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ACCE DTP fully-funded project: Woodland-mediated predator impacts on open ground birds

   Department of Biology

  , Dr K L Evans  Friday, January 14, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead Supervisor: Dr C Beale (University of York Department of Biology)

Co-supervisor/s:  Dr Karl Evans (University of Sheffield), Dr David Douglas (RSPB), Dr Scott Newey (James Hutton Institute)

The student will be registered with the Department of Biology.

Government policies are driving UK woodland expansion, especially in the uplands. Expanding woodland has benefits, but previous upland afforestation has impacted open ground biodiversity including waders. Policy formulation requires improved understanding of the biodiversity trade-offs associated with woodland expansion. The student will combine fieldwork and statistical modelling to develop predictive models of avian biodiversity responses to woodland expansion, supplementing fieldwork with analysis of existing long-term biodiversity datasets addressing woodland expansion.

Mechanistic understanding requires considering predation-mediated woodland edge effects from mesopredators like foxes. Breeding failure due to predation is driving wader declines, with some species globally threatened. Reducing predation in upland landscapes often involves culling, which is costly, controversial and of debatable effectiveness. Recovering apex predators might discourage mesopredator use of open upland habitats and potentially reduce wader predation, but the potential for this to mitigate impacts of woodland expansion remains untested. The student will field-test this concept by tracking predators and quantifying wader predation and productivity in the field. A key test will be quantifying the distance over which predation-mediated woodland edge effects occur.

This project is topical and timely, because upland afforestation is accelerating, while waders are declining. Understanding the mechanisms linking woodland expansion, mesopredators and waders will help target afforestation programmes to maximise the benefits and minimise impacts on waders.

We are seeking a highly motivated student with a passion for conducting excellent ecological research that shapes conservation policy. Based in York, at the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, the successful candidate will work with RSPB’s Conservation Science team and the James Hutton Institute, and active research groups in Sheffield working on conservation challenges across the globe. The supervisor team has an excellent track record in supporting students to publish their research in strong journals including Science, PNAS and Global Change Biology

The ACCE DTP and the University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological, ecological or evolutionary questions. 

Programme: PhD in ACCE (4 years)

Start Date: 1st October 2022 (the student will be registered with the Department of Biology)

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in the w/c 21 February 2022

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ACCE Doctoral Training Partnership. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 3.5 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts)
UK tuition fees (£4,500 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

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