Ian Thornhill


Dr. Ian Thornhill

Ian Thornhill

Our planet has entered a period of unprecedented global change. Both climate change and land-use intensification have dramatically changed the face of the planet causing the extinction of many species and endangering the future of others. However, whilst human society has been the predominant cause of such global issues, we can also be the solution.


As a researcher, I am keen to further our understanding of how people impact upon ecosystems and the species within them. To achieve this my work to date has been largely focused within the discipline of urban ecology. Urban environments present novel ecological scenarios ranging from native vs. non-native species interactions, the formation of unique biological communities on disused sites, dynamic disturbance regimes, microclimates such as the Urban Heat Island effect and rapid habitat loss, as well as creation. Thus, they are a fascinating landscape in which to study. In addition, I believe that in order for conservation to work, we as ecologists can no longer afford to study the environment in isolation from people. Consequently, I am also keen to learn what it is that people gain from and value about their environments such that conservation objectives and anthropogenic values can be consolidated to form tractable conservation objectives in urban areas and beyond.


As a practitioner I have held roles within private consultancy, local authority and as a freelance consultant. In each case I have been keen to employ novel and contemporary techniques to inform environmental assessments and to ensure compliance with relevant nature conservation legislation, policy and best practice guidance. I currently provide ecological scrutiny of planning application in respect of school, minerals, waste, residential and commercial developments. The scale of these developments vary significantly, from single dwelling developments through to national infrastructure projects such that partnership development is paramount. In collaboration with these partners it has been possible to identify landscape-scale conservation projects which, in part, transcend the academic and applied sectors. I believe that conservation research should be steered by practical need and that the decision-making process should be firmly evidence based.