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Quantifying the role of oceanic storminess in determining the survival and recruitment of long-distance, oversea, migratory birds

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Some birds make long-distance oversea migrations from their wintering to breeding grounds and back again. Such journeys often take some time (days to months) during which oversea meteorological conditions and sea state may have an important, stochastic, role to play in survival which may vary according to bird experience i.e. age.

This 4-year QUADRAT PhD studentship offers access to long-term annual time-series datasets for three oversea migrants: Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) which circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean flying 10,000km (Guilford et al. 2009), fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) which overwinter along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 3,000km from their breeding grounds in Scotland (Edwards et al. 2013) and barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) which breed in Arctic Greenland and overwinter in Ireland a distance of <2,000km. Conditions during migration such as storms are likely to either facilitate or hinder migrants influencing survival and population recruitment. This project will harness 100,000s of bird ringing records using Capture-Recapture modelling techniques to estimate annual survival probabilities, population estimates and growth rates. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) will be used to quantify meteorological conditions at various stages of migration derived from remotely-sensed satellite data and/or ocean buoys. This project offers the opportunity to ask fundamental questions about how animal movement patterns interact with environmental variability and the consequences for individuals and populations using exceptional long-term datasets. Field experience, for example, ringing shearwaters at the Copeland Bird Observatory (, visits to Scottish fulmar colonies and observation of overwintering geese will be supported to contextualise or supplement existing datasets.

QUADRAT is a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) between Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Aberdeen incorporating the disciplines of ecology and geography. Students will gain access to a year of training where interdisciplinary field experience and academic excellence are the focus. Training involves 1) core postgraduate research skills; 2) generic skills encompassing bio- and geosciences; 3) cutting-edge primary research and 4) knowledge exchange and impact. Training will include five field trips, one internship, annual conferences, entrepreneurship and employability. Specific training will be provided in ecological analyses using R and ArcGIS.

The project will start in October 2019. The successful candidate will be based at the newly-opened £40M School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, and will be supervised by Dr Neil Reid, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology, and co-supervised by Professor Jane Reid and Professor Paul Thompson, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, with time spent between both institutions.

Funding Notes

This studentship is available to UK and other EU nationals and provides funding for tuition fees and stipend, subject to eligibility.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject.


Application Procedure:

(1) Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences;
(2) State name of the lead supervisor as the name of proposed supervisor;
(3) State QUADRAT DTP as intended source of funding;
(4) State the exact project title on the application form.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.40

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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