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Conservation Scientist

The Conservation Department of the Government of Tristan da Cunha is seeking a Conservation Scientist for an EU-funded research programme on the Endangered Wilkins’ bunting at Nightingale Island, Tristan da Cunha. The scientist will lead research on population dynamics, habitat selection, and assist with associated work on forest regeneration.

Project Background

Nightingale Island is the smallest of the 4 islands that make up the Tristan archipelago. It is home to millions of breeding seabirds, and two endemic land birds, including Wilkins’ bunting (Nesospiza wilkinsi), which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

Only 80 pairs of Wilkins’ bunting breed on Nightingale and their persistence is threatened by the very small population size, their sensitivity to habitat loss, and potential for accidental introductions of predators. The adults are very territorial from September to March, and are found primarily in Phylica woodland in which they forage. Wilkins’ buntings’ large beak is specialised to crack open Phylica fruits. The seed, their primary food source, and the invertebrates upon which they depend heavily during the breeding season to rear their young are limited to the extent of the woodland. Without the Phylica woodland, this highly specialised and endangered species would likely suffer serious declines, and potential extinction.

The current lack of knowledge regarding Wilkins’ bunting greatly increases its danger of extinction. Estimates of basic demographic parameters such as productivity and survival are absent and too few counts have occurred to determine if the population is stable. A number of immediate and potential threats are also of concern. The impact of the recently introduced Greedy scale (Hemiberlesia rapax) on Phylica is poorly understood but has the potential to decrease fruit loads and impact seedling recruitment. Island Tree stands may also be declining due to changes in the water table due to human-induced climate change. Ever-present concerns include catastrophic weather events where strong winds blow down large swathes of Island tree (as happened in 2001), and the introduction of invasive rodents and other alien species from nearby Tristan da Cunha or shipwrecks. With such a small population size the impacts of any of these threats on Wilkins’ bunting could be rapid and catastrophic.

Field work will be conducted on Nightingale Island from mid-September through mid-February (dependent on boat schedules), and the successful candidate will be hosted by the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science (Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK) when not in the field.

Preference will be given to applicants with prior ringing experience and a ringing license, and those with experience working on remote islands with local communities. Successful applicants must be willing to work long hours, on weekends, and in inclement weather.

Essential qualifications:

1. Expected to have PhD in relevant subject, or equivalent experience.

Essential knowledge:

2. Knowledge of conservation issues and practice, and conservation science, gained through experience of leading a scientific project.

3. Knowledge of species ecology and ecological principles. Such that correct methods can be chosen or devised from scratch to answer novel questions at both practical and analytical levels.

4. Some knowledge of how to apply complex analytical procedures to enable innovative, robust analysis and interpretation of any type and size of data set.

Essential skills:

5. Able to effectively manage projects and staff.

6. Ability to work in extreme conditions, sometimes for prolonged periods in the field

7. Ability to be self motivated and work efficiently within a defined work plan. This necessitates the ability to plan and organise their own work and manage the work of others they are line managing.

8. Collecting, collating, manipulating, analysing large and complex data sets that can pass international peer-reviewed standards of scrutiny and audit.

9. Ability to train and coach others in data collection techniques in sometimes difficult conditions

10. Skilled use of Microsoft Office and ability to use advanced scientific software for data analysis. Often this has to be adapted to suit a unique or specific purpose. Ability to use other advanced computer software will have to be applied as necessary, for example GIS mapping (satellite or other) analyses.

Essential experience:

11. Proven scientific research experience (e.g. doing a PhD or managing a similar project; communicating to various audiences by writing reports, publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers, giving talks).

12. Demonstrable (several years) experience of relevant research or survey work.

13. Demonstrable track record of scientific publication.

Additional information:

· This role may involve lone working.

· This role may require regular weekend, early morning and evening working.

· The role is based in a remote and rural location for several months of the year

Appointments will be made subject to successful completion of a medical. Travel from the UK, and accommodation and subsistence on Nightingale Island are covered.

Employment dates : 01 September – 30 June 2018

Salary : £24,300 p.a. pro rata

To apply, send a covering letter outlining your suitability for the position, a CV, and the names and contact details (email, telephone) of 3 references by 9 August 2016 to Dr Alex Bond. ( ).

Interview date : 12 August 2016 by phone or Skype, or in person at the RSPB Headquarters, Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK.

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