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Giant Panda conservation MSc projects

The ECGPLR has organised a range of exciting MSc projects, suitable for students from a range of programmes. Below are summaries of the current MSc projects that have been taken on by University of Edinburgh students. Please get in touch with Marc Metzger ( if you would like further information or if you would like to suggest your own project.

Panda habitat restoration and human livelihoods: conflicts and synergies

Giant Pandas are an internationally significant and endangered species found exclusively in a few remaining areas of natural forest in China. Within China, the species has great emblematic and economic value, and intensive efforts are being made to ensure its long-term survival. In Sichuan Province, panda reintroductions and habitat restoration are being used to extend the species’range beyond isolated nature reserves. However, these conservation activities may be to the detriment of local human populations and their traditional, and culturally important, subsistence harvesting, hunting and agriculture. This project will look into conflicts and synergies between human livelihoods and panda habitat restoration, in order to support practical management and policymaking for the restoration of forest habitats, the protection of human livelihoods and the recovery of panda populations. The project will involve a comprehensive literature review of human-wildlife conflicts and resolutions, identification and analysis of relevant socio-economic and ecological data, and the development of a proof-of-concept agent-based model to support forest management decision-making. The results will feed into a wider project on panda conservation, land use and climate change.
This project is supervised by Calum Brown (University of Edinburgh) andMariella Marzano (Forest Research). For more information contact

Panda habitat suitability modelling

Restoration of panda habitats is a major priority in China’s Sichuan Province, where isolated panda populations remain in a number of mountainous nature reserves. However, successful habitat restoration requires improved knowledge about the factors that determine habitat suitability. These factors primarily relate to the availability of food (specific bamboo species) and water, and the nature and extent of human disturbance. This project will involve a literature review to gather evidence about habitat suitability for pandas, sourcing data that describe an appropriate range of factors in the Wolong region, and modelling these to discover the main determinants of suitability. This model can then be used to assess options for forest restoration, habitat corridors, reintroductions, land use zoning and other approaches to increasing panda population size and health. It may also be subsequently developed to explore the impacts on other species native to the area, and the possible effects of climate change on panda habitats and distributions.
This project is supervised by Calum Brown (University of Edinburgh) and Chloe Bellamy (Forest Research). For more information contact

Protected Areas in Sichuan, China: Connecting communities, landscapes and conservation

This project will investigate protected area design strategies that might be appropriate to the Wolong region, in terms of their functionality for panda populations, benefits for local and wider communities (e.g. livelihoods, tourism, access), and how well they work for other species (especially in terms of the potential 'umbrella' effect of the giant panda on their general ecosystem and on other key species in the region such as bamboo and rhododendron). The objective is to identify broad and/or specific strategies for reserve design (e.g. spatial configuration and regulation) that satisfy the diverse requirements of panda reserves. In particular, reserves must allow the persistence of viable panda populations, but also their wider environment. Furthermore, they must be useful to local human populations and, given pandas’ economic importance, must allow for tourism to some extent – despite the mountainous and remote terrain.
This project is supervised by Calum Brown (University of Edinburgh) and Chloe Bellamy (Forest Research). For more information contact

Possible impacts of climate change on panda populations

Conservation of panda populations in Sichuan Province, China, relies on reintroductions and habitat protection and expansion. This largely reactive approach may not be sufficient to ensure the species’ survival as climate change increasingly affects habitats and food sources. However, detailed knowledge about the likely effects of climate change in this region is lacking, making it difficult to develop robust conservation strategies. This project will establish links between panda habitats and existing bioclimatic zones, examine the responses of these zones to predicted changes in climate in Sichuan Province, and investigate the implications for panda habitats, populations and the wider ecosystem. Human land use and other impacts will also be considered, allowing recommendations to be made about conservation management under a range of possible future conditions.
This project is supervised by Marc Metzger (University of Edinburgh) and Antje Ahrends (The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh). For more information contact Marc: