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FULLY FUNDED PHD: The effects of urbanization on physiological indicators of welfare in bats

Project Description


Changes in land use from an increasing human population presents a major challenge for biodiversity (Grimm et al. 2008).

Several studies have documented the impacts of urbanization on wildlife due to habitat loss and fragmentation, chemical, light and noise pollution, harvesting, predation and roads (Russo & Ancillotto 2015).

While some aspects of urbanization have immediate lethal effects, others act more slowly or may vary between years or seasons. For example, urban heat might benefit some species, but be detrimental to others at certain times of the year (e.g. hibernators in winter).

Bats are one of the most diverse mammalian groups represented in urban environments but also one of the most threatened.Some species are relatively common in urban areas (e.g. Pipistrellus pipistrellus in Europe), and have been described as ‘urban-adaptors’.

However, recent work has indicated that the activity of even these species decreases with increasingly urbanized landscapes (Lintott et al. 2016). The mechanism for this is unclear; most work on bat responses to urbanization has focused on foraging and roosting patterns with little information on physiological effects.

This PhD will use a number of novel and non-invasive welfare indicators to compare levels of physiological stress in wild bats living in urban and rural environments.

Key objectives include:
• Validating novel physiological indicators of welfare in bats
• Testing for variation in physiological stress along a gradient of increasing urbanization
• Assessing whether gut microflora communities differ between urban and rural bats
• Testing for differences in the signature of chemical pollutants between urban and rural populations
• Testing for differences in the temperature and thermal stability of roosts in urban and rural sites
• Modeling population growth from habitat use and composition to inform conservation and survey effort

The student will investigate these questions in two common UK bat species to provide insights on the physiological mechanisms underlying urban declines in bats.

It is anticipated that the findings will inform landowners and policymakers on managing species and sites for conservation.

The student will belong to a network of high calibre environmental scientists via the IAPETUS2 doctoral training partnership.

This interdisciplinary studentship will be based in Dr Davina Hill’s and Prof Kirsty Park’s groups in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (Glasgow) and Biological and Environmental Sciences (Stirling).

The successful candidate will benefit from collaboration with Dr David Dominoni and Dr Martin Llewellyn (both Glasgow), who will provide expertise on urban ecology and gut microbiome analysis respectively, and from being part of a large group of researchers integrating environmental, physiological, behavioural and health data.


Funding Notes

Students must be Home or EU domiciled; EU students can receive a full maintenance grant if they have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years prior to the commencement of their studentship.

Funding is available to cover tuition fees for UK/EU applicants, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (estimated £15,009 for Session 2019-2020).



Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu J, Bai X, Briggs JM (2008) Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319:756–760

Lintott, P.R., Barlow, K., Bunnefeld, N., Briggs, P., Gajas Roig, C. and Park, K.J. (2016) Differential responses of cryptic bat species to the urban landscape. Ecology and evolution 6(7), 2044-2052.

Russo, D and Ancillotto, L (2015) Sensitivity of bats to urbanization: a review. Mammalian Biology 80(3): 205-212.

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