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Ecomorphology and evolution of British red squirrels

  • Full or part time


    Dr KT Bates
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 09, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The introduction of the Eastern grey squirrel to the UK in the late nineteenth century has had a dramatic effect on the native population of red squirrels. In most places that grey squirrels have become established, they have replaced red squirrels, leaving a highly fragmented distribution across Great Britain with isolated populations in Scotland, northern England and Wales, and on offshore islands such as the Isle of Wight and Anglesey. It is well-established that populations isolated on islands or in other ways can undergo rapid morphological evolution and functional divergence, but it is yet to be tested whether such processes have occurred in red squirrels.

This PhD project will seek to shed light on the replacement of red squirrels by grey squirrels, and the impact of population fragmentation and isolation by quantifying cranial and mandibular morphology in the remaining population of UK red squirrels. Morphological variation will be analysed with geometric morphometrics, a landmark-based statistical shape analysis methodology. The biomechanics of feeding in the remaining red squirrel populations will be compared via biomechanical simulation methodologies such as finite element analysis and multibody dynamics analysis.

The project also incorporates three months of curatorial training at the Leeds Discovery Centre. The successful candidate will be involved in digitising the Discovery Centre collections using photogrammetry and/or structured light scanning. Methodological training in the relevant imaging techniques will be provided at the University of York prior to the placement.

This project would be ideal for a student with a background in zoology, anatomy, zooarchaeology, or ecology. Prior experience with geometric morphometrics and/or biomechanical simulation would be a bonus, but is not essential as training will be provided during the course of the PhD. However, it is important that the student is competent in mathematics and data handling. The supervisory team includes expertise in functional morphology, biomechanics, imaging and ecology.

Funding Notes

This is a NERC ACCE studentship fully funded for 3.5 years and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,004 estimated for 2019-2020 but typically increases annually with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

The studentship is 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.

How good is research at University of York in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.78

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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