PhD Opportunity - The ecology and population biology of Woodcock in Ireland

14 Apr 2016

PhD Opportunity - The ecology and population biology of Woodcock in Ireland

Research is an essential part of managing populations sustainably and enables researchers to advise government, game councils, and other stake-holders (e.g. landowners) on how to support positive management initiatives for wildlife populations. The Eurasian Woodcock is an important game bird and yet little scientific research has been conducted on their behaviour, ecology and basic population biology in Ireland. The aim of this PhD is to study the ecology of this nocturnal species with a view to helping to manage their populations more effectively. The Irish Research Council (IRC) Enterprise Partnership Scheme aims to award co-funded postgraduate scholarships to highly promising researchers. By working closely with an Enterprise Partner, researchers benefit from an enhanced research experience as well as having the opportunity to learn key transferable skills relevant to career formation. The National Association for Regional Game Councils is willing to act as an Enterprise partner in the scheme and thus together with UCC will be applying for a studentship grant to start in the autumn of 2016 (non negotiable start date). Normally success rate for these fellowships is very high. Under the scheme the student submits the application to IRC with support from the mentor, which in this case is Prof. John Quinn (Prof. J. O'Halloran and Luke Harman; see Dr Andy Hoodless from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (UK) is a national expert on Woodcock ecology and will be a close collaborator. To date most of these applications from UCC have been successful. This advert is looking for students to express an interest in applying to IRC.
What specific questions would the PhD explore?
The main aims of a 4 year PhD project would be to:
  1. Coordinate a winter census across Ireland, to estimate bag totals, and to quantify the sustainability of current shooting trends, including foreign and resident hunters.
  2. Examine habitat use and the availability of suitable habitat during the winter. This can be done using a volunteer network, and by detailed study by the student in restricted areas using radio-tracking and other techniques.
  3. Determine whether the availability of suitable winter habitat is likely to have changed over the course of the last 50 years using published data, satellite information and a modelling approach.
  4. Coordinate a roding census across Ireland to estimate the likely breeding density and habitat use during the breeding season.
  5. Generate recommendations for how woodcock hunting can be managed sustainably for the long-term, including habitat management, farming incentives, better monitoring of shooting intensity from resident and foreign hunters, etc.
If you are interested in applying, first please send your CV and a brief letter explaining why you want to do a PhD in this topic by April 29th to If more than one suitable potential candidates approaches John Quinn by 29/4/16, then informal interviews will be held by Skype or in person. Suitable candidates will be motivated by a career in research, have evidence of academic excellence or potential (e.g. at least a 2.1 in a relevant degree, published paper), ideally an MSc, and/or relevant practical experience working with birds or other animals in the field. Driving licence and own car is essential. An understanding of wildlife issues would be advantageous.
Indicative timeline:
Initial expression of interest to John Quinn by April 29th. Application to IRC must be completed by 2 June 2016; Decision September 2016; Scholarship start date 1 January 2017.
Eligibility:   Prof. John Quinn, Dr Andy Hoodless (GWCT), Luke Harman & Prof. John O'Halloran School of BEES, University College Cork, 14 April 2016. For further information, please contact Prof. John Quinn (

UCC Ornithology Research Group

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC North Mall Campus, North Mall, Cork City,