Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, has been awarded the prestigious Marsh Award for Ornithology by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
Credit Nick Caro
The award, which is presented annually to a researcher who is making a significant contribution to the field of ornithology, was awarded to Dr Lawson in recognition of her work on disease effects on free-ranging wildlife populations, most notably birds.
Dr Lawson has been instrumental in highlighting the issue of trichomonosis in British finches, an emerging disease that has resulted in the decline of the British greenfinch population by over a third. She has also worked on avian pox in British tit species and on diseases in other garden wildlife, including hedgehogs, amphibians and snakes.
Key to her work is leading the Garden Wildlife Health project - a citizen science initiative launched in 2013 and co-ordinated by ZSL vets - which identifies and investigates the health status of Britain’s garden wildlife, through the support of the general public. Since its launch, the Garden Wildlife Health project has received reports from more than 7,000 members of the public, which has helped to document a number of infectious diseases affecting populations in the UK - including the recent identification of snake fungal disease in UK snakes for the first time.
Dr Lawson said "Many thanks to BTO and the Marsh Christian Trust for this award. Along with factors such as habitat loss, trade and climate change, disease is increasingly recognised as a threat to biodiversity. Working together with staff from the BTO, and many other organisations, with help from the public and BTO’s Garden BirdWatch participants, we’ve been able to learn more about disease conditions adversely impacting British wildlife species, and where possible, how to help mitigate them."
Mike Toms, BTO, said "I am delighted to see the work of Dr Lawson be recognised in this manner. Becki has secured partnership working across a broad portfolio of projects, bringing together very different partners and delivering a strong publication record, together with important applied outputs for Defra and the Animal & Plant Health Agency, amongst others."