Ecology and Conservation

Grand Challenge

Ecology and conservation is a grand challenge within the faculty of biological sciences

Ecology and Conservation

The challenge

The natural world is under threat from a vast array of human pressures.

Perhaps the most obvious threats are climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation of resources, and the introduction of invasive species, but more insidious threats such as microplastics and neonicotinoid pesticides are now recognised as considerable challenges.

All of these environmental problems exist within complex political, social and economic contexts, and their solutions require innovative and interdisciplinary research approaches. 


species threatened with extinction

IUCN (2018)

1.6 billion

people depend on forests for communities

IUCN (2018)


of marine fish species live in coral reefs

IUCN (2018)

Addressing the challenge

Researchers in the Ecology and Evolution Research Group are studying these socio-political ecosystems in a range of different environments (cities, tropical forests, coral reefs, inland seas) and using a variety of different species (pollinators, reef fish, seals, seabirds).

Alongside fundamental insights into the biology of these ecosystems, researchers are working with a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that new biological insights can be translated into practical conservation measures.

These stakeholders include policymakers who are developing new legal frameworks for the design of marine protected areas, corporations who are manufacturing wind turbines that take into account seabird flight paths, city councils who want to understand how to enhance urban landscapes to help people and nature, and conservation NGOs who want to prevent the extinction of endangered species.

Delivered impact

Below are case studies from some of our leading researchers who have made an impact through their dedicated research within the area of Ecology and Conservation.

Research by Dr Simon Goodman and the Zoological Society of London and Ecuador has led to changes in national legislation on biosecurity in the Galapagos Islands.

More on Galapagos biosecurity – protection of unique UNESCO world heritage site

Professor Alison Dunn’s research has identified the most effective methods to improve biosecurity practices for different invasive species.

More on Biosecurity for invasive species in Yorkshire Dales

Professor John Altringham and Dr Anna Berthinussen's research on the conservation of bat species has informed new infrastructure developments.

More on Bats and roads – evidence informed conservation practices

Research by Dr Simon Goodman and colleagues has been recognised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species.

More on Caspian seal conservation