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Profile (6)

Dr Staffan Roos, RSPB…

Profile (6)

Dr Staffan Roos

Senior Conservation Scientist at RSPB Scotland


After graduating with an MSc in Animal Ecology from Uppsala University in Sweden, then gaining his PhD in Ecology from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Roos worked as a researcher at the Swedish Biodiversity Centre. In 2006, he came to the UK to work as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, and from 2008 to 2011, he was a Research Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology (Scotland), before he moved to RSPB Scotland to become a Senior Conservation Scientist.

In his research, Roos focuses on predator–prey interactions, raptor ecology and conflict resolution between raptors and other land uses (e.g., shooting, wind energy production and agriculture/forestry).

Conflict resolution

“The long-standing conflicts involving raptors have proven difficult to solve,” says Roos. “There are strongly-held views amongst many stakeholders, and often these views are not based on facts but on anecdotes. My research tries to quantify different aspects of the ecology of raptors (e.g., diet, breeding success, survival, flight behaviour and movements), to learn what constraints are acting on the raptor populations and what could be done to resolve conflicts – informing both sides of the argument (e.g., raptor conservationists and shooting interests).”

Biggest achievement?

According to Roos, the “most important thing” he has achieved so far in his career is the discovery that red-backed shrikes select breeding territories to avoid nest predators – something he describes as “a small step for mankind, but a major step forward in my scientific career!”

The biggest threat?

The unsustainable use of the world's resources. Over-population in some areas and over-consumption in others contribute to habitat destruction, climate change and even wars.

If Roos could wave a magic wand, he’d make the “science scepticism” movement disappear and get politicians and others to start listening more to scientists. “We scientists often have creative solutions that would reduce the impact of humans on the environment,” he explains. “Too often, scientists are met with contempt (e.g., ‘you only say that so you could get more funding’). Even worse, the governments in the US, Canada and Australia have destroyed data, reduced funding for ‘politically inconvenient’ projects (e.g., climate change projects) and refused to let government scientists communicate their findings – behaviour which in turn makes the general public more sceptical about science.”

His personal goal would be “to help solve the conflict between raptor conservation and shooting interests.”

10/50 years from now?

10 years: Brexit will make it difficult to fund meaningful conservation work. The network of protected areas (some of them protected under EU legislation) may be used for residential and commercial development, and higher education could become so expensive that we produce fewer scientists. Scientists will move to countries where research is better funded.

Overpopulation and habitat destruction, particularly in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, will also get worse, and the spread of unsustainable palm oil production will eradicate tropical forests and accelerate climate change.

50 years: The effects of climate change will be more visible in the UK, requiring costly and challenging emergency solutions. Many charismatic species will be extinct. (e.g., orangutans, tigers, African elephants, etc.), and the challenge will be to save the remaining species and pristine habitats. Climate change will have made many areas harder for humans to live in, and there could be wars over clean drinking water. “And if I could save one endangered species, I would choose the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.”

Roos adds: “There is a growing number of international agreements – e.g., the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Northeast Atlantic (The OSPAR Convention) 1992 and the Paris Climate Agreement 2015 – designed to protect species and the environment. They are not always meeting their targets, but for so many countries to have a shared vision of a sustainable future can help conservation.”

Biodiversity champion?

Roos nominates Professor William (Bill) Sutherland, “who tirelessly promotes a scientific approach to real-world problems and also donates many of his own textbooks in ecology to developing countries.” In addition, says Roos, he remembers names and faces, and talks with equal enthusiasm to students and professors, which makes everyone feel welcome at meetings.


"Profile (6)". Science Scotland (Issue Twenty-one)
Printed from on 06/07/20 12:10:56 PM

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