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Quantifying climate-driven range shifts in tropical species – a global analysis

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J K Hill
    Dr C Beale
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Quantifying climate-driven range shifts in tropical species – a global analysis.
Tropical rainforest species are shifting their ranges to track climate, although
forest loss is also an important driver of distribution change. In tropical
lowlands, there is no pool of hotter-adapted species to replace shifting species,
potentially leading to depauperate areas in future, but studies are lacking. This
project will capitalise on the availability of datasets on distributions, climate and
land-cover to quantify patterns of range shifting, and drivers of change.
For selected groups (e.g. birds, lepidoptera), the project will:
1. Determine climatic limits to species’ ranges, and quantify patterns of range
shift over time;
2. Examine the importance of habitat and climate on patterns of distribution
3. Compare endemic versus widespread species in their sensitivity to climate
and land-use change, and predict how community composition may change in
4. Quantify the role of climate at leading- versus trailing-edge boundaries, and
identify species and locations most affected by key drivers of change.
The project will provide opportunities for the student to develop analytical and
modelling skills by collating and analysing existing global data sets. The project
will exploit the extensive data sets that are available, and develop new statistical
approaches for testing novel ecological questions of global importance about
the role of climate in tropical biodiversity. In contrast to previous studies, it will
take a pan-tropical approach, identifying where changes are greatest/least, and
providing information for policy developers needing to better-understand
impacts of environmental change for these hyper diverse ecosystems. The
project will primarily focus on analysing existing data, but there will be
opportunities to carry out field work to test model outputs. Rapid climate
change, during a period of ongoing rainforest loss, makes it important to
determine effects on tropical biodiversity. The relative importance of climate
versus habitat changes on tropical species range dynamics is unclear, hence the
need for this project.

Funding Notes

Funding: This is a 3.5 year fully-funded studentship part of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE). The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year), (ii) tuition fees at UK/EU rate, (iii) research consumables and training necessary for the project.

Entry requirements: At least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.


Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding

Shortlisting: Applicants will be notified if they have been selected for interview in the week commencing on Monday 28 January 2019.

Interviews: Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place in the Department of Biology at the University of York in the week beginning 11 February 2019 (or the following week). Prior to the interview candidates will be asked to give a 5 minute presentation on a research project carried out by them.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

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

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