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Native and invasive ladybirds in a changing UK climate (PERRYUBIO20ARIES)

Project Description


Climate change and invasive species have been described as a “deadly duo”. We have the potential to explore the interacting effects of these drivers of biodiversity change using ladybirds as a model system. Some native U.K. ladybirds have declined in recent years, in part as a result of the establishment and spread of an invasive ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. Climatic factors are likely to affect ladybird behaviour, physiology, and interactions with other species – including prey and competitors – and are therefore likely to affect the abundance and stability of native ladybird populations. There is now a need to understand how native ladybird species respond to the combined threats of invasive species and a changing climate.

This project will ask how native and invasive ladybirds are impacted by the changing U.K. climate. The aims are to evaluate how the changing climate – including increasing summer temperature, periods of are extreme heat, and milder winter temperatures – impacts behaviour, population growth and stability of native and invasive ladybirds; to evaluate physiological responses to thermal stress; and to assess how temperature mediates direct interactions between native and invasive ladybirds.


Experimental approaches will include laboratory experiments using controlled temperature rooms and incubators and field trials. There will also be opportunities to investigate ladybird physiological responses to temperature at a cellular level, using metabolomics. Additionally, the large-scale and long-term datasets held by the Biological Records Centre within CEH will provide an opportunity for correlative modelling approaches to inform the mechanistic experimental approaches.


Training will be provided in experimental design, behavioural assays, insect biology, and data collection and analysis, as well as the presentation of results and writing scientific publications. There will be opportunities to investigate ladybird physiological responses to temperature at a genetic and cellular level, using transcriptomics and metabolomics; training will be provided.


Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in biology with a strong interest in insect biology and conservation.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Parner: Royal Horticultural Society
Eligibility requirements: First degree in Biology

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

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 in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website


Brown PMJ, Roy HE. 2018. Native ladybird decline caused by the invasive harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis: evidence from a long‐term field study. Insect Conservation and Diversity 11: 230-239.

Viglášová S, Nedvěd O, Zach, Kulfan J, Parák M, Honěk A, Martinková Z, Roy HE. 2017. Species assemblages of ladybirds including the harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis: a comparison at large spatial scale in urban habitats. BioControl 62: 409-421.

Honek A, ..., Roy HE, et al. 2016. Long‐term changes in communities of native coccinellids: population fluctuations and the effect of competition from an invasive non‐native species. Insect Conservation and Diversity 9: 202-209.

Roy HE, ..., Salisbury A, et al. 2014. Horizon scanning for invasive alien species with thepotential to threaten biodiversity in Great Britain. Global Change Biology 20: 3859-3871.

Perry JC, Tse CT. 2013. Extreme Costs of Mating for Male Two-Spot Ladybird Beetles. PLoS ONE 8: e81934

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