Young Scientists' Fund

The Young Scientists' Fund seeks to inspire scientists and students and advance our knowledge of the natural world to inform conservation now and in the future.

In partnership with leading universities, we have supported over 70 PhD studentships; mentoring talented young students and helping these rising stars and inspiring leaders navigate through their academic career in conservation science.The vast majority of this work was made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of long-serving member, Denis Summers-Smith, who became a member of the BTO in 1949. The Young Scientists Fund was launched in 2006 from the ‘living legacy’ so kindly set up by Denis.

Specifically, the fund enables the BTO to mentor CASE studentships (Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering). Working with NERC (The Natural Environment Research Council) and other funders, it provides doctoral students with a first-rate, challenging research training experience within the context of mutually beneficial research collaboration between academic and non-academic partner organisations such as Dr Chas Holt’s ground-breaking investigation into the links between deer browsing and the disappearance of Nightingales.

'Our support for students not only helps to encourage and train the next generation of conservation scientists, but also addresses a wide-range of topics, from Whinchats to rollers, and tackles issues from climate change to using genetic markers to quantify diet. Much of this work is published in scientific journals, including papers from the last year describing variation in the importance of climate and land cover in influencing bird populations across Europe, using hydrological models to predict the impacts of climate change on upland birds, and developing novel statistics to investigate predation' explains Dr James Pearce-Higgins, BTO Director of Science.

Long-tailed Tit by Edmund Fellowes

One study funded by the Young Scientists Fund looked at the impact of
weather during the breeding season on Long-tailed Tits.

Dr Phillipa Gullett from Sheffield University is a recent recipient of support from the Young Scientists Fund.  Working with Dr Rob Robinson, BTO’s Associate Director of Research, she looked at a 19-year study of a Long-tailed Tit population to determine the impact of weather during the breeding season on productivity and recruitment into the population.  The findings published in the Journal of Avian Biology showed that high temperatures in March resulted in fewer chicks fledging whilst high temperatures in May had a positive impact on the population.  

The total cost to support a studentship is £13,500 over three years.  £1,000 per annum is paid directly to the student and BTO supervision typically costs about £3,000 per annum.  In addition there may be travel costs of £500 per annum.   

If you would like to support the BTO Young Scientists' Fund, please contact Emma Douglas on our main switchboard number, 01842 750050, or fundraising [at] bto.org (subject: Young%20Scientists%20Fund) (send an email).