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Microclimate refugia site management strategies for biodiversity conservation (FRANCOUENV21ARIES)


School of Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Scientific Background:
Climate change is a severe threat to biodiversity. Many species are adapting by changing their ranges and retreating to areas with cooler climates1. Areas with a high variety of microclimates may provide opportunities for species to persist in a changing climate2. Animal species, exposed to microclimate variability throughout their life cycles3, may be able to use favourable microclimate sites to shelter from extreme events. With the advent of new tracking technologies, high spatial and temporal resolution data is available4 for a wide range of taxa enabling the quantification of individual exposure to microclimate variability5 and the identification of behavioural strategies individuals adopt to cope with climate extremes. The results will be used to recommend habitat management actions that promote microclimate variability and the creation of refugia sites needed to protect species that are vulnerable to climate change.
Research Methodology:
Using existing GPS location data with high spatial and temporal resolution (e.g. datasets from Movebank.org), and newly collected data using new tracking technologies, this project will examine the microclimate characteristics5 of sites used by individuals living at the edge and core of their climatic ranges. Detailed data on the behaviour of individuals (e.g. resting, foraging, moving) can be obtained through accelerometer sensors, these in combination with the GPS location data provide a powerful tool to understand behavioural responses to environmental variability.

Training:
The project will use theoretical and practical ecological skills and new animal tracking technologies. You will be trained in experimental design, testing hypothesis, to trap and manipulate wild animals and deploy tracking devices and in analyses of animal movement data. You will have the opportunity to explore existing datasets using R, and investigate which microclimate variables influence animal behaviour. Large datasets with animal movement information will be used to reveal the main environmental drivers behind range limits, and will inform the design of robust management actions to protect species under a changing climate.

Person Specification:
You should have a degree in the life sciences, relevant research experience, and be keen to advance scientific understanding of our natural environment. This project is available to highly numerate candidates.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria are awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020-21) and research funding. International applicants (EU/non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

For further information, please visit http://www.aries-dtp.ac.uk

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here https://people.uea.ac.uk/a_franco

The type of programme is a PHD

The start date of the project is 1st October 2021

The mode of study is full or part time (visa restrictions may apply)

Studentship length is 3.5 years


Funding Notes

Entry Requirements:
Acceptable first degree in Life Sciences

References

1. Chen, I., Hill, J. K., Ohlemüller, R., Roy, D. B. & Thomas, C. D. (2011) Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science. 333, 1024–1026.
2. Suggitt, A.J., Wilson, R.J., Isaac, N.J.B. et al. (2018) Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering. Nature Climate Change 8, 713–717. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0231-9
3. McDermott Long O, Warren R, Price J, Brereton TM, Botham MS and Franco AMA (2016) Sensitivity of UK butterflies to local climatic extremes: which life stages are most at risk? Journal of Animal Ecology, 86(1), 108-116.
4. Gilbert NI, Correia RA, Silva JP, Catry I, Atkinson, PW, Gill, JA and Franco AMA (2016) Are white storks addicted to junk food? Impacts of landfill use on the movement and behaviour of resident white storks (Ciconia ciconia) from a partially migratory population. Movement Ecology 4, 7 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-016-0070-0
5. Maclean IMD, Mosedale JR, Bennie JJ (2019) Microclima: An r package for modelling meso‐and microclimate. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10 (2), 280-290

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