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How does urbanization affect the abundance and diversity of species?

Project Description

This PhD will focus on the influence of human behaviour on the dynamics and behaviour of species in urban and suburban settings. By altering the environment (e.g. through the formation of gardens) or their behaviour (e.g. providing supplementary food for wildlife, pet ownership), people can alter the behaviour, abundance and diversity of species of conservation interest (e.g. loss of bird diversity in the UK; changes in insect community structure). As we now live in a world where the majority of people live in such environments, the potential for conflict is growing, and as a result the importance of urban ecology is now increasingly recognised. This project will utilise an appropriate group of organisms (e.g. birds, mammals, insects) to allow us to understand and to develop proposals to help mitigate the conflict between urban development and biodiversity and to learn how we best work with local communities to maximise the conservation value of urban habitats. This project can be performed in Reading, or if appropriate, in another urban setting outside of the UK.

The supervisor is Professor of Ecology at the University of Reading. He has published extensively on interactions between species. He has a large, active and supportive research group. Visit for further details.

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Mark Fellowes ()

Funding Notes

You should send your CV, a covering letter explaining why you are interested in this project, and the names and e-mail addresses of two academic referees.


Relevant papers published since 2015:
1. Rocha, E.A., Souza, E.N.F., Bleakley, L.A.D., Burley, C., Rue-Glutting, G., Mott, J.L. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2018 Plants and urbanisation determine the abundance and diversity of garden aphids and their predators. European Journal of Entomology in press.
2. Hanmer, H.J., Thomas, R.L. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2018 Been caught stealing: Introduced grey squirrels subvert supplementary feeding of suburban wild birds. Landscape and Urban Planning in press.
3. Rocha, E.A. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2018 Does urbanization explain differences in interactions between an insect herbivore and its natural enemies and mutualists? Urban Ecosystems in press.
4. Hanmer, H.J., Thomas, R.L. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2017 Urbanisation influences range size of the domestic cat (Felis catus): Consequences for conservation. Journal of Urban Ecology 3, jux014.
5. Hanmer, H.J., Thomas, R.L., Beswick, G.J.F., Collins, B.P. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2017 Use of anthropogenic material affects bird nest arthropod community structure: Influence of urbanisation, and consequences for ectoparasites and fledging success. Journal of Ornithology 158, 1045-1059.
6. Hanmer, H.J., Thomas, R.L. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2017 Provision of supplementary food for wild birds increases local nest predation. Ibis 159, 158-167.
7. Smith, L.S. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 The grass-free lawn: floral performance and management implications. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 14, 490–499.
8. Smith, L.S. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 The influence of plant species on productivity, ground coverage and floral performance in grass-free lawns. Landscape and Ecological Engineering 11, 249-257.
9. Orros, M.E. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 Wild bird feeding in a large UK urban area: intensity, economics and individuals supported. Acta Ornithologica 50, 53-68.
10. Orros, M.E., Thomas, R.L., Holloway, G.J. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 Supplementary feeding of wild birds indirectly affects ground beetle populations in suburban gardens. Urban Ecosystems 18, 465-475. Doi: 10.1007/s11252-014-0404-x
11. Orros, M.E. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 Widespread supplementary feeding in domestic gardens explains the return of the reintroduced red kite Milvus milvus to an urban area. Ibis 157, 230-238.
12. Smith, L.S., Broyles, M.E.J., Larzleer, H.K. & Fellowes, M.D.E. 2015 Adding ecological value to the urban lawnscape: insect abundance and diversity in grass-free lawns. Biodiversity and Conservation, 24, 47-62. Doi: 10.1007/s10531-014-0788-1

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