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Examining climate change impacts on tropical butterflies

Project Description

Climate change is resulting in many species shifting their ranges, altering
community composition at sites as some species colonise and other go
locally extinct. Tropical rainforest species are expected to shift uphill to
track climate, potentially leading to depauperate equatorial lowland
areas because there is no pool of hotter-adapted species available to
colonise these sites. However, studies are lacking and so impacts of
climate change are hard to predict in tropical regions. One reason for this
poor knowledge is the lack of long-term empirical data, and this project
will capitalise on the availability of museum specimens for understanding
drivers of change in tropical ecosystems.

The project will focus on Sulawesi in Indonesia, which has been very well-
studied by entomologists ever since Alfred Russel Wallace visited in the
19th century. Approximately 40% of butterfly species are endemic to
Sulawesi, and the project will use museum specimens, along with climate
and land-cover information in order to:

(1) Quantify patterns of range shift over time, determining the role of
climate in limiting species’ range boundaries, and projecting future
(2) Determine changes in species richness and community composition at
sites, and whether changes have been greatest where forest condition
and climate suitability have changed most;
(3) Examine changes in body size and wing morphology, and whether
changes are greatest in endemic species, at locations that have warmed
most, and in species that have shown least range shifting.

The project will capitalise on the extensive Natural History Museum
butterfly collections, and use new statistical approaches for testing novel
ecological questions of global importance, as well as providing
information for policy makers tasked with understanding and mitigating
impacts of environmental change.

Rapid climate change, during a period of ongoing rainforest loss makes it
vital to determine effects on tropical biodiversity. The project will suit
someone interested in investigating the relative importance of climate
and habitat changes on tropical species’ range dynamics. The project will
involve digitising NHM butterfly specimens and using novel modelling and
analytical methods to examine range shifts and changes in community
composition over time. If the student is interested, there are also
opportunities for field work to test model outputs with new field data.
The student will join a friendly and collaborative research group
examining the ecological impacts of climate change and developing
solutions for reducing biodiversity losses in tropical ecosystems.

Funding Notes

This NERC ACCE DTP studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years in the first instance, and students must complete their PhD in four years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020, but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. You can extend your funding period for up to 6 months by applying to a 3-month placement and 3-month writing up period for a publication.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.

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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