Alien species are one of the major threats to native biodiversity and ecosystem services with many also causing huge economic damage. With increasing global trade, new species are introduced – intentionally or accidentally - at an increasing pace worldwide. Importantly, many traded species become established and widespread outside their native range. Furthermore, currently established but localised alien populations may spread under changing climatic conditions. Critically, urgent challenges include an understanding of which species and why are more likely to be released into novel regions; the ability to identify which alien species may become future invaders, and a quantitative assessment of whether currently localised alien populations will become widespread.
Freshwater habitats are among the most vulnerable but essential for their ecosystem services and human sustainable development. Alien freshwater fish are frequently introduced intentionally or accidentally, may have detrimental effects on native biodiversity, and lead to substantial economic costs. Unlike for terrestrial vertebrates, however, we know little about what promotes the trade, introduction, establishment and spread of alien freshwater fish globally and how this knowledge can help predict which species are likely to be future invaders in specific locations. This project will address this major knowledge gap by combining global scale analyses of freshwater fish invasion success with case studies. Importantly, the project will deliver a Horizon scanning output by providing quantitative predictions of the probability of introduction, establishment and spread of likely future alien fish. Through a CASE partnership with CEDaR and AFBI, this evidence will help inform and shape the NI/Ireland policy to prevent and better manage new alien freshwater fish species.
The student on this project will:
1) build a global scale database on freshwater fish introductions, introduction pathways, invasion success and species traits from the literature and professional databases, and collect new data on alien freshwater fish diversity in Ireland in collaboration with CEDaR, AFBI and engagement with wider stakeholders;
2) investigate whether species characteristics help explain the probability of transport and introduction through different pathways, and of establishment and spread worldwide and in Ireland using phylogenetic comparative methods;
3) model the probability of invasion under current and predicted climate for case studies in Ireland using eco-evolutionary modelling (RangeShifter);
4) produce a Horizon scanning output that informs policy, by providing quantitative predictions on the probability of introduction and invasion of future alien species globally and in Ireland in particular.
While working on important ecological questions and a global challenge, the student will gain a rare set of interdisciplinary skills that are highly valued by employers, including assembling and managing large databases (‘big data’); cutting edge statistical and mathematical modelling; numeracy; evaluating risk and uncertainty; as well as gaining in depth understanding of fundamental principles in ecology and freshwater science. By collaborating with the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the student will learn how to engage with stakeholders, collect, manage and analyse data, and draft technical reports to help inform policy that improves environmental monitoring and management.
Canidate Background: The ideal candidate will hold a degree in biology, ecology, zoology or related discipline; have very strong quantitative skills, outstanding organisational skills, excellent attention to detail, knowledge of phylogenetic methods and/or theoretical modelling. A Masters Degree in a relevant discipline, previous research experience with freshwater fish, phylogenetic comparative methods and/or mathematical modelling, evolutionary biology and/or theoretical ecological modelling would be desirable, but is not necessary.
More project details are available here: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/quadrat-projects/
How to apply: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/how-to-apply/