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Dr Alison Johnston

Dr Alison Johnston
Room 3.23 David Attenborough Building
Office Phone: 01223 331381


* Researcher in Statistical Ecology, affiliated with Cornell University and Cambridge University

* 2009-2017 Ecological statistician at British Trust for Ornithology

* 2014 Post-doctoral Research Associate, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

* 2009 PhD Dept of Zoology, University of Cambridge

* 2005 BSc Quantitative Ecology, University of St Andrews 

Research Group

Conservation Science Group:
Academic Visitor

Key Publications

Johnston A, Fink D, Hochachka WM & Kelling S. (In press) Accounting for observer expertise improves ecological inference from citizen science data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Johnston A, Fink D, Reynolds MD, Hochachka WM, Sullivan BL, Bruns NE, Hallstein E, Merrifield MS, Matsumoto S & Kelling S. (2015) Abundance models improve spatial and temporal prioritization of conservation resources. Ecological Applications 25(7):1749-1756.

Johnston A, Thaxter CB, Austin GE, Cook ASCP, Humphreys EM, Still D, Mackay A, Irvine R, Webb A and Burton NHK. (2015) Modelling the abundance and distribution of marine birds accounting for uncertain species identification. Journal of Applied Ecology  52(1): 150-160.

Johnston A, Cook ASCP, Wright LJ, Humphreys EM & Burton NHK. (2014) Modelling flight heights of marine birds to more accurately assess collision risk with offshore wind turbines. Journal of Applied Ecology  51(1):31-41.

Johnston A, Ausden M, Dodd AM, Bradbury RB, Chamberlain DE, Jiguet F, Thomas CD, Cook ASCP, Newson SE, Ockendon N, Rehfisch MM, Roos S, Thaxter CB, Brown A, Crick HQP, Douse A, McCall RA, Pontier H, Stroud DA, Cadiou B, Crowe O, Deceuninck B, Hornman M & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2013) Observed and predicted effects of climate change on species abundance in protected areas. Nature Climate Change  3: 1055-1061.


Other Publications

2017 and in press

Hinsley A, Sutherland WJ & Johnston A. (2017) Men ask more questions than women at a scientific conference. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185534.

Massimino D, Johnston A, Gillings S, Jiguet F & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2017) Projected reductions in climatic suitability for vulnerable British birds. Climatic Change 145(1-2): 117-130.

Reynolds MD, Sullivan BL, Hallstein E, Matsumoto S, Kelling S, Merrifield M, Fink D, Johnston A, Hochachka WM, Bruns NE, Reiter ME, Veloz S, Hickey C, Elliott N, Martin L, Fitzpatrick JW, Spraycar P, Golet GH, McColl C, Morrison SA. (2017) Dynamic conservation for migratory species. Science Advances 3 (8) e1700707.

Buckland, ST & Johnston A. Monitoring the biodiversity of regions: Key principles and possible pitfalls. (2017) Biological Conservation 214: 23-34.

Elston DA, Brewer MJ, Martay B, Johnston A, Henrys PA, Bell JR, Harrington R, Monteith D, Brereton TM, Boughey KL & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2017) A new approach to modelling the relationship between annual population abundance indices and weather data. Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics 22(4): 427-445.

Oedekoven CS, Elston DA, Harrison PJ, Brewer MJ, Buckland ST, Johnston A, Foster S & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2017) Attributing changes in the distribution of species abundance to weather variables using the example of British breeding birds. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8(12): 1690-1702.

Herrando S, Keller V, Voříšek P, Kipson M, Franch M, Anton M, Pla M, Villero D, Sierdsema H, Kampichler C, Telenský T, Gillings S, Johnston A, Gottschalk T, Guélat J, Sattler T, Brotons L, Titeux N, Jiguet F, Kéry M & Milanesi P. (2017) High resolution maps for the new European Breeding Bird Atlas: A first provision of standardised data and pilot modelled maps. Die Vogelwelt 137:33-41.



Ross-Smith VH, Thaxter CB, Masden EA, Shamoun-Baranes J, Burton NHK, Wright LJ, Rehfisch MM & Johnston A. (2016) Modelling flight heights of lesser black‐backed gulls and great skuas from GPS: a Bayesian approach. Journal of Applied Ecology 53(6): 1676-1685.

Guyot P, Eldridge A, Eyre-Walker YC, Johnston A, Pellegrini T & Peck M. Sinusoidal modelling for Ecoacoustics. Proceedings of Interspeech Conference 2016 8-12 Sept, San Francisco, USA, 2602-2606.

Johnston A, Robinson RA, Gargallo G, Julliard R, van der Jeugd H & Baillie SR. (2016) Survival rates of eight Afro-Palaearctic passerine migrants in Western Europe: patterns and impacts of seasonal weather variables. Ibis 158(3): 465-480.

Yuan Y, Buckland ST, Harrison PJ, Foss S & Johnston A (2016). Using species proportion to quantify turnover in biodiversity. Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics. 21(2): 363-381.

Johnston A & Cook ASCP (2016). How high do birds fly? Development of methods and analysis of digital aerial data of seabird flight heights. BTO Research Report No 676. BTO, Thetford.

Harrison PJ, Yuan Y, Buckland ST, Oedekoven C, Elston DA, Brewer MJ, Johnston A & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2016) Quantifying turnover in biodiversity of British breeding birds. Journal of Applied Ecology  53(2):469-478.

Ross-Smith VH, Johnston A & Ferns PN. (2016) Hatching success in Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus – an island case study of the effects of egg and nest quality. Seabird  28:1-16.

Pearce-Higgins JW, Brewer MJ, Elston DA, Martay B, Powney GD, Isaac NJB, Monteith D, Henrys PA, Durance I, Vaughan IP, Ormerod SJ, Green S, Edwards FK, Johnston A, Bell JR, Harrington R, Brereton T, Barlow KE, Baterbee R & Shilland E. (2016) BICCO-Net II: Final report to the Biological Impacts of Climate Change Observation Network (BICCO-Net) Steering Group. Report for Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage.



Kelling ST, Fink D, La Sorte FA, Johnston A, Bruns NE & Hochachka WM. (2015) Taking a ‘Big Data’ approach to data quality in a citizen science project. AMBIO 44(S4): S601-S611.

Massimino D, Johnston A & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2015) The geographical range of British birds expands during 15 years of warming. Bird Study 62(4): 523-534.

Kelling S, Johnston A, Hochachka WM, Iliff M, Fink D, Gerbracht J, Lagoze C, La Sorte FA, Moore T, Wiggins A, Wong WK, Wood C & Yu J. (2015) Can observation skills of citizen scientists be estimated using species accumulation curves? PLoS ONE  10(10): e0139600.

Johnston A & Moran N. (2015) Report on surveying and analysis protocols for monitoring illegal bird trapping in Cyprus. Report commissioned by Birdlife Cyprus.

Massimino D, Johnston A, Noble DG & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2015) Multi-species spatially-explicit indicators reveal spatially structured trends in bird communities. Ecological Indicators  58: 277-285.

Davey C, Caplat P, Massimino D, Johnston A, Jonzén N, Smith H & Lindström Å. (2015) Swedish birds are tracking temperature but not rainfall: evidence from a decade of abundance changes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 24(7): 859-872

Morrison CA, Baillie SR, Clark JA, Johnston A, Leech DI & Robinson RA. (2015) Flexibility in the timing of post-breeding moult in passerines in the UK. Ibis 157(2): 340-350.



Harrison PJ, Buckland ST, Yuan Y, Elston D, Brewer M, Johnston A & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2014) Assessing trends in biodiversity over space and time using the example of British breeding birds. Journal of Applied Ecology  51(6): 1650–1660.

Johnston A, Newson SE, Risley K, Musgrove A, Massimino D, Baillie SR & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2014) Species traits explain variation in detectability of UK birds. Bird Study 61(3):340-350.

Ockendon N, Johnston A & Baillie SR. (2014) Rainfall on wintering grounds affects population change in many species of Afro-Palaearctic migrants. Journal of Ornithology  155(4): 905-917.

Kaminski P, Jerzak L, Sparks TH, Johnston A, Bochenski M, Kasprzak M, Wiśniewska E, Mroczkowski S & Tryjanowski P. (2014) Sex and other sources of variation in the haematological parameters of White Stork Ciconia ciconia chicks.  Journal of Ornithology  155(1): 307-314.



Foster S, Harrison P, Buckland S, Elston D, Brewer M, Johnston A, Pearce-Higgins JW & Marrs S. (2013) Trends of breeding farmland birds in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage Trend Note. Scottish Natural Heritage.

Humpreys EM & Johnston A. (2013) Independent review of the scientific selection of a proposed marine SPA Falmouth Bay to St Austell Bay, South Cornwall. Report commissioned by JNCC.

Newson SE, Massimino D, Johnston A, Baillie SR & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2013) Should we account for detectability in population trends?  Bird Study  60(3): 384-390.

Green JMH, Larrosa C, Burgess ND, Balmford A, Johnston A, Mbilinyi BP, Platts PJ & Coad L. (2013) Deforestation in an African biodiversity hotspot: extent, variation and the effectiveness of protected areas. Biological Conservation  164: 62-72.

Chamberlain DE, Austin GE, Newson SE, Johnston A & Burton NHK. (2013) Licenced control does not reduce local Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo population size in winter. Journal of Ornithology 154(3): 739-750.

Baillie SR, Marchant JH, Leech DI, Massimino D, Eglington SM, Johnston A, Noble DG, Barimore C, Kew A, Downie IS, Risely K & Robinson RA. (2013) BirdTrends 2012: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. BTO Research Report 644, BTO, Thetford.

Cook ASCP, Johnston A, Wright LJ & Burton NHK. (2013)  Strategic Ornithological Support Services. Project SOSS-02. A review of flight heights and avoidance rates of birds in relation to offshore wind farms. BTO Research Report 618, BTO, Thetford.

Burton, N.H.K., Thaxter, C.B., Cook, A.S.C.P., Austin, G.E., Humphreys, E.M., Johnston, A., Still D.A. & Wright, L.J. (2013) Ornithology Technical Report for the Proposed Dogger Bank Teesside A and B Offshore Wind Farm Projects. BTO Research Report 643, BTO, Thetford.


2012 and earlier

Burton, N.H.K., Austin, G.E., Cook, A.S.C.P., Humphreys, E.M., Johnston, A., Morrison, C.A., Thaxter, C.B. & Wright, L.J. (2012) Ornithological Technical Report for the Proposed Dogger Bank Creyke Beck Offshore Wind Farm Projects. BTO Research Report 630, BTO, Thetford.

Risely K, Massimino D, Johnston A, Newson SE, Baillie SR, Eaton MA, Musgrove AJ, Noble DG & Procter D. (2012) The Breeding Bird Survey 2011. BTO Research Report 624, BTO, Thetford.

Ockendon NO, Hewson CM, Johnston A & Atkinson PW. (2012) Declines in British-breeding populations of Afro-Palaearctic migrant birds are linked to bioclimatic wintering zone in Africa, possibly via constraints on arrival time advancement  Bird Study  59(2): 111-125.

Renwick AR, Johnston A, Joys A, Newson SE, Noble DG & Pearce-Higgins JW. (2012) Composite bird indicators robust to variation in species selection and habitat specificity.  Ecological Indicators  18: 200-207. 

Davey CM, Chamberlain DE, Newson SE, Noble DG & Johnston A. (2012)  Rise of the generalists: evidence for climate driven homogenization in avian communities  Global Ecology and Biogeography  21(5):  568-578.

Renwick AR, Massimino D, Newson SE, Chamberlain DE, Pearce-Higgins JW & Johnston A. (2012) Modelling changes in species' abundance in response to projected climate change.  Diversity and Distributions  18(2): 121-132.

Newson SE, Johnston A, Renwick AR, Baillie SR & Fuller RJ. (2012) Modelling large-scale relationships between increasing abundance of deer and changes in woodland bird populations in lowland England.  Journal of Applied Ecology  49(1): 278-286.

Roos S, Johnston A & Noble DG. (2012) Hedgehog datasets and their potential for long-term monitoring. BTO Research Report 598, BTO, Thetford.

Risley K, Renwick AR, Dadam D, Eaton MA, Johnston A, Baillie SR, Musgrove AJ & Noble DG. (2011) The Breeding Bird Survey 2010.  BTO Research Report 597, BTO, Thetford.

Thaxter CB, Johnston A, Cook ASCP & Burton NHK. (2011) Review of statistical techniques to model the at-sea distributions of breeding terns.  BTO Research Report 582, BTO, Thetford.

Newson SE, Johnston A, Parrott D & Leech DI. (2011)  Evaluating the population level impact of an invasive species, Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri on native avifauna.  Ibis  153(3): 509-516. 

Studeny AC, Buckland ST, Illian JB, Johnston A & Magurran AE. (2011) Goodness-of-fit Measures of Evenness: A New Tool for Exploring Changes in Community Structure.  Ecosphere  2(2): art15.

Buckland ST, Borchers DL, Johnston A, Henrys PA, & Marques TA. (2007) Line transect methods for plant surveys.  Biometrics  63(4): 989-998.