Viola Ross-Smith



Science Communications Manager


I am responsible for promoting BTO science.  I also edit BTO News and help to manage BTO social media.


BA (Hons) Natural Sciences (Zoology), University of Cambridge 2002
PhD Pecking response in Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks Larus fuscus, Cardiff University 2009

Other Information

I have a strong interest in seabirds, their behaviour, ecology and life history adaptations. I hold a BTO C permit for bird ringing, and coordinate gull nest counting and colour ringing on Flat Holm Island SSSI (part of the Severn Estuary Ramsar and SPA). I worked as a Research Ecologist in the BTO's Wetland and Marine Team befre being appointed to my current position. Aside from ornithology and communications, I am interested in policy, having worked in this field for the European Institutions in Brussels and the RSPB.

Selected Publications

  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Thaxter, C.B., Masden, E.A., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Burton, N.H.K., Wright, L.J., Rehfisch, M.M. & Johnston, A. 2016. Modelling flight heights of lesser black-backed gulls and great skuas from GPS: a Bayesian approach. Journal of Applied Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12760.
  • Rock, P., Camphuysen, C.J., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Ross-Smith, V.H. & Vaughan, I.P. 2016. 
    Results from the first GPS tracking of roof-nesting Herring Gulls Larus argentatus in the UK. Ringing & Migration 31, 47-62.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, J.A., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Masden, E.A., Wade, H.M., Leat, E.H.K., Gear, S.C., Marsh, M., Booth, C., Furness, R.W., Votier, S.C. & Burton, N.H.K. 2016. Contrasting effects of GPS device and harness attachment on adult survival of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and Great Skuas Stercorarius skua.Ibis 158 (2), 279-290.
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Johnston, A. & Ferns, P.N. 2015. Hatching success in Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus - an island case study of the effects of egg and nest site quality. Seabird 28, 1-16.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Bouten, W., Rehfisch, M.M., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J. & Burton, N.H.K. 2015. Seabird-wind farm interactions during the breeding season vary within and between years. Biological Conservation 186, 347-358.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, J., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Marsh, M., Leat, E.H.K & Burton, N.H.K. 2014. A trial of three harness attachment methods and their suitability for long-term use on Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Skua. Ringing & Migration 29 (2): 65-76.  
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Robinson, R.A., Banks, A.N., Frayling, T.D., Gibson, C.C. & Clark, J.A. 2014. The Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus in England: how to resolve a conservation conundrum. Seabird 27, 41-61.
  • Newson, S., Ross-Smith, V., Evans, I., Harold, R., Miller, R. & Barlow, K. 2014. Bat-monitoring: a novel approach. British Wildlife 25, 264-269.
  • Cook, A.S.C.P., Dadam, D., Mitchell, I., Ross-Smith, V.H., Robinson, R.A. 2014.  Indicators of seabird reproductive performance demonstrate the impact of commercial fisheries on seabird populations in the North Sea.  Ecological Indicators 38, 1-11.
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Conway, G.J., Facey, R.J., Bailey, B.H., Lipton, M., Whitfield, S.A. & Ferns, P.N. 2013. Population size, ecology and movements of gulls breeding on Flat Holm Island.  Birds in Wales 10 (1): 7-21.
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Calbrade, N.A., Wright, L.J. & Austin, G.E. 2013. Analysis of waterbird population trends in the Mersey Estuary SPA, Mersey Narrows & North Wirral Foreshore pSPA and Ribble & Alt Estuaries SPA. BTO Research Report No. 640, BTO, Thetford.
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Calbrade, N. A. & Austin, G.E. 2013. Updated analysis of Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) data for the Humber Estuary SSSI, SAC, SPA and Ramsar Site. BTO Research Report No. 636, BTO, Thetford.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Wader, H., Masden, E.A., Rehfisch, M.M., Bouten, W. & Burton, N.H.K. 2012. Measuring the interaction between marine features of Special Protection Areas with offshore wind farm development zones through telemetry: second breeding season report. BTO Research Report No. 610, BTO, Thetford.
  • Wright, L.J., Ross-Smith, V.H., Austin, G.E., Massimino, D., Dadam, D., Cook, A.S.C.P, Calbrade, N.A. & Burton, N.K.H. 2012. Assessing the risk of offshore wind farm development to migratory birds designated as features of UK Special Protection Areas (and other Annex 1 species). BTO Research Report No. 592, BTO, Thetford.
  • Cook, A.S.C.P., Ross-Smith, V.H., Roos, S., Burton, N.H.K., Beale, N., Coleman, C., Daniel, H., Fitzpatrick, S., Rankin, E., Norman, K. & Martin, G. 2011. Identifying a range of options to prevent or reduce avian collision with offshore wind farms, using a UK-based case study. BTO Research Report No. 580, BTO, Thetford.
  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Calbrade, N.A. & Austin, G.E. 2011. Analysis of Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) Data for The Wash SSSI/NNR. BTO Research Report No. 587, BTO, Thetford.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Rehfisch, M.M., Bouten, W. & Burton, N.H.K. 2011. Measuring the interaction between marine features of Special Protection Areas with offshore wind farm development zones through telemetry: first breeding season report. BTO Research Report No. 590, BTO, Thetford.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Sansom A., Thewlis, R.M., Calbrade, N.A., Ross-Smith, V.H. & Austin, G.E. 2010. Wetland Bird Survey Alerts 2006/2007 (Release 2): Changes in numbers of wintering waterbirds in the Constituent Countries of the United Kingdom, Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). BTO Research Report No. 556, BTO, Thetford. Available:
  • Ferns, P.N. & Ross-Smith, V.H. 2009. Function of coloured bill tips, stripes and spots in breeding gulls. Marine Ornithology 37: 85-92.

Contact details

Email: viola.ross-smith [at]
Telephone: 01842 750050
Fax: 01842 750030
Postal address: British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, UK.