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Developing landscape-scale approaches to conserve the threatened barbastelle bat and other woodland bat species.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 06, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Effective conservation of woodland bats is hampered by a lack of evidence. Across Europe, population trends are unknown because no effective protocol has been developed. This contrasts with species that make extensive use of buildings and which are therefore easier to monitor. However, recent advances in acoustic monitoring techniques, and the opportunity for citizen-science initiatives, provide new opportunities for progress.

Barbastelle bats make use of resources that are patchily distributed in the landscape, including trees (particularly standing deadwood) for roosting, ponds for drinking, and moth-rich foraging areas. Research to date has largely focused on roost availability and woodland structure. However, the species travels long distances each night — presumably to access moth-rich areas and other valued resource. The relationship between colony density and the distribution of these resources is unclear; and it is not known whether the widespread declines noted for many invertebrates (Fox 2013; Hallman 2017) affect the energetic balance of bats and limit population sizes.

Focused on the highly-protected barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) as a flagship species, but incorporating other woodland bats, this PhD studentship will answer fundamental questions about bat ecology and also generate practical advice for conservation. The work will be undertaken in 4 focal study areas: West Sussex, Wiltshire, Hereford/Worcestershire and Norfolk, representing areas with contrasting agricultural landscapes. The student will join a thriving research group that investigates the impacts of anthropogenic threats on mammal conservation.

To inform the management of woodlands and surrounding landscapes to improve the conservation of woodland bats

1. To quantify the occupancy of English woodlands by barbastelle bats using acoustic surveys, informing the development of a national citizen-science monitoring scheme.
2. To assess the relationships between the quantity of standing deadwood and other woodland habitat features with a) the probability of occupancy of the woodland; and b) the probability of a maternity roost being present, and to determine whether there are minimum thresholds.
3. To quantify the relationship between moth abundance and distribution and barbastelle bat distribution and population status.
4. To determine, using a before-after-control-impact experiment, the effect of woodland pond creation on the probability of barbastelle bats using woodlands.

This fully-funded case-studentship position, which covers fees and a stipend at standard RCUK rates, is open to Home / EU applicants. The funding is provided by the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex and The Vincent Wildlife Trust’s Vincent Weir Student Bursary. Data collection may involve night work as well as time working away from the university unsupervised. We are therefore looking for candidates who are reliable, resourceful and have a positive attitude to the challenges of field work. The ability to communicate effectively with a wide variety of people, including farmers, field ecologists, the general public, and research scientists is essential. Candidates need to be able to drive or have other means of reaching study sites, and ideally will be available to begin data collection from May 2019.

How to apply:
Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and names of two academic referees. On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Biology

For enquiries about the application process contact Anna Izykowska ()
For enquiries about the project contact Fiona Mathews

Funding Notes

This funded position, which covers fees and a stipend at standard RCUK rates, is open to Home / EU applicants.

Ideal candidates will have a strong background in biological science, with additional experience of geographical information systems or statistical modelling, and have an aptitude for data analysis. Eligible applicants will have recently received an MSc and/or a First or high 2:1 BSc in a relevant subject. Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.

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