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Are wood ants ecosystem engineers? Assessing impacts during range expansion

Project Description

Are wood ants ecosystem engineers? Assessing impacts during range
We are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious student to develop an exciting
project that will combine biogeochemical field data and ecological modelling to
quantify and predict how wood ants affect regional forest soil function. The
ideal candidate will enjoy interacting with academics and stakeholders from a
range of backgrounds and want to apply their scientific training to an important
applied question.
Forestry, mainly plantations, occupies 13% of British land area. The
fragmentation of British woodlands adds further challenges, particularly for
locally dispersing habitat specialists, e.g. wood ants (Formica rufa group). These
species, threatened across Europe, are key components of woodland
ecosystems. Recent work indicates wood ant populations in the North York
Moors are expanding from ancient woodland into plantations. This ongoing
expansion allows us to explore the impact of ant behavior on forest function
within forests with long-term, recent and no ant nest presence.
Ant mapping data, including 3 years’ expansion at population margins, will be
used to identify sampling sites in which ant behavior and a range of soil
functional data will be collected (e.g.- soil pH, trace gas fluxes, bulk density and
nutrient loading). These data will be used to quantify the impact of ant presence
on soil qualities and function and this may be used to predict invasive impacts.
There is a significant field work component that will be combined with
substantial laboratory analyses.

a) To predict the impact on soil function of the spread into new habitat of
a woodland specialist
Specifically to quantify:
i. The impact on soil chemical/physical properties over short and
longer-term time scales
ii. The impact on soil microbial community over short and longer
time scales

b) To provide advice for forest managers regarding ecological and climate
impact of management activities
Applications and benefits
The student will receive thorough postgraduate training supported by a
multidisciplinary team of supervisors with strong research backgrounds and
experience in postgraduate supervision. The student will gain ecological
research skills including: empirical field techniques; cutting-edge laboratory
equipment techniques; spatial analysis methods. This study will provide novel
data on dispersal impacts in woodland species: it will benefit the academic
ecology/evolution communities, policy-makers and forest managers.

Funding Notes

Funding: This is a 3.5 year fully-funded studentship part of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE). The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year), (ii) tuition fees at UK/EU rate, (iii) research consumables and training necessary for the project.

Entry requirements: At least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.


Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding

Shortlisting: Applicants will be notified if they have been selected for interview in the week commencing on Monday 28 January 2019.

Interviews: Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place in the Department of Biology at the University of York in the week beginning 11 February 2019 (or the following week). Prior to the interview candidates will be asked to give a 5 minute presentation on a research project carried out by them.

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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