University of Cambridge Featured PhD Programmes
University of Southampton Featured PhD Programmes
University of Southampton Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes

QUADRAT DTP: How do biotic interactions shape the response of species to climate change across temperate and tropical biomes? A global study on damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera)

Project Description

Freshwater habitats cover a relatively small area of the globe, yet harbour disproportionally high biodiversity. Climate change is currently dramatically impacting freshwater systems via more extreme drought and flooding, altered patterns of snowmelt, and via increasing air and water temperatures. The combined influences of these factors, along with other anthropogenic pressures, have put freshwater ecosystems among the most threatened of all ecosystems globally. Therefore, it is of priority to understand the resilience of freshwater communities and their biodiversity to ongoing climate change.

The role of biotic interactions, particularly competition, is predicted to strongly affect species’ responses to climate change. Given recent, large scale changes in biodiversity in most freshwater (and other) biomes, it is timely to generate general predictions for the relationship between competition and response to climate change. However, there have been few large-scale investigations to determine the conditions under which competition interacts with and feeds back on the evolution of climate adaptations. Of particular interest is how changing climates and biotic interactions can influence community resilience, and how such effects might differ between tropical and temperate areas.

In this fully funded research project, the student will investigate global drivers of climatic tolerances and ecological community assembly in the context of a charismatic freshwater taxon, the damselflies. We will use recently available phylogenetic resources for Odonates ( in combination with comparative methods and citizen science data on damselfly distributions and additional fieldwork to characterise and compare damselfly communities across temperate and tropical freshwater habitats. There is additional potential for experimental components to the work. These data will be used to address major outstanding questions in the ecology and evolution of climatic tolerances and community assembly processes on a global scale. The results will provide fundamental knowledge about how and why species are distributed where they are, ultimately laying the foundation for improved predictions regarding how freshwater communities will respond to ongoing climate change.

The project is co-supervised by leading freshwater ecologists at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), Queens University Belfast (N Ireland), Lund University (Sweden) and the University of Costa Rica, providing a strong supervisory team with extensive expertise in temperate and tropical freshwater systems and cutting edge analytical, statistical and field approaches. The student will be trained in a variety of phylogenetic comparative methods and species distribution and community assembly modelling. There is ample funding and opportunity for collaborative visits and fieldwork in both temperate and tropical regions, with field sites established in Indonesia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Scotland, Sweden and the U.S. The position comes with full tuition, fees, and living expenses covered for the duration of the project, with all travel and research expenses paid. The student will join the trans-institutional QUADRAT doctoral training programme, which offers rigorous generic scientific skills training and the chance to embed in a large cohort of students and staff studying biodiversity and environmental management, bringing a wealth of team building and collaborative opportunities.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select the ‘Visit Website’ to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.


Dijkstra, KDB, Michael T. Monaghan, MT, Pauls, SU. 2014. Freshwater biodiversity and aquatic insect diversification. Ann. Rev. Entomol. 59: 143-163

Fit, RN, Lancaster, LT (2017) Range shifting species reduce phylogenetic diversity in high latitude communities via competition. Journal of Animal Ecology 86, 543-555

Willink B, Duryea MC, Svensson EI. (2019) Macroevolutionary Origin and Adaptive Function of a Polymorphic Female Signal Involved in Sexual Conflict. Am Nat. 194:707-724

How good is research at Aberdeen University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 89.42

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.