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 enjoy keeping 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

Patricia Brekke

Primary Institution
Secondary Supervisor

Francois Balloux

Secondary Institution
CASE Partner
ZSL Bird Collection
CASE Supervisor
Gary Ward
Additional supervisor(s)
Nicola Hemmings (University of Sheffield),

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
  • Publications

    Training courses
    • Public Engagement Training, hosted by Zoological Society of London. July 2019
    • Level 3 Outdoor First Aid Training, hosted by Zoological Society of London. June 2019
    • #ORNITHOLODAY – Twitter takeover of the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) Twitter account @IBIS_journal

    Social Links
    University Departmental Website:
    Personal Website:

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