Ashleigh Marshall

Ashleigh Marshall

Profile Display Name:

Ashleigh Marshall

E-mail Address:

Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

Research interests:

I am interested in behaviour, ecology, and conservation, and the overlaps between them. In particular, I am interested in how animal behaviour can be affected by environmental and anthropogenic factors, and how this can have both positive and negative impacts on their survival.

Hobbies and interests:

I like to keep up-to-date with current science news through reading and following journals and popular science magazines and blogs on social media, as well as by attending science and conservation events around London. I enjoy listening to music and play both the clarinet and alto saxophone, and I like to keep physically active through hiking, attending the gym, and regularly taking part in Parkrun™ events. In May 2019 I completed my first half marathon, the Hackney Half, and I have also taken part in several charity fun runs.

PhD Project
PhD Title

Why Do Eggs Fail? An investigation into hatching failure in managed wild and captive bird populations.

Research Theme

Biodiversity and Ecology

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution


CASE Partner

ZSL Bird Collection

CASE Supervisor

Gary Ward

Additional supervisor(s)

Nicola Hemmings (University of Sheffield),
John Ewen (IOZ),
David Murrell (UCL),


Many conservation programmes incorporate managed wild and captive bird populations as part of their strategies to preserve endangered species and bring them “back from the brink”, but these populations often exhibit high rates of hatching failure. Hatching failure affects approximately 10% of avian eggs overall, but much higher incidence rates can occur in endangered species. Reproductive success is therefore of major interest to conservation programmes, with previous research showing that infertility is typically the main cause of hatching failure in captive populations, while early embryo mortality (EEM) is more common in wild populations. Still, little is known about the drivers leading to hatching failure, with the differences between wild and captive populations indicating that factors may be environment and/or management dependent.

I aim to investigate why managed bird populations often exhibit high levels of hatching failure, working with wild and captive managed populations in the UK and New Zealand to establish the key factors underlying infertility and EEM. I will review the current interventions implemented by different programmes for managed populations and will identify patterns of infertility and EEM within and between species, then investigate the intrinsic and extrinsic causes, with a focus on behaviour, environment, disease, and egg microbiomes.

Policy Impact
Background Reading
  • Causes of hatching failure in endangered birds
  • Unhatched eggs: methods for discriminating between infertility and early embryo mortality
  • Ecological and social factors affecting hatchability of eggs
  • Publications

    Avian hatching failure and management interventions in published studies of wild and captive populations Information extracted from published literature. Contributors: Marshall, A.F.; Balloux, F.; Hemmings, N.; Brekke, P.


    Bringing threatened species back from the brink of extinction: Practical resources for identifying the causes of hatching failure in birds. Website. Contributors: Assersohn, K., Marshall, A. F., Morland, F., Brekke, P., Hemmings, N.

    News & Blogs

    Hatching failure rates increase as bird species decline,
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated, University of Sheffield News
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated, newswise
    Rates of Hatching Failure in Birds Almost Twice as High as Previously Estimated, Lab Manager
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated, sciencenewsnet
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated, Scienmag
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated, EurekAlert!
    Rates of hatching failure in birds almost twice as high as previously estimated,

    Conferences and Workshops

    The Royal Society, supervised by Chris Sowton. 04/04/2022 – 01/07/2022.

    Training courses
    • Level 3 Outdoor First Aid Training, hosted by Zoological Society of London (ZSL). June 2019
    • Public Engagement Training, hosted by Zoological Society of London (ZSL). July 2019
    • Introduction to GitHub Workshop, hosted by Researc/hers Code (held at UCL). August 2019
    • Arena One: Gateway Workshop, hosted by UCL. May 2020
    • Developing Activities with your Audience in Mind, hosted by British Ecological Society (BES). May 2020
    • Introduction to Meta-Analysis, hosted by UCL Centre for Applied Statistics (CASC). June 2020
    • Evidence Synthesis, hosted by UK Centre for Ecology and & Hydrology (UKCEH). July 2020
    • Introduction to Qualitative Research: Interviewing, hosted by UCL. July 2020
    • Introduction to Research Support and Integrity, hosted by UCL. April 2021
    • Can we be Bias-free?, hosted by ZSL. December 2021
    DTP Activities

    Social Links
    University Departmental Website:
    Personal Website:




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