Natalia Zielonka

Natalia Zielonka



Personal profile


SUFICA Project

Postgraduate Researcher, 2019-2023 with Dr Lynn Dicks and Dr Simon Butler at UEA

I am a PhD student at UEA working on the SUFICA Project (Sustainable Fruit farming in the CAAtinga), which aims to increase the sustainability of fruit farming in the Caatinga region of north-east Brazil.

The Caatinga region is one of most endangered eco-regions on Earth, being subject to high rates of conversion and very few protected areas; between 1990-2010, the rate of deforestation was 0.53% per annum. Caatinga is also one of the least known biomes, where endemism is high being estimated at between 7-57%. 

Caatinga is also very important socially, with ~15% of Brazil's population living within this region. The rural areas of Caatinga are very poor, and one of the main sources of income is fruit-farming which has been rapidly intensifying and international exports have been increasing. This is key to reducing poverty and economic growth of Brazil but at the moment this is happening at the expense of biodiversity and by reducing the long-term resilience of farming; this disproportionally affects the rural poor.

The SUFICA project aims to experimentally test 'ecological intensification' as a pathway to sustainable intensive agriculture. My work will concentrate on testing landscape enhancement to maximise ecosystem services provided by birds (as part of Integrated Pest Managament) with the aim to quantify pest regulation services and to develop an understanding of the dependence of natural pest regulation performed by birds on landscape structure in the perennial fruit farming systems in Caatinga. Part of this work will also aim to quantify the diversity of avian species across Caatinga and agro-habitats.

To date, the majority of research into natural pest regulation has been heavily biased toward studies in temperate regions and within annual crop systems, and thus there have been no studies that would be representative of the perennial fruit farming in semi-arid Brazil. Additionally, the research to date found the effects of wider landscape on natural pest control inconsistent across studies, which is limits our ability to consider natural biological control in landscape planning and farm management. 

At the heart of the SUFICA project is a partnership approach to provide farmers with the tools necessary for agricultural growth in a way that protects biodiversity and the environment. SUFICA project works closely with fruit farmers and research results will be communicated to farmers through workshops.

To find out more about SUFICA, please visit: and 

Key Research Interests

Eurasian curlew 
MSc Applied Ecology & Conservation, UEA 2017-2018

The Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata is arguably the UK's most pressing avian conservation priority due to the species' global conservation status (IUCN Near Threatened), the international importance of UK's breeding populations and its long-term declines here in the UK (65% between 1970-2015). To inform potential conservation management interventions, I studied nest placement, nest survival and nest-predator identity within the UK's largest lowland curlew population (Breckland, UK) across two grass-heath sites, where vegetation structure was diversified prior to this study with ground-disturbance plots as part of a wider multi-taxa experiment (see Robert Hawkes for details and check Harry Ewing out who is carrying on the work on Breckland's curlews).

European nightjar
BSc Zoology, University of Nottingham, 2014-2017

The European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus is a migrant breeder in the UK, which is difficult to survey due to its elusive nature and being largely active at night. In 2016-2017, I was involved in a project studying the acoustic ecology of male nightjars by recording their calls during the breeding season in the Sherwood Pines Forest Park, UK, to try to identify individual males based on acoustic parameters within and across two breeding seasons, as well as to test whether the call structure varied significantly between paired and unpaired males. 

Project Godwit

Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT, working to increase the productivity of Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa at the Nene and Ouse Washes, UK, to help their population recovery. During the 2019 breeding season, I worked as a fieldwork assistant, monitoring nests and chicks of godwits and other waders across the Nene Wash, as well as ringing and geo-tagging godwits and carrying out predator surveys.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

Master in Science, University of East Anglia


Award Date: 12 Dec 2018

Bachelor of Science, University of Nottingham


Award Date: 17 Jul 2017

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or