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Reducing harm to wildlife from rodent pest control strategies

Institute of Integrative Biology

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Prof J Hurst , Prof Paula Stockley , Prof R Shore No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


Current strategies to control rodent pests have substantial environmental impact, relying on baits that are highly toxic to vertebrates and attract non-target species such as wood mice, bank voles and field voles. High persistence of these toxins and bioaccumulation then leads to widespread secondary poisoning of avian and mammalian predators and scavengers1. For example, anticoagulant rodenticide residues have been reported in 95% of barn owls2, 70% of red kites, 67% of hedgehogs3 and 79% of polecats4 in the UK.

This project will focus on ways to reduce the exposure of non-target species to harmful control measures aimed at rodent pests.

Key objectives will be to:

- Improve understanding of the interactions between non-target species and invasive rodent control strategies, and the impacts on non-target species.

- Develop new approaches to mitigate the impact of rodent control on non-target animals.

- Demonstrate the effectiveness of new approaches in real world situations through field testing and monitoring.

The student will have opportunities to carry out behavioural investigations to understand non-target exposure and establish potential avenues for mitigation; to develop and test promising approaches to reduce exposure under natural and semi-natural conditions; and to monitor and/or model effectiveness in natural populations.

Novelty & Timeliness:

The project addresses an urgent need to reduce the costs of rodent control for wildlife in the face of increasing problems due to anthropogenic change. Reliance on highly toxic anticoagulant rodenticides persists, despite widespread contamination of the natural environment, because of the need for effective control of highly invasive rodents. The project will build on some promising research in the host laboratory that could help reduce the harmful costs to wildlife.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£15,009 tax-free, 2019-20) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield,and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.

Applications (CV, letter of application, 2 referees) by email to [Email Address Removed] deadline: January 8th 2020. Interviews in or after the week commencing : 10th February 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.


1 Elliott JE et al. (2016) Bioscience 66:401-7
3 Dowdling et al (2010) Environmental Pollution 158:161-6
4 Sainsbury et al (2018) Environmental Pollution I236:689-98

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