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NERC GW4+ DTP CASE studentship: Keeping habitats connected: Does wildlife mitigation work?


Project Description

Loss of biodiversity due to anthropogenic impacts is one of the major global challenges of our time. Roads can act as barriers, or cause mortality, and in areas where traffic speed/road density are high, roads exert strong negative local impacts on wildlife populations (Forman and Alexander, 1998). Across Europe, major increases in road infrastructure and usage have been recorded (European Commission, 2014), and are continuing. Associated wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) are increasing, and for some species (e.g. otters) WVCs are the main cause of mortality (Jancke and Giere 2011). Mitigation offers viable solutions to reducing WVC’s, and retaining biodiversity, but its efficacy is rarely assessed. Here, we will address this knowledge gap.

The overall challenge is to determine how modifications to road management via mitigation alter animal behaviour, and potentially aid conservation. This work will build an important case study of the association between anthropogenic activities and road mortality of wildlife, including key flagship conservation species, such as otters.

This PhD proposal seeks to assess the behaviour of wildlife in response to roads, habitat and road mitigation solutions. As such, the proposed work offers an exciting opportunity to carry out field-based research with spatial modelling, in an applied area of wildlife conservation with international management implications. The work will be carried out in collaboration with Animex International, a company specialising in wildlife mitigation solutions (see https://animexfencing.com/). Analyses will be based on an extensive and unrivalled dataset of ca. 70,000 records of wildlife vehicle collisions, provided by citizen science projects at Cardiff University (www.projectsplatter.co.uk and http://www.otterproject.cf.ac.uk). Associated data will be collated quantifying a wide range of natural and anthropogenic influences, including road lighting, noise, and highway design (e.g. barriers, crossings), traffic volume and speed, landscape features (e.g. road/river intersections), and habitat. These data will be collated using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), from satellite imagery using existing digitised environmental data. The student will explore the species-specific associations between habitat, anthropogenic influences and wildlife vehicle collision rates. In addition to analyses using existing datasets, field experiments to test the impact of wildlife mitigation solutions on animal behaviour will be carried out at Animex International’s field sites in the UK and North America.

Both our statistically developed risk models and empirical outputs will be used to develop predictive models of risk for dissemination to stakeholders (Wildlife Trusts, Trunk Roads Agencies), in order to assist the development of targeted mitigation to aid conservation management. The student will gain extensive expertise in a wide range of areas, including; study design, geographical information systems (GIS), fieldwork, statistical analysis, publication in international academic journals, science communication and public engagement with science. The project direction is flexible and could include examining any aspect of widlife vehicle collisions in relation to mitigation and management, such that the PhD can be tailored to the developing interests of the student.

You will benefit from the contrasting and complimentary experiences they will gain by spending time at the CASE partner, and engaging with a company with global offices, and direct relations to policy makers. Animex International will provide hands-on training within the field and office environment to provide access a diverse range of wildilfe magement techniques and technological skill sets relating to diverse global projects and their unique requirements.
You will receive training in a diverse range of skills, including field sampling, experimental design, statistical modelling and GIS using ‘R’. The student will receive training in citizen science project management and media training; this broad skill set is highly sought after in the field of ecological and biomedical research and in private (e.g. ecological consultancies) and governmental (Defra, Fera, NRW) organisations, and more widely.

This project will be suitable for a highly motivated student with at least an upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in biological, ecological or behavioural sciences, or related discipline; practical field abilities and resilience necessary for ecological sampling; an understanding of UK wildlife, ecological systems and an interest in wildlife management, ideally relating to species conservation.

How to apply:

You should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Biosciences with a start date of October 2020.

For further information on how to apply or to apply for more than one project please contact us.

The deadline for applications is 16:00 on 6 January 2020.

Shortlisting for interview will be conducted by 31 January 2020.

Shortlisted candidates will then be invited to an institutional interview. Interviews will be held in Cardiff University between 10 February and 21 February 2020.

Funding Notes

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.

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

References

Coffin, A. W. (2007). From roadkill to road ecology: a review of the ecological effects of roads. Journal of transport Geography, 15(5), 396-406.

Forman, R. T., & Alexander, L. E. (1998). Roads and their major ecological effects. Annual review of ecology and systematics, 29(1), 207-231.

Glista, D. J., DeVault, T. L., & DeWoody, J. A. (2009). A review of mitigation measures for reducing wildlife mortality on roadways. Landscape and urban planning, 91(1), 1-7.

Madden, J. R., & Perkins, S. E. (2017). Why did the pheasant cross the road? Long-term road mortality patterns in relation to management changes. Royal Society open science, 4(10), 170617.

Shilling, F., Perkins, S.E., Collinson, W. (2015). Wildlife/roadkill observation and reporting systems. Handbook of road ecology, 492-501.
van der Ree, R., Jaeger, J. A., van der Grift, E., & Clevenger, A. (2011). Effects of roads and traffic on wildlife populations and landscape function: road ecology is moving toward larger scales. Ecology and society, 16(1).

Vercayie, D., & Herremans, M. (2015). Citizen science and smartphones take roadkill monitoring to the next level. Nature Conservation, 11, 29.

Schwartz, A. L., Williams, H. F., Chadwick, E., Thomas, R. J., & Perkins, S. E. (2018). Roadkill scavenging behaviour in an urban environment. Journal of Urban Ecology, 4(1), juy006.

Related Subjects

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)

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