Researcher Spotlight – Natalie Duffus


Nat is a PhD student and as part of her PhD she worked as a researcher on the Sprint investigating “How Do We Account for Biodiversity?” which ran from April 2022-June 2023.

I studied Conservation Biology at the University of Aberdeen before beginning my DPhil in the Department of Biology in Oxford. I currently research the ecological outcomes of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), with a focus on maximising the policy’s benefit for invertebrates ( I have also recently completed a policy internship with Natural Resource Wales, writing policy briefs on the topic of Net Benefit for Biodiversity.

In the sprint, I worked on the ecology work package, designing and implementing the biodiversity data collection protocol. This involved setting up pitfall traps to sample ground invertebrates and collecting other measures of biodiversity against which to evaluate if the Biodiversity Metric used for BNG is a good proxy for other measures of on-the-ground biodiversity. 

Working on an Agile Sprint project is an exciting and fast-paced research experience. With the sprint, we knew that everything had to come together in such a short time span, so we really had to start planning outputs and stakeholder engagement activities alongside collecting and analysing data. In many ways, seeing outputs taking shape while we were still working was helpful. It kept us on task, reminding us not to lose sight of what we wanted to achieve.

During the sprint, working within such an interdisciplinary team was fantastic. I loved the opportunity to learn from others, and gain feedback on our ideas from people in different disciplines. Before the sprint, I had primarily worked with other ecologists, but during the sprint we were able to bring in knowledge from social scientists, economists, and even computer scientists to help inform our field work approach. It definitely opened my eyes to new ways of thinking which I had not considered before and has influenced my work since.

The sprint also was a great opportunity to learn about project management, theory of change, and creating realistic timelines (and adapting them where necessary!). Having the support of the ‘engine room’ and the Agile sprint team was brilliant. I am taking forward these project management skills in my DPhil, and which I am sure will benefit my project immensely.