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Biodiversity of Novel Croplands

Project Description

Enrol for a PhD project to investigate the impacts of humanity on biodiversity change. Your PhD will involve collecting and analysing data for biodiversity associated with novel tropical crops, including soy and oil palm. You will also consider cultural attitudes to the biodiversity of these croplands, contrasting the perspectives of farmers, production companies and environmentalists. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity at the University of York, and supervised by leading experts (Chris West, Jane Hill, Jean Grugel) in biodiversity, tropical agroecosystems, and sustainable food supply chains.

Many tropical crops are being grown more widely to meet world demand for human foodstuffs. The challenge is to develop environmentally and economically sustainable agroecosystems, balancing local livelihoods with biodiversity conservation. During this PhD, you will investigate how the diversity and functional characteristics of species associated with novel crops differ from those in historical habitats (longer-established crops and more natural habitats); and you will identify the likely habitat and geographic origins of species associated with the crops. This research will involve the collection of new field data for one or more exemplar crops, and meta-analysis of existing information for a range of crops. For a selected region, you will undertake questionnaires and interviews to evaluate the diversity of opinions to potentially beneficial or harmful biodiversity within these agroecosystems.

You should be excited about answering fundamental research questions, and wish to combine biological and social perspectives. The Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity will provide you with a wide range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers, in a supportive environment. You will be part of the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene
Biodiversity research programme, which will provide support and training, as well as facilitating interactions with other departments at York, and with other universities and research organisations.

Funding Notes

This is a Leverhulme studentship fully funded for 3.5 years and the student must complete the PhD in 4 years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.


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 research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project.

Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK Research and Innovation residency requirements (to be residing in the UK for at least three years continuously prior to the beginning of the programme).

Shortlisting: TBC

Interviews: TBC

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