Marsh Award for Conservation Biology

Established in 1991, this Award is run in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and recognises an individual for their contributions of fundamental science to the conservation of animal species and habitats.

A ZSL judging panel, consisting of experts in the field, offer their knowledge and expertise to select an Award winner. The Award recognises work done in the previous year.

(2017 Awards were presented in 2018)


Professor Rosie Woodroffe 2021

Rosie is an exceptional zoologist with wide-ranging interests in carnivore behaviour, conservation, human-wildlife conflicts and disease. She carries out extremely impressive field-studies, elegant analytical, statistical and modelling work to resolve contentious, complicated issues in the UK, East Africa and more globally. Rosie is an impressive role model in her ability to communicate and inform policy through the highest quality science. Rosie publishes world-leading science that is extremely influential. She serves on numerous policy and scientific advisory boards including the Bovine TB partnership, a joint independent/government advisory group for DEFRA, the IUCN Canid Specialist Group and the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group. Her translational work to support the best uptake and use of science to inform policy and practice is admirable.  

Previous Winners

Mike Bruford, University of Cardiff

Mike is a pioneer in the field of conservation genetics.  His skillset has equipped him to tackle a diversity of problems in a wide range of taxa, and he has published an impressively large number of papers, with a high proportion of those in the top journals.  Mike has led studies on the evolution of domestication and the conservation of the associated genetic variation, the population structure and demography of wild primate populations, identifying units of conservation and using genetic methods to reveal mating systems.  In recent years he has been involved in several genome sequencing projects and he is an advocate for using wholegenomic data to make important inferences about population demography and to conserve adaptive potential.  At the national level Mike has led on the CryoArks project and raised an initial £1m from BBSRC, to enable the UK research community to curate and biobank thousands of irreplaceable tissue samples of potential conservation significance.  Mike is highly collegial and public spirited; he has mentored dozens of scientists from around the globe, including over 50 as PhD students.  

Steffen Oppel

Steffen’s work is exceptional in its scientific rigour and conservation impact. He combines remarkable skill and endurance in the field with exceptional analytical ability. His work on two of the UK’s Overseas Territories – St Helena and Montserrat – has established rigorous monitoring of two globally threatened endemic species, the wirebird and the oriole. Both species have now been down-listed by IUCN as a result of action on the ground and confidence in the population-monitoring data.

Steffen’s widely recognised work on seabirds focuses on tackling invasive species and the use of tracking data to identify Marine Protected Areas. In both he has gained international recognition. While at the RSPB Steffen has focused on numerous other threatened species including aquatic warbler, sempers warbler and bald Ibis, to name just a few. Essentially, if the RSPB has a challenging field or analytical project, Steffen is the person they turn to, and he always delivers through a combination of brilliance, determination and a sense of humour!

Susan Cheyne

Susan has had a significant impact on applied wildlife conservation through her scientific contributions. Her doctoral research focused on the rehabilitation and reintroduction of gibbons in Kalimantan, Indonesia. She is co-director of the Borneo Nature Foundation and through this work has developed the study of gibbon ecology and behaviour in tropical peat swamp forests, as well as surveys of population density and distribution of gibbons across Indonesian Borneo. Susan initiated the first long-term study of felids and large-mammal biodiversity and conservation, especially focused on the Sunda clouded leopard. She is also involved in the Borneo River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities (BRINCC).

From 2010, Susan has been an affiliated lecturer for the highly-successful MSc course at Oxford Brookes University. She has advised several IUCN specialist groups, helping to lead conservation policy, especially on surveys of hunting fruit-bats, and anthropogenic factors on biodiversity in peat-swamp forests. Susan is now vice chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group Section on Small Apes where she develops best-practice guidelines for gibbons. Over 15 years she has an amazing range of achievement, with her intellectual ability, dynamism and leadership and she inspires confidence and achievement in all.

Richard Griffiths

Richard Griffiths’ research and policy outputs span the breadth and depth of amphibian conservation issues, including habitat loss, infectious diseases, reintroduction, invasive species and the amphibian trade. He has run long-term amphibian population and community monitoring projects, working with researchers, wildlife managers, zoo staff, policy makers and government agencies in a number of countries.

Richard’s influence stretches across his numerous roles on national and international bodies at the centre of amphibian conservation research, including the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Herpetology, the International Herpetological Committee the British Herpetological Society and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. Graduate students who have been taught by Richard have gone on to populate amphibian and reptile conservation organisations across the globe. They are committed to conservation which is grounded in scientific evidence.

Steve Redpath

Steve Redpath has redefined the field of human-wildlife conflict, one of the highest-profile issues in conservation science, covering crop-raiding and livestock predation worldwide, as well as conflicts between landowners, conservation groups and government in the UK uplands. His core research for the last 20 years has been around the hen harrier-grouse conflict in the Scottish uplands, providing fundamental ecological research underpinning policy debates and he also has a research programme on the ecology of snow leopard predation in the Himalayas. Based on his knowledge of the subject, Steve has proposed a new framing of the human-wildlife conflict issue, in terms of conflicts between the underlying values and beliefs of different interest groups, which has been a great influence on those who work in this field.

Ben Collen

Ben Collen of University College London established himself as a distinguished scientist in the field of global conservation biology. His impressive publications list, including several papers in Nature and Science, is testament to the influential nature of his research, both scientifically and in policy terms.

Ben led the work that resulted in the compilation of data that underlies the WWF Living Planet Index, which was used to show that over 50% of global vertebrate populations have been lost since 1970. The results are based not only on a very comprehensive data set, but also on the sound conceptual and analytical bases that Ben designed and delivered for 8 years while he was at ZSL.

Dr Debbie Pain

Dr Debbie Pain is Head of Conservation at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and was formerly Head of International Research at the RSPB. She has a passion for conserving rare and threatened species and has undertaken seminal scientific research to do so. Her specialism is in ecotoxicology, and particularly the effects of lead poisoning in wildlife. Her work on lead shot residues in the tissues of game has highlighted a potential hazard to human health. She has also carried out a major investigation into the environmental effects of the 1998 Doñana mining disaster and the impacts on birds and other wildlife of pesticide poisoning.
Dr Pain also has a strong interest in the conservation ecology of globally threatened species, and has led scientific investigations into the collapse of vulture populations in southern Asia, an ecological disaster that is now well on the way to being resolved thanks to her early lead. Her other research interests include the impacts of agriculture on birds, prioritising islands for predator eradication, climate change adaptation and the impacts of the bird trade on threatened parrots. A lengthy list of publications indicates her major contribution to conservation science in a number of fields.

Dave Goulson

Dave Goulson is an entomologist who has made an outstanding contribution to both our understanding of bumblebee ecology and to their conservation. He has been at the very forefront of the scientific, political, educational and practical efforts to conserve bumblebees, both in the UK and worldwide. Dave was the Founder, and still is the Director, of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, through which he has engaged members of the public in ‘citizen science’ projects, which involve recording bumblebee distributions and population changes. He has spear-headed practical conservation measures such as active habitat management and has lobbied for changes to UK Government and EU policies, so as to support bumblebee, and other pollinator, populations.

Dave has undertaken first-rate scientific research into the population genetics and demography of bumblebees and other insects, and has used bumblebees as indicator species to evaluate the impact of alien introductions. Most recently, he has demonstrated significant adverse impacts of trace levels of neonicotinoid pesticides on bumblebee populations, using lab and field-scale experiments to demonstrate the effect of these pesticides on changes in colony growth rates and queen production rates.

Jane Hill

Jane Hill’s elegant research combines fieldwork, analysis of historical records and climate modelling to show how habitat degradation and climate change affect insect distribution and abundance. Jane works especially with butterflies and moths, which have proved to be of great value in tracking population structure and ecology in relation to changes of land use or climate change. She is one of those prominent research scientists working with this group who have raised the profile of climate-change work on insects. Her endeavours are highly successful in this sphere, and she continues to add to our understanding of ways in which the loss of biodiversity can be best managed in both temperate and tropical regions. Jane has also identified methods for improving biodiversity in oil palm plantations and for promoting the adaptation of biodiversity to climate warming. Her research has shown that even small forest fragments can contribute substantially to regional diversity and, therefore, that their conservation value should not be overlooked.

Paul Donald

Paul Donald has undertaken detailed ecological fieldwork to generate methods for improving the conservation status of birds, particularly in relation to threats at landscape scale. His contributions have been exceptional and influential, and the diversity of species and situations he has worked on testifies to the scope of his abilities. He is particularly recognised for his work with skylark; first linking their declines to agricultural intensification and then devising and successfully implementing remedial action, which have even influencing EC policy mechanisms. Similarly, his work on Gurney’s pitta in Asia has provided stark evidence of the disaster of oil palm expansion for restricted range species of lowland forests and recent work on the Endangered Razo lark has identified both a proximate problem (male-biased sex-ratio) and potential solutions through habitat restoration and manipulation.

Paul has made many outstanding contributions to conservation, and importantly, he has been successful in getting his research findings translated into practice. Paul also devotes considerable effort to developing the capacity of young conservation scientists and practitioners around the world.

Dr Ana Rodrigues

Dr Ana Rodrigues is both an outstanding scientist and conservationist. She has made significant contributions to a broad range of scientific areas in the field of conservation science. For example, she has quantified mammal and amphibian declines and identified appropriate conservation responses, revealed surrogates for conservation planning, and helped to define what is required for an effective and representative protected area system.

Dr Rodrigues also tackles fundamental questions about what is required for success in conservation globally. She has made important contributions to some of the most influential conservation documents and reports to come out over the past decade, including the Global Gap analysis, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the biodiversity chapter of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Her relentless energy, dedication to conservation and commitment to integrating the best science into applied conservation are evident to all who meet her.

Isabelle Côté

Isabelle Côté has made a substantial impact on coral reef research and conservation through her work in the Caribbean. She has, in particular, through meta-analysis helped to bring together numerous disparate studies to demonstrate the extent of coral reef decline in the Caribbean, the extent of coral bleaching and how it relates to sea surface temperatures and also the impacts of changing hurricane intensities on coral reefs. Her best known paper in this area is probably the one in Science demonstrating an 80% decline in coral cover across the last 25 years. Following this line of investigation she has recently completed a paper on how the coral reef habitats are changing in general across the Caribbean.

Isabelle has also pioneered interdisciplinary studies on the conservation of coastal habitats in the Caribbean. These have often involved exploration of the valuation of coastal resources. One of her earliest studies in this area involved a comparison of the value of beach and coral reef resources to the tourism of Bonaire and Barbados and the degree to which the value of these resources is under threat from climate change. Other studies have involved the value of marine parks for conservation and these have been used on the island of Bonaire to set charges for access to the marine park.

Dr Stuart Butchart

Dr Stuart Butchart is Head of Science at BirdLife International. His extensive work has involved making critically important analyses on endangered bird species and he has developed an influential new index to measure trends in threatened status. The rigour with which he has carried out this work is demonstrated by the success it has had in key policy arenas. For example, the index has been adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity for reporting on progress towards the global 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. The Pan European initiative has likewise adopted the index.

Professor Sarah Wanless

Professor Sarah Wanless is a seabird ecologist and her work on bird nesting colonies and foraging is fundamental to understanding recent dramatic population declines. Her research focuses on long-term studies of demography, behaviour and diet of seabirds breeding at the colony on the Isle of May at the entrance to the Firth of Forth.

Professor Wanless has a particular interest in using seabirds as bio-indicators of sandeel abundance and condition. This work has recently highlighted a population explosion of a previously rare species, the snake pipefish. This fish is becoming increasingly common in the diet of a wide range of seabirds at colonies around the UK but represents a very poor alternative to sandeels, being low in nutrients and extremely difficult for chicks to swallow.

Professor William Sutherland

Professor Sutherland’s research interests include the development and use of population models based on the behaviour of individuals to answer a wide range of applied questions, such as the impact of GM crops, climate change, human disturbance or agricultural change.

Professor Sutherland is a pioneer of evidence-based conservation, and is interested in how evidence is used in conservation practice. He is concerned that the effectiveness of the conservation community is compromised by a failure to document and collate the experience and outcome of conservation interventions. He has established Conservation Evidence, a website providing over a thousand examples where the effectiveness of conservation interventions are quantified. Professor Sutherland is also interested in researching the interface between science and policy and in exploring means of collaborating with policy makers. He is an Editor for Conservation Letters and he also established the Gratis Book Scheme, which provides, through author donation, essential books to practicing conservationists and libraries in developing countries.

Professor Chris Thomas

Professor Chris Thomas, of the Department of Biology at the University of York, is an expert on the impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change on the distributions and ecology of animal species. His research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary impacts of human activities on biological systems; the impacts of habitat degradation and fragmentation on the extinction and survival of species in human-modified landscapes; the northwards shift of the distribution of species in response to climate change and the evolutionary processes that determine the dynamics and locations of species’ range boundaries. The results of this research predict that 15-37% of species may be committed to eventual extinction as a result of climate warming that is likely to have taken place (mid-range estimates) by 2050. His research has also informed climate-change adaptation policies for biodiversity and, with collaborators, Professor Thomas has contributed to the development of conservation planning tools, resulting in the identification of priority areas in Britain and Madagascar.

Professor Stuart Pimm

Professor Stuart Pimm became a conservation biologist watching species become extinct in Hawaii in the 1970s. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications, many of them published in Nature and Science, and has written four books, the most recent being the World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth.

Professor Pimm’s research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction, the role of introduced species in causing extinction and, importantly, the management consequences of this research. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has lead to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. The Institute of Scientific Information recognized him in 2002 as being one of the world’s most highly cited scientists. In 2004 Pimm was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Callum Roberts

Professor Callum Roberts is a marine conservation biologist at the University of York. His research focuses on human impacts on marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. He has studied the effects of marine reserves closed to all fishing on St Lucia and Saba, revealing the scale of human impacts on the sea, and the means of protecting marine ecosystems from such effects. He is currently working to gain acceptance for marine reserves more widely, including in Britain and Europe where he is helping fishers to promote the concept within the industry and to politicians.

Professor Roberts has served on a US National Research Council Committee on Marine Protected Areas and has been a member of the Marine Reserves Working Group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, which seeks to develop a more robust theoretical underpinning for the design and implementation of marine reserves. Professor Roberts has also been active with the Coral Reef Fish Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and has collaborated with other researchers to develop global maps of the biodiversity distribution of reef fishes and other faunal groups. He was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation in 2000 to tackle obstacles to implementing marine reserves, followed by a Hardy Fellowship in Conservation Biology at Harvard University in 2001.

Dr E J Milner-Gulland

The underlying theme of Professor Milner-Gulland’s work is the interaction between the population dynamics of exploited species and the incentives experienced by the people who hunt them. To conserve hunted species effectively the system must be understood holistically, both the ecology of the species and its interaction with its environment, and the legal, economic and social conditions shaping the users’ incentives. She uses modelling and fieldwork to explore these interactions and to develop policy recommendations for the conservation and management of exploited species.

Professor Milner-Gulland has been at Imperial College London since 2002, first as a reader in Conservation Science, then becoming Professor of Conservation Science, in the Department of Life Sciences and Centre for Environmental Policy in 2007.

Professor Andrew Balmford

After ten years as an undergraduate, PhD student and research fellow at the University of Cambridge, Professor Balmford became a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology in London, and then a lecturer at the University of Sheffield. In 1998 he returned to Cambridge’s Zoology Department, where he lectures in conservation biology, and helps to run the Conservation Science Group.

Professor Balmford’s research focuses on conservation planning, the costs and benefits of effective conservation, evaluating the success of conservation interventions, and exploring how conservation efforts might best be reconciled with other activities, especially in developing countries. He approaches these questions through fieldwork, analyses of large databases, and modelling, and strives to work with colleagues in other disciplines. He is keen to build close working relationships between conservation scientists and conservation practitioners. He is a co-founder of the Cambridge Conservation Forum.

Professor John Croxall

Professor John Croxall is Chair of BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme and has responsibility for developing and implementing strategies for improving the conservation status of seabirds. He retired in 2006 as Head of Conservation Biology a the British Antarctic Survey, where he had directed UK research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic marine mammals and birds since 1976.

Professor Croxall’s main work focused on interactions between top predators, their prey and environment, particularly involving studies of diet, demography and distribution. The long-term monitoring that followed this work led to the development of monitoring and management of marine systems by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and concurrent measures to reduce the bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries.

Professor Peter Maitland

Professor Peter Maitland was educated at Bearsden Academy and the University of Glasgow, before becoming a Lecturer in Zoology at the University for five years. He joined the Nature Conservancy in 1967 and moved to the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in 1973. During this time he also taught at the University of St Andrews from 1978-1982 as a Senior Lecturer in Ecology.

Since taking early retirement in 1986, Professor Maitland has worked as an independent freshwater biologist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow. His many publications include Scotland’s Freshwater Fish: Ecology, Conservation and Folklore and The Guide to Freshwater Fish of Britain and Europe.

Dr Rhys Green

Dr Rhys Green was an undergraduate in the Zoology Department at Cambridge and a PhD student in the Applied Biology Department. After research on bird-agriculture interactions at Brooms Barn Experimental Station and the Game Conservancy Trust, he became a Research Biologist in the Conservation Science Department at the RSPB. He is currently Principal Research Biologist at the RSPB and a Senior Research Fellow at Cambridge, helping to run the Conservation Biology Group.

Dr Green’s research concerns the effects of human land use and conservation management on populations of birds. He is particularly interested in quantifying and modelling the effects of agricultural management, disturbance, illegal killing and conservation measures on the demography of bird populations and using the insights this provides to devise conservation programmes.


Dr Jeremy Thomas

Dr Jeremy Thomas has been a Fellow of New College and Professor of Ecology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford since 2007. He is also a Professorial Fellow of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and holds a visiting Professorship at the University of Reading.

Prior to his Oxford posting, Dr Thomas spent 30 years leading research teams studying pure and applied questions in ecology and conservation. His main research focuses on understanding the factors that determine changes in species’ abundance, distributions and specialisations, and in applying ecological ideas through large-scale conservation projects. His research interests also include describing global patters of change in insect distributions and diversity; the evolutionary biology of the many insect mutualists and social parasites that interact with ants; and the impacts of habitat degradation and climate change on species’ persistence.

Dr J D Goss-Custard

Dr J D Goss-Custard is the former Head of Coastal Ecology and Vertebrate Population Ecology, at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Following completion of his PhD on the feeding ecology of wading birds, he began to carry out research to test the predictions of foraging theory and theoretical aspects of the evolution of social systems in birds and mammals.

Dr Goss-Custard joined the Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Ecology Research Station in 1972, before transferring to the Furzebrook Research Station to conduct a long-term research project on oystercatchers and mussels of the Exe estuary in 1976. This work led to the development and testing of a new class of behaviour and individual based models, which are now applied to a wide range of species in estuaries across Europe to resolve conflicts between nature conservation interests and other users of estuaries.

Professor Ian Newton

Professor Ian Newton is a field ecologist who has researched a wide range of bird species, from passerines to waterfowl and birds of prey. He is best known for his work on raptors, including the effects on populations of organo-chlorine pesticides. He has published over 250 papers and several books, and has held a number of posts including President of the British Ecological Society and the British Ornithologists Union.

From 1989-2000, Professor Newton headed the Avian Biology Section at the Monks Wood Research Station and has received numerous awards including an OBE. A new building at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Monks Wood, has been named ‘The Ian Newton Wing’ in honour of his distinguished service.

Professor Dr Georgina Mace

Professor Georgina Mace is Director of the National Environment Research Council Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London. She has also held posts as Director of Science at the ZSL, a Fellow of the Royal Society and President of the Society for Conservation Biology among many others.

Professor Mace was winner of the International Cosmos prize for work in biodiversity conservation in 2007, and from 2000-2005 she coordinated the chapter on biodiversity for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. She was awarded a CBE in 2007 for services to environmental science. In partnership with scientists and policy makers, she has developed and used extinction criteria to influence global conservation policy, which led to the World Conservation Union’s Red List – the most comprehensive inventory of the status of plants and animals worldwide.

Dr D A Ratcliffe

Dr Derek Ratcliffe is internationally famous as the scientist who discovered that organochlorine pesticides, DDT and dieldrin, were devastating peregrine falcon populations. He was the Deputy Director of the Nature Conservancy from 1973, before holding the post of Chief Scientist until 1989. He made a seminal contribution to nature conservation in the 1970s and 1980s, setting the scene in the UK for the subsequent two decades.

Dr Ratcliffe had an international reputation for research in ornithology and botany. He led the writing for the key NCC publications underpinning nature conservation within the government sector, notably Nature Conservation in Great Britain (1984) and Guidelines for Selection of Biological SSSIs (1989)

Professor Robert M May

Robert, Lord May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS, holds a Professorship jointly at Oxford University and Imperial College London and is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He has also held posts as President of the Royal Society (2000-2005), Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government and Head of the UK Office of Science and Technology (1995-2000). Robert is also a member of the UK Government’s Climate Change Committee and a Non-Executive Director of the UK Defense Science and Technology Laboratories.

The areas of research that Robert is interested in include:

  • How populations are structured and respond to change, particularly with respect to infectious diseases and biodiversity.
  • The structure and dynamics of ecosystems, with particular emphasis on their response to disturbance, natural or human-created.