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Meet the Team...

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Niamh is a Senior Scientist within GWCT’s Farmland Ecology Department and is responsible for day-to-day running of the project. She has managed and delivered projects on Agri-environment Scheme habitat use, considering a wide range of taxa such as pollinators, passerines and bats. She holds an “A” bird ringing licence with an endorsement to monitor Barn Owl nests. 

Chris is an avian ecologist within the GWCT’s Wetland Department. He has ten years of professional experience as an ornithologist and completed his PhD on Woodcock in 2019. He is licenced to monitor Barn Owl nest boxes and ring adult owls and their chicks. His lifelong interest in birds has taken him from the deserts of South Africa to remote islands of the Hebrides, but originates on the family farm in the Yorkshire Wolds.

Jodie has recently joined GWCT’s Farmland Ecology Department as a Research Assistant for the Owl Box Initiative. She is a trainee bird ringer and during her time at GWCT she has been involved in wader conservation, mammalian predation research and farmer liaison through the Avon Valley’s LIFE Waders for Real project. She has also assisted the co-delivery of Cranborne Chase AONB’s Environmental Land Management Scheme Test and Trial. 

Jodie Case

Research and Communications Assistant

Dr Chris Heward

Project Fieldwork Manager

Dr Niamh McHugh

Project Manager

Ellie Ness

Research Assistant

Ellie is a Research Assistant within GWCT’s Farmland Ecology Department having returned to the Trust after a year as a placement student. Ellie is one of the youngest bird ringing trainers in the country and has an “A” ringing licence with an endorsement to monitor Barn Owls.

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Dr. Simon Lane

Volunteer Ornithologist

Simon first started bird ringing at school and still has the same enthusiasm fifty years later. He has a keen interest in raptors and owls and has been involved with the Salisbury Plain group for the last twenty years. He remembers spending many hours, as a child, watching Barn Owls hunting in nearby fields and has witnessed the dramatic decline and subsequent revival of this species. He is very pleased to be able to contribute to this project.

Ryan Burrell

Volunteer Ornithologist

Ryan is studying for a PhD with GWCT and Bournemouth University, investigating the impact of avian predators on breeding waders. He has been involved in the monitoring of Peregrine Falcons, Buzzards and Goshawks at sites in southern England. Along with farmer cluster facilitators, Ryan helped establish the existing network of Barn owl boxes across the Martin Down, Allenford and Avon Valley farmer clusters.

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Matt Prior

Volunteer Ornithologist

A passionate farmland bird conservationist and experienced bird ringing trainer. Matt helped set up the network of Barn Owl nest boxes on the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement area and has over 20 years of experience in Barn Owl monitoring.


Alan Masterton

Conservation Action Ringing Group

Volunteer Ornithologists

Conservation Action Ringing Group are based in North Dorset. Some of the projects they are involved in are the Autumn migration of passerines, wing tagging Red Kites and the checking of over 150 Barn owl, Tawny, Kestrel and Little owl boxes during the breeding season. Alan Masterton concentrates on the Barn owl monitoring and has a Schedule 1 licence.

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Ben Prego

GWCT Farmland Ecology Student

Ben is a placement student in the Farmland Ecology Department, currently studying Biological Sciences at Durham University. During his time at the Trust Ben has been involved in the department's various long-term invertebrate monitoring projects and constructed over 40 Barn Owl boxes for the Owl Box Initiative, which have been distributed across local farmers clusters.

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Inca Johnson

GWCT Farmland Ecology Student

Inca is one of this year’s GWCT Farmland Ecology placement students, studying for her BSc in Conversation Biology at the University of Plymouth. Inca is working on many of the department's long-term invertebrate monitoring projects and during her placement she has also been involved with the Owl Box Initiative, constructing Barn Owl nest boxes and producing website content.