Meet . . . our Grants Committee
Prof Phil Atkinson
Phil is Head of International Research at the British Trust for Ornithology and leads the BTO’s international research program, which is diverse in nature but has a strong emphasis on collaborative projects with biological, social and economic aspects.
His past work has concentrated on understanding how environmental change will impact bird populations. Projects have included developing new methods of modelling migration routes of waterbirds and the associated risk of Avian Influenza incursion into the UK; responding to climate change in the coastal zone by the understanding the issues concerning the creation and restoration of coastal wetland habitats (managed realignment); understanding the demographic implications of environmental change on bird populations (in particular the harvesting of shellfish); the extension of demographic models to estimate total numbers of migrant birds passing through a site (turnover); using stable isotopes to study shorebird migration systems and the application of process-based (i.e. individuals-based) models to conservation issues. Currently he is focusing on a large-scale, multi-partner, landscape restoration project in Belarus and Ukraine.
Phil has served on the BOU’s Grants Committee for eight years, the last four as Chair.
Dr Sonya Clegg
Sonya is Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on unravelling the evolutionary processes that promote divergence in wild vertebrate systems. She uses a variety of methodologies to answer questions about genomic, morphological, ecological and behavioural differentiation, including the role of natural selection and the ecological and evolutionary importance of disease in bird communities. Sonya’s primary research systems are island colonising birds of south-west Pacific islands, and she runs a long-term study of silvereyes on Heron Island, Australia.
Chief Operations Officer
Steve has worked in and around ornithology, and in particular science communication, since 1985. He started life as an RSPB reserves engagement officer before moving to the BTO (membership development officer) and then, in 1997, appointed as the BOU’s senior staff member to run the day to day operations of Union.
Steve’s role is very varied and means he has his fingers in most BOU pies, including delivering all BOU conferences and events (including in recent years our series of Twitter conferences), running the business side of the BOU’s journal, IBIS, website development and content management and servicing BOU Council and its five Standing Committees.
With a long-standing passion for communication, Steve undertakes all the BOU’s comms and social media (including the development of the BOU Twitter conferences), and in recent years has been actively involved in researching the ornithological community’s use of social media. With a background in design, in 2019 Steve designed the new Janet Kear Union Medal replacing the BOU’s existing Union Medal which had been in service since 1912.
Steve is an active birder and can usually be found wandering the Huntingdonshire fens.
Dr Ilya Maclean
Ilya is Associate Professor of Global Change Biology at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. He is an applied ecologist broadly interested in understanding how humans have changed the biological world, and how we might protect and enhance the world’s remaining biodiversity. Prior to moving to Exeter he was a Senior Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology. His early career, which involved extensive periods of fieldwork studying the birds of papyrus swamps in Uganda, benefited significantly from small grants donations and in the past he has been a recipient of BOU funding. He is keen to return this service. He is a life-long birdwatcher, happiest when trying find rarities on his local patch, the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.
Dr Sam Patrick
Sam first started working on birds during an undergraduate project on Tree Swallows at Cornell University (US), and continued throughout her PhD on Great Tits at the University of Oxford and postdoc on Gannets at Plymouth University. Her main work focusses on albatross species, in collaboration with CNRS, examining the interaction between resource acquisition and allocation at the individual level. In particular, she works on the importance of personality differences and individual plasticity and specialization in traits. Sam is now a Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool and, with members of her group, works from the Arctic to the Antarctic on a variety of avian systems. Outside of work, she enjoys running, gardening and gin.