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QUADRAT DTP: Bridging ecology and economics to develop effective and sustainable rodent management strategies in rural Africa


QUADRAT

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Dr S Telfer , Dr Martina Bozzola , Prof X Lambin No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Anthropogenic impacts on natural environments such as deforestation, agricultural intensification and the introduction of alien species cause significant changes to the distribution and abundance of species. Species that increase in abundance, whether endemic or introduced, can detrimentally affect other species, including humans.

Across low income countries, rodents contribute significantly to income and food insecurity due to both pre and post-harvest losses. Rodent pests are also reservoirs for rodent-borne infections, a substantial cause of human disease. Effective rodent management strategies, adapted to local circumstances and sustainable for communities, have significant potential to deliver improved well-being and health. However, the development of such strategies is a complex socio-ecological challenge.

In terms of ecology, effective management will depend on how rodent populations respond through compensatory processes such as reproduction and movement. However, the approaches to management taken by individual farmers and communities will depend on the information they have, their perceptions of impacts and the feasibility of management strategies. The ability of some crops, such as rice, to partially compensate for damage incurred early in their growth can result in losses being under-estimated, whilst appreciation of the risk of rodent-borne infections can be low. For some individuals and communities, issues related to cost, perceived effectiveness and awareness of alternative approaches can lead to sub-optimal choices regarding control.

Ecological Based Rodent Management (EBRM) techniques exploit relationships between population dynamics and crop production, targeting control in specific locations and seasons. In several Asian agroecosystems EBRM approaches have proved effective at reducing crop damage when communities work collectively, and more sustainable than reliance on rodenticides. Application of EBRM in Africa is in its infancy and requires adaptation to local ecological, socio-cultural and economic contexts.

This interdisciplinary project will work with existing projects in Tanzania and Madagascar to address questions such as:

(i) what are the perceived and real costs of rodent impacts on crop income, food security and health?
(ii) how does the impact of rodents depend on local and landscape-scale measures of rodent abundance?
(iii) how do individual farmers balance different considerations when taking rodent management decisions (economic, health)? What are the main physical and behavioural barriers to the adoption of appropriate management practices?
(iv) do approaches to risk and uncertainty differ across communities and how does this influence/constrain community-level actions?
(v) how does the cost-efficiency of different management options compare and how does this depend on ecological (e.g. landscape) and economic factors?

The project will work with research teams in the field to quantify damage to crops, stored food and possessions and assess the costs (direct and indirect) of alternative management strategies. The student will also use experimental economic approaches to investigate attitudes towards risk, uncertainty and community-action. The project will suit a student with a background in economics, ecology or development studies and numerical skills. The student will be given a thorough multidisciplinary training, including in the collection of ecological and economic data, statistical analyses and modelling. The relative importance of the different project components will depend on the interests of the student.

More project details are available here: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/projects/bridging-ecology-and-economics-to-develop-effective-and-sustainable-rodent-management-strategies-in-rural-africa/

How to apply: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/how-to-apply/

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and international candidates (EU and non-EU). Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/funding-and-eligibility/

References

Constant, N.L., Swanepoel, L.H., Williams, S.T., Soarimalala, V., Goodman, S.M., Massawe, A.T., Mulungu, L.S., Makundi, R.H., Mdangi, M.E., Taylor, P.J., et al. (2020). Comparative assessment on rodent impacts and cultural perceptions of ecologically based rodent management in 3 Afro-Malagasy farming regions. Integr. Zool. DOI: 10.1111/1749-4877.12447

Grant R. Singleton, Steve R. Belmain, Peter R. Brown, and Bill Hardy, editors. 2010. Rodent outbreaks: ecology and impacts. International Rice Research Institute. 289 p. Retrieved from http://books.irri.org/9789712202575_content.pdf

Epanchin-niell, R.S. (2017). Economics of invasive species policy and management. Biol. Invasions 19, 3333–3354. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-017-1406-4.


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