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Twenty-one

Profile (7)

Professor Kirsty Park, University of Stirling…

Profile (7)

Professor Kirsty Park

Professor in Conservation Ecology in the Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling

Background

Interested in the natural world from a young age, like many other young people inspired by David Attenborough’s television programmes, Park went on to study for a BSc in Biology at Leeds University and specialised in “bat roosting and hibernation ecology” when she gained her PhD at Bristol University.

“The intention following my PhD was to work in conservation, perhaps for a charity or statutory agency – academia was not on the agenda,” she explains. “However, soon after I finished, I was offered a short-term post-doctoral position at the University of Stirling, and soon I realised that working at a university could be very rewarding.”

Park became a Lecturer in 2005 and was promoted to Professor in 2016. Her current research is concerned with the effects of human activity on biodiversity and how best to mitigate the severity of the numerous threats, focusing on conservation in managed environments (e.g., urban, agriculture, forestry). She works with a variety of conservation organisations “to try and ensure that my findings make a difference to policy and practice in a way that benefits the environment.”

In Park’s opinion, the continuing rise in the human population, combined with the resulting consequences for habitat loss, as well as climate change and widespread wildlife conflicts, are the biggest threats to life on the planet: “Whilst I believe in the importance of not giving in to despair,” she continues, “it’s hard to see that these will not still be the major threats over the next 50 years.”

What to do?

Science has a major role to play, however. “We have learned from our research on neonicotinoids over the last few years that we need to be ready to identify (and act on) new threats as they emerge,” she explains. “So, if I could wave a magic wand, it would be to halt the destruction of tropical rainforests, given their global importance to biodiversity and ecosystem function.”

On another level, however, she would like to see a wider understanding of what science is and why it's so important for humans and the rest of the planet. “The denigration of science and scientists that has emerged over the last few years, particularly from people in power, is a profoundly disturbing trend,” Park says, “but the show of strength from those involved in the recent March for Science events provides me with some room for optimism.”

Biodiversity champion?

Not a single person but all the people, often working voluntarily, who devote large amounts of their time to collecting data on species distributions and populations, and those who campaign on conservation issues and lobby for policy change. “Without them,” she concludes, “our understanding of nature and our ability to conserve it would be in a much worse state than it is now.”

 

"Profile (7)". Science Scotland (Issue Twenty-one)
Printed from http://www.sciencescotland.org/feature.php?id=323 on 21/10/17 04:08:47 AM

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