CoSS PhD Scholarship – Open Science in Conservation: combining citizen science and remote sensing approaches for habitat monitoring
The successful candidate will be based at the University of Glasgow’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries. This rural campus in south Scotland is home to a multidisciplinary team of lecturers and researchers including those focusing on the environmental and social sciences.
The project will be supervised by Dr Natalie Welden and Dr Brian Barrett. Dr Welden is Lecturer in Environmental Science and Sustainability in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. Her research interests include the impacts of anthropogenic activities in coastal ecosystems, the use of citizen science in biological recording and the impacts of microplastic pollutants. Her previous work in citizen science includes the design and delivery of citizen science surveys monitoring climate change impacts in the Peak District; pollution in aquatic habitats, air pollution and invasive species distribution across the UK; and exposure to particulate matter in informal settlements in Nairobi. Dr Barrett is Lecturer in Remote Sensing in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. His principal research interests are in the use of microwave remote sensing for applications in the terrestrial environment and the wider use of remote sensing to increase understanding of Earth system processes in the context of environmental change. Current research focuses on the use of radar and multispectral remote sensing to improve upland habitat inventories, socio-ecological sustainability in Sub-Saharan Africa, predicting pasture biomass in Irish, Colombian and New Zealand dairy farms, and modelling future land use in Chinese river basins.
Human-caused biodiversity loss and rising extinction rates have widespread implications for a range of ecosystem services such as food security, the discovery of medicines and the availability of natural resources. The identification and monitoring of affected habitats and species is of the utmost priority in preventing localised and even global extinctions. In protected areas, monitoring is also essential in establishing the effectiveness of conservation practices and identifying ongoing illegal or otherwise damaging activities. However, issues of accessibility, cost and practitioner ability frequently limit the scale and scope of monitoring programmes.
The proposed project aims to address this issue by bringing together remote sensing data and citizen science methodologies to monitor the distribution of at-risk habitats and species.
Based at the University of Glasgow’s rural Dumfries Campus, the successful candidate will work with citizen scientists and non-governmental organisations to identify species-rich grassland habitats across Scotland and the wider UK from a combination of multispectral satellite (e.g. from Sentinel-2) and UAV imagery, supplemented with LiDAR derived elevation data and climatic information. They will develop an online citizen science approach to enable remote mapping of the distribution of species-rich grassland vital to at risk butterfly species in the UK, in addition to developing and implementing curriculum-linked activities and volunteer training events.
Finally, the candidate will undertake ground truthing surveys of sites identified by citizen scientists, assessing the diversity and structure of plant communities, undertaking surveys of insect biodiversity and determining the metapopulation dynamics of target species.
The project also offers a range of internal and external training opportunities, tailored to the requirements of the candidate. These include qualitative and quantitative research methods, public engagement and science communication, taxonomy of plant and invertebrate groups, and remote sensing and GIS analysis.
Applicants must meet the following criteria
• A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with an environmental science, ecology, or biology component. Candidates must have either already obtained this degree or be clearly on target to do so by June 2020.
• Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of, either remote sensing and GIS methods or the conservation of invertebrate species.
• Previous experience of routine invertebrate monitoring and conservation methods or working with GIS software is desirable.
• Strong communication skills and the ability to confidently interact with members of the public, landowners and land managers are required.