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Impacts of disturbance on red deer

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Stephens
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Red deer are important both ecologically and economically. In Scotland, they are a tourist attraction but are also the focus for deer stalking which generates both income and jobs. Upland areas have become very popular with hill walkers since the right of responsible access came into effect in Scotland in 2005. This has the potential to disturb deer, altering their spatial distribution and habitat use. In some cases, this disturbance can cause conflicts with legitimate management objectives because it has been credited with changing the distribution of deer across neighbouring estates, affecting the numbers available for stalking and shifting the pattern of grazing impacts. Preliminary work, including an ongoing PhD project, has used camera trapping of deer and livestock, in conjunction with vegetation surveys, stalking records and voluntary gps-tracking of hikers to assess potential disturbance of deer by sheep and recreational human land use. The ongoing PhD project is also trialling gps-collaring for deer to get a better sense of their movements, habitat use and response to human activities. Here, we propose a project that will build on that preliminary work to conduct a fine scale analysis of the deer response to disturbance events using high resolution GPS tracking. This will enable a fuller assessment of deer habitat use and distribution, as well as the scale and temporal duration of their responses to disturbance events. Specific aims include: (i) To document red deer space use throughout the estate and neighbouring sections of the deer management area. (ii) To study, concurrently, the distribution and activities of tourists, hunters and livestock, as well as the provision of supplementary feed in the area. (iii) To refine existing models of red deer space use to incorporate information on drivers not currently included; (iv) To parameterise demographic models for the area, to determine whether important differences exist in the match between observed and expected population growth. Fieldwork will be conducted on an estate in Perthshire that encompasses four Munros popular with hill walkers. The successful candidate will use a range of approaches, including spatial and demographic modelling, GPS collaring, pellet group count methods, camera trapping, and vantage point counts, as well as analyses of human movement data.

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 39.00

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