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Bending the curve – restoring biodiversity by understanding taxon-biome-responses to global threats

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, November 22, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor – Prof Kate Jones (University College London)
Co-supervisors – Prof Rob Ewers (Imperial College London), Dr Marcus Rowcliffe (Zoological Society of London)

Scientific Background

Wildlife and wild places face a variety of environmental and human-induced challenges, with catastrophic declines documented in both invertebrate and vertebrate populations across the world. Despite a number of global international commitments to reduce biodiversity loss by 2020, current assessments show that these are unlikely to be achieved. To meet post-2020 targets, actions that both aim to ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss, and robust metrics tracking the status of wild nature and places are urgently needed. This represents a step change for conservation – understanding actions that significantly recover populations rather than just stopping further declines. Critical to ‘bending the curve’ is a better global understanding of how species in different biomes respond to different threats and the effectiveness of conservation actions. To address these questions, UCL with WWF UK is deploying terrestrial and marine sensors at a landscape-level across four different biomes to understand different species-biome-threat responses (Biome Health Research Project – - Nepal (impacts of fragmentation of dry forest), Kenya (livestock grazing pressure in the Maasai Mara), Borneo (impacts of deforestation of rainforest) and Fiji (fishing impacts on coral reefs). The project uses cutting-edge sensor technologies such as camera traps, acoustic sensors, diver-operated stereo-video systems, 3D coral-mapping, and develops software tools such as artificial intelligence algorithms.

Project Description

We are offering a PhD studentship as part of the Biome Health Research Project, focusing on one or more of the biomes. There will be opportunities to conduct ecological field work, or purely focus on analysing the existing image and acoustic datasets, according to the student’s interest. The student will be based at UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (CBER) and will work collaboratively with the team of researchers in the Biome Health Team which include WWF UK, UCL’s Computer Science Department, Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London. The studentships will include the opportunity of an internship within the WWF-UK Science team, based at the Living Planet Centre in Woking, on the application of research into policy and conservation.

Person Specification

Candidates should have a first or upper-second class BSc degree in an appropriate subject and a relevant MSc/MSci/MRes qualification, with a background in ecology or a related field, with experience of fieldwork in remote areas and experience of using acoustic devices and/or camera traps in biodiversity surveys. We are seeking candidates with strong analytical skills with knowledge of programming languages such as R and should be willing to learn:
• Hierarchical modelling of ecological data
• Machine learning
• Management of large datasets
• Communicate with scientific and non-scientific audiences.

Start Date: January 2020 (this is flexible)

How to apply

Please send a CV and a cover letter describing your fit to the position and what your research ideas for your PhD as part of the Biome Health Research Project to Prof Kate Jones () by 22nd November 2019. Informal enquiries can also be directed to Prof Kate Jones.

Funding Notes

The duration of the PhD scholarship will be 3.5 years, source of funding is through University College London with a £17,000 stipend per year (with other costs covered, including tuition fees and a research bursary). This PhD is restricted to UK/EU students only (sorry). Mode of study can be full or part time.


• Newbold et al. (2015). Global effects of land use on local terrestrial biodiversity. Nature 520, 45.
• Mace et al. (2018). Aiming higher to bend the curve of biodiversity loss. Nature Sustainability 1, 448-451
• WWF (2018) Living Planet Report -2018: Aiming Higher. Grooten & Almond (eds) WWF, Gland, Switzerland.
• IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2019) –

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