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All change? Biodiversity, range shift, climate change and land use change in The Anthropocene (Advert reference: RDF20/EE/GES/SUGGITT)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The natural world is critical to many aspects of life that we rely on: it maintains the productivity of agriculture, prevents floods, delivers safe drinking water and sustains our mental and physical health. Many studies indicate that a substantial fraction of the biodiversity that underpins these vital attributes is under threat from accelerating environmental change wrought by human activity, particularly land use intensification and climate change. Yet the overwhelming majority of these studies focus on the relationships between biodiversity and each of these threats in isolation, rather than how they might act in tandem. The outlook for biodiversity could therefore worsen if such effects were taken into account.

Combining state-of-the-art microclimate modelling techniques with a novel map of land use change for Britain- newly-digitised by the project team- this project will be the first to test if long-term changes in contemporary climate and land use interact to alter predictions of extinction risk for a wide range of plant and animal species. Biological variables such as ecological traits and landscape connectivity will also be quantified and tested to establish the precise circumstances that lead to the ultimate success or failure of populations at the fine-scale. To test their veracity, results will be compared to actual species’ range expansions and contractions documented by a new dataset of biodiversity change for the 20th century, containing over 1m citizen science records.

The scope and depth of the project will require the successful candidate to have excellent quantitative skills and substantial experience of spatial analysis, big data and/or statistics. Considerable in-project support and training will also be provided by the supervisory team and international collaborators. The outputs will feed into efforts to promote and manage biodiversity and our natural world in the age of The Anthropocene.

The principal supervisor for this project is Dr Andy Suggitt. The second supervisor will be Dr Mike Jeffries.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/EE/GES/SUGGITT) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU/ Worldwide students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering, Suggitt et al. 2018, Nature Climate Change.

Fine‐scale climate change: modelling spatial variation in biologically meaningful rates of warming, Maclean et al. 2017, Global Change Biology.

HistMapR: Rapid digitization of historical land‐use maps in R, Auffret et al. 2017, Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

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