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Dr Ali Birkett

Formerly at Lancaster University

Professional Role

As Research Promotion Coordinator for Lancaster Environment Centre I have the privilege of providing communications, public engagement, events and administrative support to the researchers of this large interdisciplinary department. This includes arranging conferences and seminar series; seeking research stories and working as an interface with the press office; leading science communication and public engagement activities; increasing departmental impact and profile including managing website and social media content; researching new opportunities; and celebrating successes. 

My research background is in terrestrial ecology and biogeography, and though I miss the field work, I am excited by the career change I made in 2017 from hands-on research to seeking and sharing fascinating discoveries and stories of others. But you will probably still find me wearing my hiking boots in the office!

I'm passionate about the importance of two-way communication in science, and of stakeholder and public engagement with research. It's great to develop my skills in the creation and evaluation of interactive, video, written, and social media content in collaboration with my fantastic colleagues here at Lancaster University. Current projects include bringing "Pint of Science" events to Morecambe and Lancaster, developing activities for annual Light Up Lancaster festival in Lancaster City Centre, and coordinating Dr Emma Sayer's "Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll" project that brings ecology and environmental sciences to people where they are, particularly at music festivals like Glastonbury. Older projects have included coordinating #Phosphorus350 events including video PHOSPHORUS: A local journey in a global cycle, creating art-science schools events in 2015 and 2016, and working in partnership with other organisations such as UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and previously Lancaster University’s RCUK-SUPI: Inspiring the Next Generation of UK Researchers and Science Hunters outreach and public engagement projects.

Find me on Twitter: @AliJBirkett

Awards for science communication and public engagement: 2022 Lancaster Environment Centre 'Colleagues of the Year' award and 2016 British Ecological Society Public Engagement Award.

External Roles

Trustee of the Ecological Continuity Trust: 2018 - present

Trustee of the British Ecological Society (Early Career Representative): 2018 - 2020

Contact me

Research Interests

In a research setting I am personally fascinated by how organisms interact within an ecosystem, how they respond to environmental change, and the consequences that these responses might have for the wider world. I am especially keen on being out in the field, and live in my hiking boots as much as possible! 

I have specific experience of insect research - in particular working with dung beetles and butterflies - and also of studying interactions above- and below-ground through the international ForestPrime project.

Thesis Title

Dung Beetles and Ecosystem Functions in UK Uplands: Predicting Responses to Environmental Change (awarded Lancaster University May 2015)

Thesis Outline

This thesis assessed the roles of climate and land use factors in defining dung beetle distributions in temperate uplands and the mechanisms behind the observed responses to changes in temperature. The implications for upland ecosystem respiration of dung beetle community changes in response to warming were also tested in field conditions. Key findings include providing empirical evidence in support of thermal tolerance as a cause of the uphill range contraction of a species in response to a rising local isotherm and predicting an interactive effect between atmospheric warming and dung beetle functional diversity on future ecosystem respiration.

Supervisors: Dr Rosa Menendez, Dr Alan Blackburn (Lancaster University) and Prof Richard Bardgett (University of Manchester)


PhD in Biological Sciences (awarded May 2015): Lancaster University
Thesis: Dung Beetles and Ecosystem Functions in UK Uplands: Predicting Responses to Environmental Change.

MSc Wildlife Management and Conservation (awarded Distinction 2008): University of Reading
Thesis: The Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) on the Morecambe Bay Limestones: Habitat Requirements for Success.

BSc Conservation Science with Hons in Conservation Management (Awarded 2:1 Honours 2006): University of Stirling

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