Wader expert wins top ornithological award

Dr Jennifer Smart with her award


As a group, waders are amongst the most endangered, suffering from a variety of issues that include habitat loss and increased predation. Over the last 15 years, Jen has become a leading voice in the world of breeding wader conservation and her research has played a seminal role in defining the conservation strategies most important for the successful management of breeding wader populations.

Many of Jen’s research findings have informed today’s management of some of the largest breeding wader populations in low lying wetlands, particularly on the RSPB’s network of reserves but also influencing management of grasslands across landscapes managed primarily by farmers both here and abroad. Recently, Jen has been working in a controversial area, examining how predation impacts ground-nesting birds and what can be done to reduce those impacts. Her research has spanned testing fencing to protect breeding waders from predators; managing field margins to provide alternative prey for predators to managing the sward and wet features that are crucial for providing waders with the right habitat for nesting and rearing their chicks.

Dr Sam Franks, nominating Jen for the award said, “Jen’s passion for waders can be summed up by her recent 600-mile bike ride in 8 days across southern England to raise funds for waders. She shares her expertise and leadership with humour, compassion, enthusiasm and openness, and is an exemplary and inspirational role model to many. Fittingly, she has just recently been appointed as Head of RSPB Conservation Science for Scotland & Northern Ireland, and I have no doubt that she will bring the same dynamism and passion to this new role as she brings to her other ventures. She is a very worthy recipient of this award."

Dr Jen Smart, said, “I am delighted to receive this award which is testament to the teamwork across the RSPB, my academic collaborators, especially UEA and to the many PhD students who’s ideas and energy have driven forward much of this work. Receiving awards like this create moments that last a lifetime – so thanks to everyone who played a part”

The Marsh Award for Ornithology is awarded to an ornithologist who is making a significant contribution to the field, typically someone who gained a PhD between ten and twenty years prior to the award being made.

The Marsh Awards are supported by the Marsh Christian Trust and presented by the BTO.