Invasive earwigs in the Falkland Islands: How big is the threat?


   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr John Baird, Dr Juliano Morimoto, Dr Paul Brickle, Dr Colin McClure, Dr Archie Murchie  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Introduced alien species can devastate native species. In the Falkland Islands, European earwigs have in the past 20 years become so numerous that they may now be posing a critical threat. Consequently, this is now a priority issue for the Falkland Islands government.

The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) eats live or dead insects, plant and other material. First recorded in the Falkland Islands in 1997, their numbers have now increased to the extent that they are regarded as serious pests, causing damage to garden and greenhouse plants and leading to the halt in production of a number of commercial crops. When they move indoors in Autumn, they are also regarded as a health hazard in hospitals.

Although earwigs are pests in the Falklands, the extent to which they are damaging other species is unclear. This project will assess direct impacts through their predation of invertebrates, damage to plants and aspects of competition and other changes to the food web and possibly explore a range of remediation strategies.

The impact on the only native camel cricket (Parudenus falklandicus), is of particular concern. Similar in size to earwigs, it may have a comparable diet, so this will be assessed. Anecdotally, earwigs impact on a range of other invertebrate within Port Stanley, resulting in the decline of blow flies (Calliphora sp.) and various native beetle species.

In contrast, densities of centipedes seem to be increasing, possibly in response to high earwig densities. It may be that centipedes will control earwig population, but they may also negatively impact native species.

The focus will mainly be on the comparison of invaded and non-invaded areas (possibly including smaller islands with no records of earwigs).

You will receive full training to allow you to:

  • Assess invertebrate diversity with various sampling techniques to determine the impact earwigs are having on native species. You will develop of a DNA fingerprint database of native species in the study areas, then relate that to the faeces of earwigs to determine their diet.
  • Determine the occurrence of the native camel cricket by sampling all life stages.
  • Assessment of the impact of earwigs on the vegetation; vegetation measurement using quadrats, measurements of sward heights and seed density in soil.
  • Investigate control measures, including biocontrol and pragmatic approaches.

You will travel to and be based at The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands for approximately 50% of your time, carrying out field work in spring, summer and autumn. Approximately 50% of your time will be mainly or exclusively spent in School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen carrying out DNA barcoding.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact the lead supervisor Dr John Baird ([Email Address Removed]) for more information.

Essential background of student:

BSc and/or Masters level qualification in biological sciences or similar related disciplines. Enthusiasm, critical thinking and organisational skills. Willingness to work with insects and to learn both fieldwork and practical laboratory skills are essential. Creativity and problem-solving skills are also key for the success in this project.

Applicants are expected to hold at least a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent). Applicants with a 2:2 Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered providing they have a Distinction or Commendation at Master’s level.

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APPLICATION PROCEDURE:

  • Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
  • You should apply for Biological Sciences (PhD) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team.
  • Please clearly note the name of the supervisor and project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application, it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Please include a Personal Statement specific to the project you are applying for, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and undergraduate/postgraduate certificates and transcripts.
  • Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application
  • General application enquiries can be made to [Email Address Removed]
  • The estimated start date for this PhD is January 2023.
Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This 42 Month, fully funded PhD is jointly funded by the University of Aberdeen School of Biological Sciences, and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute.
Funding includes tuition fees at the Home/UK rate (this includes EU nationals that hold UK settled or pre-settled status), research costs, and an annual stipend (estimated at £17,668 for the 2023/2024 academic year).
The estimated start date for this PhD is January 2023.

Where will I study?

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