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Quantifying the direct and indirect effects of recovering numbers of protected avian predators on declining red-listed prey species

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Stillman
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The effects of predators on prey numbers are complex. In addition to direct predation of individuals, predators may exert more subtle influences by altering prey behaviour, potentially leading to reduced prey fecundity or their exclusion from certain habitats.

The reintroduction of red kite to England has been a great success, and buzzard and raven have recolonised much of their former ranges during the last 20 years. However, this has led to concern among landowners and conservation advisors about possible effects where habitats are being restored to benefit declining ground-nesting birds such as grey partridge and northern lapwing.

Along with many other open-field, ground-nesting birds, lapwing numbers have declined widely across Europe during the last 50 years, owing primarily to agricultural intensification. More recently, targeted agri-environment options have resulted in suitable nesting habitat across large areas of the farmed landscape in England and Wales, but research indicates that generalist predators are preventing population recovery. While exclusion fencing has been developed to protect nests and chicks from badger and fox, and fox can legally be controlled, concern is growing about increasing numbers of red kites, buzzards and ravens that favour similar locations to lapwings.

This project will investigate whether, and in what circumstances, current concerns are justified by examining both direct and indirect mechanisms, and proposing possible solutions. Outputs will comprise conference presentations, papers in journals on animal behaviour and applied ecology, discussion with Natural England on siting of agri-environment fallow plots and possible options for reducing predator effects, and a guidance note for farmers.

The student will gain a detailed understanding of bird behaviour and breeding ecology, and how individual variation in decisions can shape animal populations. They will gain practical field experience in nest finding, catching and tagging of birds, observing bird behaviour, habitat assessment and predator monitoring techniques. The student will gain technical experience in managing large bird movement datasets, use of GIS, mathematical modelling, and statistical analysis of datasets.

The student will be given the opportunity to undertake specialist courses in statistical analysis and computer modelling. The student will be encouraged to present seminars at BU and the GWCT and will be mentored in public speaking and scientific writing.
The successful student may enrol in either September 2019 or January 2020.

How to apply:

Applications are made via our website using the Apply Online button below. If you have an enquiry about this project please contact us via the Email NOW button below, however your application will only be processed once you have submitted an application form as opposed to emailing your CV to us.

The PhD Studentships are open to UK, EU and International students. Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years and must demonstrate:

• outstanding academic potential as measured by either a 1st class honours degree or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA)
• an IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

In addition to satisfying minimum entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful completion.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:
Driving licence

Funding Notes

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £15,000 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 36 months.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

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