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Declines in insect populations: consequences for parasites

  • Full or part time
    Dr P Mayhew
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 09, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Insect populations may be declining over large areas of the planet.
Recently, gene sequencing studies have suggested that a sizeable
proportion of insect species host unique parasite/symbiont species
(parasitoids, nematodes, mites, microsporidia, bacteria). This means
that Earth’s species richness is likely dominated by these parasites
and symbionts. Intuitively, insect parasites are likely to suffer even
more than their hosts from environmental change because they
generally only occupy a fraction of the host population. This suggests
that a large fraction (almost all) of Earth’s biodiversity may be at risk
from insect declines. However, conservationists have almost entirely
ignored how declines in host populations will affect parasites. This
project will seek to explore the consequences of insect declines and
current insect conservation strategies for the persistence of their
parasites. The work will inform conservation practitioners of the
consequences of current trends and practices for this largely ignored
majority of biodiversity. The project will use computer modelling
approaches to ask: (1) How is the persistence of insect parasites in
meta-populations affected by different likely scenarios of host insect
decline, including declines of different severity, changes to habitat
patch quality, patch number and size, and non-habitat matrix quality?
(2) How do different parasite biologies (parasitoid, symbiont,
pathogen) affect the probability of their persistence during host
declines? (3) How effective for the conservation of parasites are
conservation strategies that focus on the minimum viable landscape
for the host insect? The project will be mainly computer-based and
may involve some analysis of the published literature to find the most
realistic modelling parameters. The project will be suitable for a
student interested in computer modelling and conservation,
population and community ecology.

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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