ordination of a vast team. 

“Daniel also provides great support for LGBT+ colleagues through his role in the Starlings group and was one of the presenters of an excellent Spotlight talk on this topic earlier in the year, helping us to build a more inclusive workplace.”


Conservation Science Awards 2018

Conservation Science Awards 2017

Mathilde Baude Science awards winner 2017
Read about award recipients from 2017.

Conservation Science Awards 2016

Award For An Outstanding PHD Winner Dr Enrico Pirotta
Read about award recipients from 2016.

Conservation Science Awards 2015

Award For An Outstanding phD Winner 2015 Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita

Read about award recipients from 2015.

Conservation Science Awards 2014

Award For An Outstanding PHD Winner 2014 Dr Alienor Chauvenet

Read about award recipients from 2014.