Lucy Ryan
PhD Student



I am an Ecology and Conservation PhD student with a strong interest in the practical applications of scientific research, to both UK and Worldwide habitat and species conservation. Prior to starting my PhD I completed a Masters at Liverpool, but also worked for several years in conservation and greenspace management in the UK and have taken part in numerous conservation projects around the globe.

I am primarily focused on avian ecology and how we can do more to increase the populations and ranges of threatened species. From my previous employment and studies I am also interested in invertebrate ecology – bees and moths – as well as engaging the public with nature and conservation. 


2015 – present

PhD Student

Department of Environment and Geography, University of York

2013 – 2015

Greenspace Officer

Dundee City Council

2012 – 2013

MRes (Masters of Research) in Conservation and Resource Management

University of Liverpool

2008 – 2012

Reserves Officer

Wildlife Trust in Beds, Cambs & Northants

2007 – 2008

Trainee Countryside Ranger and Conservation volunteer

Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust; RSPB, Leighton Moss

2004 - 2007

Bsc (Hons) Environmental Studies

Manchester Metropolitan University



PhD title: The Effects of peatland restoration on the foraging and breeding of the European Nightjar

Supervised by: Dr Kathryn Arnold; Prof Piran White; Dr Alistair Darby (Uni. Liverpool)

My PhD is NERC ACCE funded and I am working with a CASE partner, Natural England, as part of their LIFE+ EU funded project, Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands.

Description: My PhD aims to build a comprehensive understanding of the ecology of the European Nightjar, within a peatland habitat restoration context, using latest tracking and genetic analysis techniques to achieve this.

The European Nightjar is an Amber listed (BOCC4, 2015), ground nesting, nocturnal, insectivorous bird, with a wide European distribution. Its numbers decreased significantly prior to the 1980s, but with sympathetic coniferous forest management and heathland restoration it has managed to increase its population – but not its range. The Humberhead Peatlands NNR holds an internationally important population of Nightjars (thought to be c.80 males). It is currently undergoing peatland restoration – both water-level management and scrub removal (silver birch & rhododendron). Both  measures, but particularly scrub removal, will potentially have an effect on the population of Nightjars and so they will need to be monitored in order to understand this effect and in order to improve management in the future.

Using the latest miniature GPS tracking technologies I will be tagging adult Nightjars on different areas of the site, with the aim of understanding their movements across the site and how they use the different areas of habitat and the different ‘levels’ of management (areas cleared/uncleared of scrub). I will be locating nests and investigating their breeding habitat and their breeding success. I will also be collecting faecal samples to identify the major componants of their diet using Next Generation Sequencing techniques, which has not been used on many bird species before and never before with Nightjars. This will be related to quantification of their prey availability (moths and beetles) to further understand what habitats they use.

Tracking their movement and understanding their habitat use and dietary composition will allow us to tailor habitat management to them more adequately, not just on the Humberhead Peatlands, but on other threatened habitats in the UK and Europe.


Selected publications

Ryan, L.J., Green, J.A., Dodd, S.G. (2015) Weather conditions and conspecific density influence survival of overwintering Dunlin Calidris alpine in North Wales, Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2015.1077778

Contact details

Lucy Ryan
PhD Student
Department of Environment and Geography
Wentworth Way, University of York
YO10 5NG