Final article: PhD Students working with the Vincent Wildlife Trust

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PhD Students working with the Vincent Wildlife Trust

PhD student Catherine McNicol catching a grey  squirrel for her PhD research  © Nick Upton /
PhD student Catherine McNicol catching a grey squirrel for her PhD research © Nick Upton /

The VWT supports several PhD students through collaborations with universities and other organisations. PhD students typically address key topics and questions which directly align with VWT’s priority work areas, and provide an invaluable contribution to our conservation and research programmes. Students become fully incorporated into wider VWT activities and contribute to external meetings, conferences and events with stakeholders and funders. VWT staff frequently get involved in helping PhD students with fieldwork and data collection, so the working relationships developed are mutually beneficial.  A couple of years ago, the VWT established the Vincent Weir Bursary to financially support PhD studies in honour of the Trust’s founder and a current student became the first to receive this bursary.

At present, VWT supervises five PhD students, with the Universities of Exeter and Sussex and Waterford Institute of Technology. At the University of Exeter, we currently have three PhDs focused on mustelids (the weasel family). One student is studying polecats, focusing on the potential risks to continued polecat population recovery, from secondary rodenticide poisoning to human-wildlife conflict, as their range expands.  Two other students are carrying out research on the VWT’s Pine Marten Recovery Project. One of these projects is investigating the impact of translocated pine martens on grey squirrels and the other focuses on the adaptive behaviour and ecology of the pine martens’ response to translocation and how we can use this information to improve conservation translocations. We also have two PhD students, at the University of Sussex and Waterford Institute of Technology respectively, working on bats. One of these is examining how landscape connectivity, habitat suitability and land management influence the movement of the greater horseshoe bat, and the second is developing non-invasive genetic methods for bats.

Two previous VWT PhD students who graduated recently are currently working as a post-doctoral researcher carrying out further work on bats and for a Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation, respectively. We’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of our PhD student’s labours and how we can apply the outcomes to progress VWT’s conservation work.

For more information about Vincent Wildlife Trust, please visit

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Posted On: 15/11/2018

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