Conservation Internship – data analysis of dormice habitats

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species is looking for an intern to carry out a placement to undertake data analysis of dormice use of natural nests. This project will receive support from PTES and other staff. A grant of up to £5,000 is available to support living costs whilst the work is undertaken.

Natural nests: using natural nest records to assess habitat use by dormice in semi-natural broadleaved woodlands and the implications for management recommendations


Hazel dormice construct woven nests for resting and breeding. Dormice use a range of materials to construct nests and adapt to what is available. Different types of nests are constructed in the active season: woven nests, woven nests with an outer layer of leaves, and nests made purely from leaves. Dormice have been recorded using nests constructed by other species including wrens, tits and wood mice.

Natural nests can give an indication of dormouse presence at a site, and are generally easier to find in late autumn, early winter when leaves have fallen off trees and shrubs, and before wet weather has damaged them beyond recognition.

Dormice construct natural nests within tree hollows and crevices, and in scrubby habitat. The nests constructed in scrubby habitat – such as hedgerows, woodland rides and bramble scrub – can be located and identified without the need for climbing gear or specialised equipment. The height that natural nests are located at can vary from a few centimetres off the ground, to several metres up in the canopy.


Data on natural nests has been gathered at Bradfield Woods in Suffolk. The data was systematically collected at Bradfield for three years between 2014-16. Six 100m transects were walked annually in November or December, each one searched for one hour, along rides inside the wood and on the woodland edge. The grid reference, height, distance from ride and woody species in which the nest was built were recorded for each nest found as well as the time taken to find the first nest. This information was also recorded for any additional nests found. In addition, details such as species composition, structural quality, and average height of vegetation were recorded for each transect. Dormice can construct their nests in a variety of species, so a particular note of the species was made. Habitat assessments were made of the bramble distribution and structure along each structure.

The number of natural nests found each year ranged from 20-27. Nests were found along five of the six transects identified and in other areas of the wood


Analyse nest site selection of hazel dormice in semi-natural ancient woodland at Bradfield Woods, Suffolk

Make an analysis of comparative data of nests in next boxes on the site. Consider nest density across the entire wood. Investigate whether annual nest density increases or decreases correlate between nest boxes and natural sites, taking into account only a sample of natural nest sites were searched.

Compare nest site selection within these sites to nest site selection of dormice in other parts of their range and different habitats using literature listed below and other sources.

Literature review

Carry out a search of journal articles, books and grey literature to create a systematic review of  the location and structure of hazel dormouse natural nests.

Data analysis:

  • Quantify nest site selection in terms of:
    • plant species nest is found in,
    • nesting material used to build nest
    • average height above ground
    • and, if possible, south or north facing aspect
  • Quantify density of nests per transect, average and range compared with nests in nest boxes
  • Using the results of the literature review, compare findings of nest site selection with those from other studies in the UK and across the hazel dormouse range


Publish a paper on the analysis of natural nests in Mammal Communications.

Provide recommendations on:

  • Habitat used by dormice to nest in semi-natural broadleaved woodlands and implications for management (e.g. deer browsing, retention of bramble or encouraging bramble growth)
  • How and where to search for natural nests as indicators of dormouse presence, expanding on information already compiled. If possible quantify effort needed for a successful search where dormice are present.

 PTES internship grants

PTES is looking for an intern to carry out a placement to undertake the above data analysis, with support from PTES and other staff. A grant of up to £5,000 is available to support living costs whilst the work is undertaken.

Recognising the difficulties that recent graduates often experience in being able to pursue a career

in conservation biology PTES offers several student internship awards annually. PTES seeks to support our brightest students and future conservationists by providing grants to enable them to work on a specific species-related project. The species may be any taxa or small groups of species, such as solitary bees. Projects might run for a continual (full time) period of up to six months or intermittently (part-time) for longer. The work is carried out at either a conservation organisation or within a research group at a university.

The internships are about providing an opportunity to gain work experience and a foothold in the working environment as well as developing research and practical conservation skills. It is hoped that students will gain valuable experience during their internship, which will enable them to pursue careers in the field of research or conservation or proceed to a PhD or other qualifications. Those already registered for a PhD or Masters may not use internships to ‘top-up’ their funding.

Our Wildlife Conservation Internship Programme began in 2001. Since then, over 100 young people have benefitted, working on projects helping hedgehogs, water voles, pine martens, bats, adders, bottlenose dolphins, numerous butterflies and a host of other species besides. Notable PTES intern alumni are active conservationists in NGOs, researchers at universities, working in government agencies, and ecological consultancies where they are highly influential and effective.

More detail on eligibility and guidelines for PTES internships can be found here


If you are interested in applying for this internship please email


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