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The development of Anthropocene biodiversity

Project Description

A PhD studentship is available to investigate the impacts of humanity on biodiversity change. You will use a combination of biological and archaeological information to identify losses and gains of species diversity over time, and hence to provide insights into future impacts of human development on biodiversity. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts (Chris Thomas and Nicky Milner) in biodiversity change, Holocene archaeology and environmental change.

There is increasing evidence that environmental and biological change in the last few centuries does not represent modification of a previously pristine world, but that recent changes are superimposed on earlier human modification that occurred over many thousands of years. During this PhD, you will generate Pleistocene-Holocene-Anthropocene ‘hockey-stick graphs’ of species accumulation and loss for exemplar regions/countries of the world, investigating when most losses took place, and when most naturalised species arrived and established. You will investigate the cultural context of changes, including the formation of novel environments (e.g., croplands in formerly forested regions), increased transport and climatic changes. You will also identify the sources of species that establish in novel environments, using existing vertebrate, mollusc and pollen databases.

The project will suit a student who wishes to understand the impacts of humanity of the Earth’s biodiversity and who is comfortable with data analysis. You should be objective, numerical, wish to combine historical and present-day perspectives, and excited about exploring fundamental research questions. LCAB will provide you with a wide range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers, in a supportive environment. You will be part of the LCAB research programme, which offers additional training and facilitates interactions with PhD students in other departments at York, and with other universities and research organisations.

Funding Notes

This studentship covers UK/EU tuition fees for 4 years, a stipend of £15,009 per year for 3.5 years, and research consumables. EU students starting October 2020 will continue to pay UK fees throughout their PhD, even if the UK exits the EU.


Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.

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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