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Detecting the effect of climate change on animals: how mathematics can help optimise data-gathering efforts

Project Description

Are you a mathematics/statistics graduate, or finalist, with an
interest in animal conservation and a desire to use your
knowledge to help understand and mitigate against climate
Climate change is having a dramatic effect on a wide range of
animals, by altering the environment in which they move and
live. However, animal behaviour is complex and data is difficult
and expensive to obtain. Consequently, detecting the effects of
changing environments on an animal movement and space use
can be challenging. Often, the myriad competing environmental
effects often drown out the signal of climate changes in the
limited data available. This can lead to a tendency to gather as
much data as possible to ensure a signal. However, this is
expensive and can have a negative impact on animal welfare.
So it is important to understand exactly how much, and what sort
of data, is required to understand how environmental change is
affecting an animal population?

The aim of this PhD project is to provide rigorous analysis of this
question, in relation to the effects of environmental changes on
animal movement and space use. The approach will be
mathematical, drawing from sampling theory (a branch of
statistics), and applying these tools to widely-used classes of
models for assessing the effects of habitat on animal movement
and space use. The student will then validate these analytic
predictions on a wide range of data, initially on seabirds (working
with co-supervisor, Samantha Patrick), then extending beyond to
other marine systems and perhaps also terrestrial systems,
depending on data availability and the student’s interests.
This project is suited to a graduate (or prospective graduate) of
any discipline within the mathematical sciences. The successful
candidate would have a desire to collaborate across disciplines,
an interest in animal ecology (and nature more broadly), but
need not have any formal biological/ecological training.
We encourage informal enquiries prior to application. If you are
interested, please contact the lead supervisor, Dr. Jonathan

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentships cover: (i) a stipend at the UKRI rate (£15,009 per annum for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.
This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment View Website. ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York, CEH, and NHM.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place in the w/c 10th February 2020.

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