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Designing multi-functional landscapes to ensure well-connected ecological networks

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Hartley
    Prof J K Hill
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Conserving biodiversity and associated ecosystem services under rapid
environmental change requires landscape-scale approaches described as
“better, bigger, more and joined” (Lawton report, 2010). This underpins Natural
England’s conservation planning and the ambitious aims for “greener future” in
the Governments’ new 25yr environment plan.
Modelling approaches have been developed to quantify habitat connectivity and
highlight where ecological networks can be enhanced via habitat restoration for
nature conservation, but other critical landscape features have to be integrated
with this objective. This project will investigate ways of successfully
incorporating multiple land use requirements into landscape design.
The project is particularly timely as the Government has committed to a “green
Brexit”. This incorporates an outcome-based environmental land management
policy, the planting of 50million trees and a new Nature Recovery Network,
which includes establishment of 500,000 ha of wildlife habitat outside currently
protected sites. These initiatives are an ideal opportunity to test new more
quantitative and robust ways to identify where habitat creation can be most
effective for conservation and other benefits.
The project aims to:
(i) Collate existing data on landscape features and attributes that
stakeholders wish to conserve and potentially enhance;
(ii) Use the latest methods of modelling habitat connectivity to examine
current habitat connectivity for different types of natural habitat (e.g.
woodland, grassland), and identify opportunities improving and protecting these
(iii) By overlaying different landscape designs and other data, use
prioritisation software to identify optimal landscape designs which can deliver
multiple benefits and be resilient to environmental change.
This project will combine, for the first time, state-of-the-art connectivity
modelling with prioritisation methods, to provide a quantifiable assessment of
best landscape configurations to protect our natural assets in the face of
competing land uses.
This multi-disciplinary project will provide you with excellent training in a range
of key skills required for conservation and land management now and in the
future, including spatial analysis of ecological data, computer modelling and the
policy drivers for landscape design and management. They will benefit from the
excellent research environment, facilities and training in the Biology Department
at the University of York, with access to the modelling and conservation
expertise in Liverpool. This is a CASE award with additional funding provided by
Natural England, the Government’s statutory body for nature conservation in
England. You will benefit from the experience of working with Natural England’s
scientists to gain an excellent understanding of post-Brexit environmental

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)

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