© Cockpit country, Birds of a feather (2018) Lydia Gibson, winner of the British Ecological Society’s Capturing Ecology, People and Nature Student Photography Prize
Each year the Society’s grants programme supports upwards of 15 PhD students to undertake data collection as part of their research. We caught up with Dr Lydia Gibson, Junior Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, to hear how a Society grant helped her during her PhD and beyond.
What is your research about?
My PhD research on parrot hunting involved monitoring the two species of parrots endemic to Jamaica – the yellow-billed and the black-billed parrot. This research, along with two publications and my contributor report and recommendations, were used to uplist the black-billed parrot, categorised as Vulnerable since 1994, to Endangered. I have also contributed to the reassessment of the yellow-billed parrot (which has remained classified as Vulnerable) and am a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Group – Birds, as well as the Parrot Researcher Group.
With the bricolage of research grants and my ongoing part time work, I was able to complete my PhD in four years in step with the majority of my cohort despite being a single mother of two, with no research council funding and registered as a part-time student. The field equipment also allowed me to collect supplementary environmental data that both inspired a number of conservation projects (of which I am PI), helped to create significant impact with the uplisting of an endemic parrot species to Endangered, and has provided preliminary findings for ongoing research.
How did a grant from the Society aid in your research?
I received the Frederick Soddy Postgraduate Award in 2018, which covered expenses across two field periods (July-Sept 2018 and July-Sept 2019). The grant was instrumental in my early-career progress and the cornerstone of my ability to access academia - of this I am certain. It was the first research grant I was able to secure. Such endorsement, I am sure, was partially responsible for the subsequent PhD fieldwork grants I received.
Beyond the research outputs, the grant made me feel like a legitimate part of the research community - often rarely the case for self-funded, part time students - and gave me the confidence to pursue what, after the award, then felt like a valid and important line of inquiry. I will forever be grateful for the start that this grant has given me - I wanted to take the time to say this because no line of output can effectively communicate how much is owed to this grant.
In October, Lydia will begin an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at UCL Anthropology.
You can read more about Lydia’s research in an article co-authored with indigenous knowledge-holders from the Maroon village in which Lydia conducted her PhD research, and publication in the Journal of Ethnobiology.
Lydia is also PI of ‘Countermapping Cockpit’, an indigenous mapping project that seeks to create an online platform for the dissemination of Maroon ecological knowledge to local conservation managers and decision-makers, including the Jamaican government. Find out more on their website.
See the full list of projects supported by the Society’s grants programme since 1953.
Find a grant.