Birkbeck, University of London Featured PhD Programmes
The Francis Crick Institute Featured PhD Programmes
The University of Manchester Featured PhD Programmes
FindA University Ltd Featured PhD Programmes
European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg) Featured PhD Programmes

NERC GW4+ DTP CASE studentship: Competition amongst endemic lizard species on a tropical island (Round Island, Mauritius)

Project Description

Round Island, Mauritius, hosts a community of rare endemic lizard species. Their environment was cleared of most vegetation by introduced goats and rabbits (now eliminated). A partnership between the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Government’s National Parks and Conservation Service has permitted the restoration of habitat and with it the recovery of the reptile-dominated vertebrate community (Cole et al. 2018). The reptile species occupy a landscape going through plant community recovery, but little is known about availability of the invertebrate prey. The skinks and geckos have proved to be remarkably resilient to environmental change, although some species were extirpated from the island’s reptile community. It is likely the reptiles originally adapted to different niches, including trophic niches that allowed them to avoid direct competition. One species, the Telfair’s skink, is a generalist, consuming a wide range of different taxonomic groups (Brown et al. 2014). Other species may have narrower niche axes and be more specialised. Understanding the feeding niche of the reptiles may help explain differences in population recovery and guide restoration management to enhance the success of planned reptile reintroductions.

The main aims/methods of this project are:

• To analyse the diets of the lizard species that have survived on Round Island. Collect lizard faecal samples from across the island and use High Throughput Sequencing (HTS) of plant and invertebrate DNA.
• To DNA barcode as many invertebrate species on Round Island as possible (we have already barcoded all the plants). Invertebrates will be identified by the student at the Natural History Museum. Once we have the barcodes we can interpret the output from HTS and identify who is eating what.
• To analyse for prey choice and competition. Compare what lizards are eating with available food (Vaughan et al. 2018) and use dietary overlap tests to assess dietary similarity.
• To analyse differences in the abundances of lizard and invertebrate species in different plant communities. Apply/develop a range of invertebrate and reptile survey techniques. Look for areas of more advanced regrowth of the vegetation to predict changes to the island food web structure in the future (Macfadeyn et al. 2011).
• To analyse the diets of reptile species that are to be reintroduced to Round Island’s reptile community. Use prey overlap tests to evaluate whether any of these species are likely to compete with Round Island species.

The student would need to have a strong academic record with expertise relevant to this project. Molecular Ecology expertise would be ideal but is not a prerequisite. Must be able to work in the field on a rugged tropical island for extended periods and also be good in the lab. Possession of a clean driving licence would be an advantage for accessing mainland sites on Mauritius.

For information on how to apply for postgraduate study at Cardiff University, please follow this link:

The application deadline is 1600 hours GMT Monday 6 January 2020 and interviews will take place between 10 and 21 February 2020. For more information about the NERC GW4+ DTP, please visit

Funding Notes

Open to UK and EU students. All EU applicants must have been resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start date. Applicants from EU countries who don't meet the residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award.

Studentships starting in 2020 will provide the student with a stipend for 3.5 years in line with UK Research and Innovation (Research Council) rates (approximately £15,000 p.a.), payment of university tuition fees, a Research and Training and Support Grant (RTSG) of £11,000 and an individual training budget of £3,250.


Brown DS, Burger R, Cole N, Vencatasamy D, Clare EL, Montazam A, Symondson WOC (2014) Dietary competition between the alien Asian Musk Shrew (Suncus murinus) and a reintroduced population of Telfair’s Skink (Leiolopisma telfairii). Molecular Ecology 23, 3695–3705.
Cole N, Mootoocurpen R, Nundlaul V (2018) Relative density estimates of Round Island’s reptiles. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius, 1, 1-16.
Macfadeyn S, Gibson R, Symondson WOC, Memmott J (2011) Landscape structure influences modularity patterns in farm food webs: Consequences for pest control. Ecological Applications 21, 516-524.
Vaughan IP, Gotelli NJ, Memmott J, Pearson CE, Woodward G, Symondson WOC (2018) econullnetr: an R package using null models to analyse the structure of ecological networks and identify resource selection. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 9, 728-733.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here
* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.