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Ecology and Conservation

Interactions between wildlife and agriculture, behavioural studies in wild and captive populations, species and habitat management, and plant-animal interactions are key themes of our Ecology and Conservation research at Askham Bryan College. Practical and sustainable management solutions for the conservation of plant and animal species underpins our research and our undergraduates work alongside our staff and other external professionals on a range of conservation-based research activities. Our brand new Wildlife and Conservation park, a multi-million pound investment allows our students to engage in and conduct their own research in a wide range of captive conservation techniques and principles. The College is part of the Tansy Beetle Action Group (, and we currently are working alongside a range of external stakeholders  in the conservation of the nationally endangered tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis). A tansy ark, the first of its kind for this species, was established at the College in 2012, and is now home to a thriving C. graminis population. 

Project Staff:

Dr Deirdre Rooney, Director of Higher Education

Dr Jo Beukers-Stewart, Lecturer in Countryside and the Environment

Mark Hoyle, Lecturer in Business Management

Dr Anna Riach, Lecturer in Animal Management and Equine

Alex Downing, Lecturer in Animal Management


Project Title: Making the use of shape recognition software for automated counting of seals accessible to researchers  Start Date: August 2016
Project Lead Staff: Mark Hoyle Project Partners:
Other Project Staff: Anna Riach
Project Aims and Overview:

Shape recognition and automated counting for wildlife has been developed for a number of species. More researchers could benefit from using automated software if the methods were made more accessible and therefore easier to apply. There have been a number of projects on seals that could have benefit from such techniques (Wood et al., 2007; Hauksson 2007; Kumar and Johnson, 2014; Cronin et al., 2007). In addition, it is possible that this knowledge could apply to other marine species such as sealions or walruses.

This project aims to produce easy-to-use instructions for using shape recognition software to count seals in aerial photographs.


Project Title:

Assessing visitor usage on upland Pennine moorland

Start Date:

December 2010

Project Lead Staff:

Mark Hoyle

Project Partners:

PhD project, LJMU

Other Poject Staff:

Project Aims and Overview:

Over two years data has been collected using remote micro electronic sensors, distributed across moorland to count user activity.  Providing the first continuous (24/7) usage data set for a piece of Pennine moorland.  Previously data has been collected in short surveys and aggregated to produce estimates of usage. 

Weather data is collected every 30 minutes at airports; this data has been collected from local airfields and will be used with the 24/7 usage data set to provide an accurate usage model.  This model will be used to predict future moorland usage.

The modelling will be useful for future management planning, conservation and funding allocation.  The electronic counting devices and methodology will be applied to other environments and tourist attractions where continuous counting is required.


Project Title:

An investigation into the population parameters of the Harvest Mouse, Micromys minutus, in both captive and wild settings.

Start Date:

August 2016

Project Lead Staff: Dr. Jo Beukers-Stewart

Project Partners:

Chester Zoo, Natural England

Other Project Staff: Richard Heaton - Agriculture, Caroline Howard - Animal Management

Project Aims and Project Overview:

The harvest mouse, Micromys minutus (Pallas), was listed as a Biodiversity Action Plan species and was named as a conservation priority under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework (Natural England 2014). Existing measures for its protection are necessarily broad and generalised (Access to evidence, Natural England 2015). This is because there is a paucity of data about the species in the wild with even basic distribution and abundance information lacking (Poulton and Turner, 2009). Population densities have been claimed to have declined with increased use of mechanisation in agriculture and removal of hedgerows (Battersby 2005), however this relationship may be a little more complex (Robinson and Sutherland 2002). Certainly, this species has very little known about it compared to other small mammals and in order to improve population densities we need to understand its population parameters better. Improving our understanding of the population biology and behaviour of this species should help significantly to inform conservation measures.

This project will investigate effective methods of population estimation for this species and if possible assess movement and dispersal rates. It will also seek to formulate protocols for re-introduction programmes and assess the possibility of using this conservation technique for Micromys minutus populations in the UK.

Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277