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Pollinator foraging behavior in agricultural landscapes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T Lander
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Global declines of both wild and managed insect pollinators threaten ecosystem function and human food security. Pollinator declines have been specifically linked to declines in the abundance and diversity of floral resources, the use of agrochemicals, and introduction of novel parasites. We are interested in how these changes in the foraging environment, as well as social interactions, affect foraging behaviour in UK bumblebees.

The proposed project would use a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based insect tracking system based on harmonic radar tracking to track individual bumblebees while foraging. This study will improve understanding of how farm management systems, including crop types, field sizes, and field margins, as well as pasture, woodland and other semi-natural areas influence pollinator foraging patterns. The data will provide a foundation for modelling the necessary quantity, spatial pattern and temporal presence of floral resources in agricultural systems to maintain healthy wild pollinator communities.

The successful candidate will have a strong interest in pollinator ecology, insect learning, and agro-ecology and have experience piloting UAVs. Experience with radio frequency (RF) systems, microcontroller programming, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be a significant advantage. For further details please contact [Email Address Removed].

This project is at the interface between ecology and engineering, and involves a collaboration between the Oxford departments of Plant Sciences (Dr Tonya Lander) and Engineering (Prof. Chris Stevens).


• Have, or be expected to obtain before the project begins, a BSc or equivalent in a relevant area (e.g. biology, zoology, environmental science).
• Experience in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle piloting.
• Interest in radio frequency (RF) systems use.
• Interest in microcontroller programming.
• High motivation with intellectual curiosity and rigour.
• Ability to work independently and manage multiple tasks.
• Excellent oral and written communication skills, including ability to present research at national and international symposia.

Funding Notes

This position is fully funded for an UK or EU student. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply but additional funding would have to be sought to cover the additional overseas fee liability.


Lander T.A., E.K. Klein, S. Stoeckel, B. Musch, S. Oddou-Muratorio. 2013. Interpreting realized pollen flow in terms of pollinator travel paths and land-use resistance in heterogeneous landscapes. Landscape Ecology 28: 1769-1783

Lander, T.A., D. Bebber, T.L. Choy, S.A. Harris and D.H. Boshier. 2011. The Circe Principle explains how resource-rich land can waylay pollinators in fragmented landscapes. Current Biology 21: 1302-7

How good is research at University of Oxford in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 223.80

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

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