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Assessing the role of geodiversity in conserving biodiversity in agricultural Eurasian grasslands

School of Geography

About the Project

This project assesses geodiversity-biodiversity relationships and hypothesised drivers, mainly at the Târnava Mare Natura 2000 site, Transylvania (Romania). This landscape of traditionally managed grasslands, including highly biodiverse wildflower hay meadows, represents habitat types lost across much of Europe that are targets for restoration and conservation. Târnava Mare is also geodiverse: topographically, geologically, edaphically and hydrologically varied. Accumulating evidence suggests geodiverse areas tend to be biodiverse. Underlying mechanisms are not well understood, but likely include promotion of habitat mosaics and refuges for plant and animal species. Improving understanding of geodiversity-biodiversity relationships is fundamental to species conservation, and offers unexplored opportunities to balance maintenance of ecosystem functions with needs for agricultural exploitation. Project results will support our CASE partner’s ongoing on-site conservation/management, and provide theoretical contributions in this topical research area.

Research foci: (1) connectivity associated with geodiversity; (2) links between geodiversity and habitat provision for rare species; (3) links between geodiversity, rare habitat types (including wildflower meadows) and ecosystem function. Data will be collected for birds, plants, small mammals and invertebrates (primarily key pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees), and related to land-cover change (from remote sensing and historical maps/images).

Fieldwork is supported by our CASE partner, financially and through on-site specialists. It builds on data collected since 2013. Importantly, this existing dataset means the project is viable even if coronavirus-related restrictions preclude/limit fieldwork. There may also be fieldwork opportunities elsewhere in the region (e.g. Carpathian Mountains).

With infrastructure, external funding, project partners and data in place, fieldwork and manuscript preparation will proceed quickly. The successful applicant will have excellent training and placement opportunities, and networking with our impressive set of collaborators. Additional co-authored publications are likely, given the research team involved.

Applicants should have aptitude for fieldwork and data analysis, good writing skills and, importantly, willingness to maximise the remarkable opportunities offered.

Applicants must hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level, or equivalent, in either a subject such as Biology, Ecology, Physical Geography, Environmental/Natural Sciences or in Mathematics/Statistics. In either case, the applicant should be excited to learn about the other area of expertise.

Good conceptual and practical knowledge of remote sensing/GIS is desirable. So are programming (ideally in R), ecological/geological field experience, database management and geostatistical skills are assets. However, enthusiasm for nature and curiosity about the best ways to conserve it under environmental change are by far the most important requirements.

We expect the most competitive applicants will have a Master’s qualification or equivalent, and/or substantial practical experience. The project may be undertaken on either a full- or part-time basis.

For further details (recommended), please contact Dr Richard Field () and Dr Franziska Schrodt() – we would prefer it if you send your email to both of us, please.

Funding Notes

Each student will be supported by the tax free stipend (£15,285 in 2020/21), for 3.5 years. The award will also cover UK home fees and a Research and Training Grant of £8,750 to fund their research, conference attendance and networking.

For more detailed eligibility criteria please see the Envision website - View Website.

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