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Exploring novel technologies to fill knowledge gaps on the ecology and conservation of marine mega vertebrates at scales relevant to inform policy

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Schofield
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Surveying marine mega vertebrates (including sea turtles, marine mammals and sharks) remains a costly and challenging exercise, with focus remaining on single species at local scales. While tracking technologies have advanced over the last decade, extrapolating data on 1s or 10s of individuals to the population level and beyond remains difficult. This project will focus on examining the potential of using emerging techniques and instruments to facilitate the monitoring of marine mega vertebrates at scales relevant to inform policy objectively for the selection of marine protected areas (MPAs) and regulation of fisheries. In particular, the potential application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in combination with other approaches will be explored at a variety of scales and marine environments (coastal versus marine) for individual animals, individual species and multiple species over short to long time scales. This project will focus on examining a number of cutting-edge questions related to population dynamics, as well as patterns of movement and distribution across different habitats, including both “blue skies” questions on animal orientation as well as more applied questions on marine conservation planning.

This studentship will be an excellent opportunity to develop skills in new, world leading methodologies, for application to conservation and policy. This studentship will suit candidates with interests in quantitative ecology, GIS, statistics and ecological or mathematical modelling (including image processing and machine learning) or computer science, given its focus on quantitative analyses, GIS data analysis and data mining techniques. Candidates should ideally also have an interest in marine vertebrate ecology, and be willing to spend extended periods of time in the field (under hot conditions, i.e. >35°C) collecting data using UAVs and other technologies. The candidate must be able (or be willing to quickly learn) to operate a UAV and obtain a licence.

For further details please contact: [Email Address Removed]
For further reading on our recent work in this area:

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project. A masters degree is desirable, but not essential.

The studentship is open to UK and EU nationals. It will cover tuition fees and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at Research Councils UK rates (£16,777 in 2018/19).


[1] Schofield G, Katselidis KA, Lilley MKS, Reina R, Hays G. 2017. Detecting elusive aspects of wildlife ecology using UAVs: new insights on the mating dynamics and operational sex ratios of sea turtles. Functional Ecology 31 (12), 2310–2319 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12930
[2] Schofield G, Papfitsoros K, Haughey R, Katselidis K. 2017. Aerial and underwater surveys reveal temporal variation in cleaning-station use by sea turtles at a temperate breeding area. Marine Ecology Progress Series DOI:
[3] Mazaris AD, Schofield G, Gkazinou C, Almpanidou V, Hays GC. 2016. Global sea turtle conservation successes. Science Advances doi: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2012.00543.x
[4] Almpanidou V, Schofield G, Mazaris AD. 2017. Unravelling the climatic niche overlap of multiple sea turtle species: the impact of geographic variation and phylogeny. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13092

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.39

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

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