Building Blocks of Conservation: Investigating the current provision and potential uptake of nature friendly housing practices

This project will survey developers, home owners and town planners to investigate the current provision of nature friendly housing practices and acceptability of potential future measures.

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Supervised by: Professor Mark Fellowes

The Placement Project

We are undergoing a global biodiversity crisis and even in the UK we are failing to halt biodiversity loss. The recent State of Nature report highlighted the significant declines of many previously common species. The EU are committed to halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services (and to restore this where feasible) by 2020, while at the same time the UK government aims to build 240,000 additional homes every year. How can we balance this need for additional housing and associated infrastructure, while maintaining biodiversity? This project aims to use telephone interviews and online questionnaires to target key stakeholders involved in housing provision and planning, as well as existing homeowners at a national level. The questionnaires will help us to understand the current provision of nature friendly housing practices as well as the acceptability of potential future measures. The student (with support) will design the questionnaires for each stakeholder and will be in charge of collecting responses from each of the stakeholders. The project will have a focus on two key taxa: birds and bats. Both groups contain species that can be highly abundant in human dominated landscapes, but have undergone significant population declines in the UK (e.g. house sparrow Passer domesticus, common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus). What current nature friendly practices (e.g. provision of nesting/roosting spaces, maintenance of veteran trees, native planting in gardens etc.) are in place to ameliorate development and what is the acceptability of potential future measures? This project aims to investigate these.


In the first week, alongside colleagues from the RSPB, the student will design three questionnaires (to target home owners, housing developers and council town planners; appropriate ethical approval will be sought for these). Using a combination of techniques, the questionnaires will be sent to potential participants in weeks two, three and four (in some cases telephone interviews will be arranged). The student will contribute towards the data analysis and interpretation phase with help from the research team in week five and in week six will begin disseminating the findings.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The student is expected to work well with others and be confident on the phone and in person. Ideally the student would have an interest in conservation, as well as research and data analysis skills.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will have the opportunity to work with a large number of collaborators from the University of Reading and the RSPB, as well as building the expertise to work with the public, developers and planners; this has been designed specifically to improve the employability of the student. The student will also develop a range of transferable skills, most notably research skills and the ability to explain scientific research in a number of forms (including verbally, online and in scientific writing). The student will work as part of a research group and so will have the opportunity to be involved with other projects if they would like this experience.

Place of Work

The student will be based in the Harborne Building

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 15 June 2015 - Friday 17 July 2015

How to Apply

Students are to submit a CV and cover letter by 20th March to Dr Becky Thomas by email ( with UROP in the subject line. Applications must demonstrate an interest in ecology and conservation, and a desire to carry out research.

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