Meet . . . our Engagement Committee

Dr Tom Finch


Tom works is a Senior Conservation Scientist with the RSPB’s Centre for Concervation Science. His interests include conservation, agriculture and bird migration. He completed his PhD at the University of East Anglia in 2016, where he studied the breeding ecology and migration of the European Roller. He sits on BOU Council as an ordinary member, and is also on the BOU Engagement Committee.

Follow Tom on Twitter @ tomfinch89

Dr Ailidh Barnes

Ailidh works as a Research Ecologist in the Monitoring Research Team at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) covering a wide range of projects related to understanding change in populations of birds and other taxa, and the effectiveness of protected areas. She completed her PhD at Bournemouth University in 2020 which consisted of collating and analysing bird survey data and habitat data through vegetation surveys and structural data from remotely sensed LiDAR to investigate bird-habitat relationships at a landscape scale. This encompassed not only measures of diversity and species richness but also measures of declining, conservation priority and rare species from bird trend data and population estimates in two contrasting landscapes.

Ailidh is also an Ex-officio committee member of the Tay Ringing Group and has contributed to the data collection in Wytham Woods with the University of Oxford, and in Trinidad with the University of Dundee.

Follow Ailidh on Twitter @AilidhBarnes

Ondřej Belfín

Conference Support Officer 

Ondrej has been following his childhood dream, trying to understand bird language and sharing this passion with others. Through his research, he discovered the diversity in the songs of Red-breasted Flycatchers and explored the limits of passive acoustic monitoring. His current focus is on studying the complex communication of shorebirds as he prepares for his PhD at Birdeyes, a new science and creative centre that literally looks at the world from a bird’s perspective. In the meantime, he has been involved in outreach activities at the Czech Society for Ornithology by leading the country’s first comprehensive bird identification course and academy for young ornithologists.

Follow Ondrej on Twitter @OBelfin

Dr Aonghais Cook

Aonghais is a senior research ecologist within the BTO’s Wetland and Marine Research Team. Since joining the BTO in 2008 to help investigate the potential impacts of tidal power projects on waterbirds on the Severn Estuary, he has worked on a variety of applied projects. In recent years, his work has focussed on the Offshore Wind Industry, both in the UK and internationally.

Follow Aonghais on Twitter @AonghaisC

Dr Daniel Hayhow

Equality & Diversity Working Group member

Daniel works for Earthwatch as Research Lead in Urban Biodiversity, an exciting new challenge working on urban biodiversity studies as well as climate resilience and mitigation projects globally.

Prior to his move to Earthwatch, Daniel worked for the RSPB since completing his PhD at the University of East Anglia with Prof Jenny Gill on winter habitat use by Black-tailed Godwits in Ireland. In the Monitoring and Species Research section of the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Daniel has led national surveys for a range of scarce species including Hen Harrier, Dotterel, Snow Bunting, Chough and Golden Eagle. In recent years Daniel has led on a number of multi-partner publications including the 2016 and 2019 State of Nature reports.

Through this body of work Daniel has built up a broad knowledge of species ecology and conservation issues and practice. Passionate about engaging people with nature and conservation Daniel has been active in communicating with the public through radio, TV and print media as well as social media activities and citizen science projects.

Follow Daniel on Twitter @DBHayhow

Dr Katharine Keogan

Kat is an ornithologist with a love of macroecology, looking for patterns across large datasets, and the sea. Currently working as a data scientist with HiDef Aerial Surveying, a consultancy based in Edinburgh, which involves research and analysis for Environmental Impact Assessments for offshore wind development. She has a C permit for ringing seabirds and is a committee member for the Lothian Ringing Group.

Follow Kat on Twitter @KatharineKeogan

Dr Ashleigh Marshall

Journal Support Officer

Ashleigh completed a PhD in Conservation Biology with the ZSL Institute of Zoology and University College London in 2023, with her research focused on investigating hatching failure in wild and managed bird populations. She took a multidisciplinary approach which included conducting fieldwork in Aotearoa New Zealand and applying various methods such as meta-analysis, molecular techniques, microbiome analyses, and fluorescence microscopy. She is passionate about evidence-based conservation and science communication, regularly taking part in online and in-person public outreach activities as well as previously acting as Social Media Editor for the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society and volunteering with the RSPB at a city-centre nature reserve in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Follow Ashleigh on Twitter @Belfast_Ash9

Dr Verónica Méndez

Verónica is currently based at the University Centre of the Westfjords (Iceland), as program director of the Coastal and Marine Management master’s program. My research focuses in coastal systems, with particular interest in wader migration ecology an population dynamics. She is currently studying the Icelandic breeding population of Eurasian Oystercatcher to investigate causes and consequences of variation in migratory behaviour and individual responses to environmental change.

Follow Verónica on Twitter @VMendezAragon

Dr Julie Miller

Council member

Julie is an ornithologist and seabird ecologist at the University of Glasgow completing her PhD in quantitative modelling of seabird demography, with an applied interest in assessment of impacts to populations from human activities. Passionate about the natural world, Julie is particularly interested in blue-sky questions in ecology, quantitative approaches to assess patterns in data and applied conservation management. Growing up in Glasgow she has a keen interest in social connectivity with nature and accessibility of science to broad audiences.

Charlie Russell

Blog Editor 

Charlie is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia, UK where he primarily studies migratory birds and how exposure to different anthropogenic threats impacts population trends. He is interested in understanding how we can translate individual mortality risks to population-level risks, whilst accounting for the complex interactions between the dynamic elements of human and bird behaviour. His work uses Greater Spotted Eagles as a case study, a species he is particularly fond of.

Charlie has a background working with raptors, and before starting his PhD he worked in policy and for NGOs in various capacities, including in-situ conservation of vultures in southern Africa.

Follow Charlie on Twitter @CJG_Russell

Dr Elwyn Sharps

Elwyn (he/him) currently works for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as a Marine and Coastal Ornithologist. Since completing his PhD looking at effects of livestock grazing of saltmarshes on breeding Redshank he has also worked as a Conservation Scientist and Conservation Officer for the RSPB, as Field Survey Manager for CEH and as People and Places Officer for NRW. Elwyn has been bird-mad since he was a teenager. He grew up spending his weekends and school holidays volunteering at RSPB Conwy and was fortunate enough to get his first paid job as an Information Warden at this reserve at the young age of just 16 years old, meaning his career in conservation has spanned over 20 years to date. Outside of work Elwyn has played an active role in the ornithological community. He spent four years on the International Wader Study Group’s Executive Committee as Publicity Officer – which involved managing the groups social media and publicity. In addition, after completing Stonewall’s ‘Workplace Trans Allies programme’ Elwyn volunteered for the RSPB as an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion advisor. Elwyn is a keen runner and is currently training for the London Marathon, a challenge he is completing in aid of WWF-UK.

Follow Elwyn on Twitter @elwynsharps

Dr Leila Walker

Chief Operations Officer
Equality & Diversity Working Group member

Leila has responsibility for the day to day management and running of the BOU including conferences and events, the business side of the BOU’s journal, IBIS, social media and communications, website development and content management and servicing BOU Council and its Standing Committees.

Follow Leila on Twitter @leilakwalker

Saskia Wischnewski

Saskia is a Conservations Scientist within the RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science. Her main work focusses on understanding the impacts of renewable energy developments on birds and she is currently responsible for the delivery of the RSPB’s seabird tracking projects relating to offshore windfarms. In the past, she has been involved in tracking and monitoring studies of a large variety of different seabird species in often remote locations around the world, including Germany, Canada and Ireland, but also had the privilege to contribute to studies of corvid tool-use behaviour and conduct fieldwork on New Caledonian crows. She has also been ringing birds for 11 years and holds a BTO C-permit.

Saskia is a strong believer in the power of public engagement and social media. She did a short stint as member of the Seabird Group Committee being responsible for their social media accounts and has been intensely involved in the delivery of the World Seabird Twitter Conferences three years in a row (including chairing duties).

When Saskia isn’t studying (sea)birds in some shape or form, preferably on remote islands, she is either “out and about” with Aura, her lovely Husky-Labrador cross, or drawing on her desk.

Follow Saskia on Twitter @saswisch

Dr Natalia Zielonka

Social Media Support Officer

Natalia is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia where she primarily studies the diversity and ecosystem functions of birds across global fruit systems. Her work is split across intensively managed grape and mango farms in the Caatinga biome in North-eastern Brazil with the SUFICA project, and also across British vineyards with the support from the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Scheme. Natalia’s work is diverse and includes monitoring of birds and invertebrate communities, acoustic monitoring of biodiversity and using experimental methods to quantify ecosystem services delivery. Natalia hopes that her work will help to inform ecological intensification and sustainable management in these growing industries.

Before her PhD, Natalia worked on the acoustic ecology of the elusive European Nightjar in Sherwood Forest, before falling in love with waders, when she studied the breeding ecology of the majestic Eurasian Curlew in the Brecks, before working as a research assistant for Project Godwit in 2019.

Follow Natalia on Twitter @Nat_B_Zielonka