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Predicting body size shrinkage - the third universal response to environmental warming

Faculty of Health and Life Science

Dr D Atkinson , Friday, January 15, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Background As Earth warms, and heat waves become more frequent, climate impacts occur over short and long timescales. Three proposed universal responses of organisms to climate warming are geographical range shifts, changes in timing (phenology) of life events, and a reduction in body size. This third response is important ecologically, as impacts of body size range from individual survival and reproductive success, to the structure and functioning of ecosystems. Economically, global production industries (e.g. fisheries) are predicted to be impacted by substantially reduced body size at harvest. We have recently produced a simple model based on how temperature affects energetics during growth, which successfully predicts by how much diverse aquatic animals (water-breathers) will shrink. But to apply this model to terrestrial ‘cold-blooded’ (ectothermic) animals requires new research to obtain measurements of the sensitivity to warming of the capacity to supply energy and of energy demands during growth. We are seeking a creative problem-solver keen to embrace ideas from evolution, behaviour, ecology and physiology to fill this knowledge gap and to quantitatively predict body size change for diverse animals. Objectives The student will first obtain measurements of the energetics of growing animals at different temperatures from diverse published sources. A crucial distinction from usual measurements of uptake of resources (e.g. feeding, assimilation, oxygen), is to derive estimates of the CAPACITY to take up resources at different temperatures. Responses of energetics and life history will be analysed using meta-analysis before deciding on data required from the student’s own experiments on invertebrates. Training will be provided in these, in addition to the broad training programme offered to our PhD students. Novelty and Timeliness Our new predictive model has only just been produced, and makes contrary predictions to an influential and much-debated alternative which has been used to predict impacts on global fish size.


Notes and how to apply are available here:

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.

UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK fees (£4,407 at 2020/2021 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.

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