For All Things Environmental Science
July 2019

Air-travel in Academia - Powerless Postgraduates

Air travel – one of humanities greatest achievements. Over the last 100 years our world has become more connected than ever; holidays abroad, international business, political unions (and of course discord) have all been made possible by ever cheaper air travel.
But how long can we continue flying for our research and can PhD students do anything about it?

A Wild Bustard Chase in Portugal (and Spain)


In April 2019 I joined my Portugal based PhD supervisor Dr João Paulo Silva along with one of his other PhD students Filipa Soares for a week of fieldwork. The aim: Catch and tag as many little bustard Tetrax tetrax males as possible. The reason? This species is currently designated as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN red list but is thought to be in ‘Rapid Decline’ across much of its range aside from France where populations are thought to be stable. Many researchers are now advocating for the species to be listed as ‘Vulnerable’ or even ‘Endangered’. High resolution GPS telemetry can help us better understand the migration behaviour, habitat needs and identify key threats to this species which in turn can inform conservation action to halt the decline. The GPS loggers also carry a number of other sensors such as temperature, accelerometer and barometer so we can remotely relate the behaviour and activity of the bird to environmental factors such as the weather. This field work was also a great opportunity for me to gain more experience in deploying the loggers on smaller birds ahead of fieldwork to deploy loggers on white storks Ciconia ciconia later on in my PhD.