About the Project
This scholarship is funded by Swansea University's College of Science.
Start date: October 2021
Climate change and land use intensification have caused geographical range shifts in many species worldwide. In the case of birds of prey (“raptors”), which tend to track the distribution of their prey, this can result in them moving to sub-optimal environmental conditions (in terms of temperature or flight conditions). Raptors are predicted to be particularly susceptible to these changes, as the occurrence of their prey is highly sensitive to environmental change. Range shifts have also been shown to impact the assembly of ecological communities and species interactions. An urgent challenge is therefore to understand how climate-driven range shifts impact birds of prey and the networks of ecological interactions they are embedded within.
The successful candidate will address this by creating a comprehensive picture of the range shift dynamics of raptors and their prey across the globe. The central goals of this project are (1) to understand changes in the distributions of raptors at large spatial scales and how these relate to environmental change; and (2) to unveil the effects of these biogeographical range shifts on food web structure and the consequences of this for raptor conservation. This work builds on previous work by Dr Lurgi on the effect of warming on trophic ecological interactions and food webs (Lurgi et al. 2012a,b).
The candidate will adopt an interdisciplinary approach incorporating food webs, raptor ecology, and biogeography. This will take advantage of the supervisory team’s expertise in the analysis of large datasets and food webs (Dr Lurgi), raptor ecology (Professor Shepard), and species co-occurrence modelling (Dr Wells).
The candidate will join the Computational Ecology Lab and the Swansea Lab for Animal Movement at Swansea University; two thriving groups both undertaking interdisciplinary research. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to conduct part of their research in Grenoble with project collaborator Dr Wilfried Thuiller, an expert in biogeography (University of Grenoble Alpes / CNRS in France).
This project will help develop the candidate’s skills in critical thinking, data management and analysis, writing and communication. Potential applications emanating from the project are diverse, ranging from raptor ecology and conservation to the effects of species ranges shifts on ecological interactions. The candidate would therefore be well prepared for a future career in research within academia, government and non-government conservation agencies.
- Lurgi M, López BC & Montoya JM (2012a). Novel communities from climate change. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 367(1605), 2913-2922.
- Lurgi M, López BC & Montoya JM (2012b). Climate change impacts on body size distribution and food web structure in mountain ecosystems. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 367(1605), 3050-3057.
Candidates must have a First, Upper Second Class Honours or a Master’s degree with Merit, in quantitative ecology, computer science or a related discipline. They should also have:
- An interest in ecological modelling, data analysis (including geospatial approaches) and conservation science.
- Strong time and data management and interpersonal skills.
- Evidence of good verbal and written communication skills.
In addition to the above, it is desirable that candidates also have:
- Experience with large dataset analysis and modelling (mechanistic and/ or statistical).
- Knowledge of programming languages such as R or Python, including the use of libraries for GIS data manipulation and analysis.
For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests. We prefer candidates to have already met the English Language requirements at the point of application, although this is not a requirement.
Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £1,000 per annum is also provided.
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