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UCL Division of Biosciences

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Helen Gath

Research Interests

Helen Gath

Biodiversity has been exhibiting a decline for several decades at genetic, population and ecosystem levels. In response to this, numerous conservation programmes have been, and continue to be established in order to secure the long-term viability of populations. Each conservation programme is faced with a unique set of circumstances based on the biology of the target species, the threats to the species’ survival and the local economic and political climate, all of which can change over time. However, the immediate needs of most endangered species are often identical (e.g. increasing food availability and breeding habitat, alleviation of predation and diseases) hence a series of common principles are frequently shared in the design and implementation of conservation management. At a programme level, assessing the effectiveness of the techniques employed is important in order to ensure the long-term viability of a species, but this also provides an important contribution to the global, ecological tool box for effective and practical management.

PhD Research

My PhD research focuses on one such example of conservation success, the recovery of the Echo Parakeet, Psittacula eques. This parakeet, endemic to the Island of Mauritius, was nearing extinction by the late 1980’s with less than 20 individuals in the wild. Through the work of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the population has been carefully managed to a present day population of ~500 birds. Since 1993, data has been annually recorded for all known breeding attempts and continues today, yet no study has closely examined the underlying demography of the population and in particular, its response to environmental conditions, disease and management actions. Such a rare, long-term data set will facilitate the examination of population and individual-level patterns in breeding success (e.g. timing of breeding, clutch size and fledglings), survival and recruitment. An understanding of these is fundamental to the development of an appropriate monitoring and management strategy to ensure the long-term viability of the parakeets. This integration of research with conservation management is becoming more common place in conservation biology and has been termed ‘Adaptive Management’. Successful adaptive management can lead to better targeting and more efficient use of resources and ultimately ensure the long–term survival of the species. The PhD will play an important role is advancing this process and hence the conservation of the Echo parakeet in the wild.

Helen Gath

CV

2013-PresentPhD candidate Institute of Zoology ZSl and University College London
2013Field Assistant Manager, FERA (Food and Environment Research  Agency)
2012–2013Round Island Nature Reserve Warden, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Mauritius
2011-2012Seabird Ecologist & Assistant Warden on Round Island, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation,  Mauritius
2005-2010BSc Zoology with Placement year, Cardiff University