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The dynamics of insect biodiversity in novel British landscapes

Project Description

Enrol for a PhD at the University of York to investigate how insect biodiversity is
changing in Britain. You will carry out a mixture of empirical field research,
citizen science engagement, and statistical analysis of existing databases. The
project will be supervised by leading experts in insect ecology, biological
invasions, climate change and horticulture, namely: Professor Chris Thomas in
the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity at the University of York,
Professor Helen Roy at the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and Dr
Andy Salisbury at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). You will be based in
York, with research visits to CEH and the RHS.

Globalisation of the worlds biota is arguably the most fundamental (long-
lasting) change to biodiversity that is taking place in the Anthropocene epoch.
People are accidentally and deliberately moving many species from one
continent to another, and even larger numbers of species are colonising new
regions as a consequence of climatic and habitat changes. Insect colonists are
particularly important, as they represent the most diverse component of
terrestrial ecosystems. This project will examine how the characteristics of
landscapes (including levels of horticultural plantings) affect the rates, causes,
patterns and consequences of the establishment of native and non-native
insects in Britain, as well as the local extinctions of other species.

In this PhD project, you will use CEH, RHS and other databases to quantify to
establishment rates of insects at different spatial scales (from local communities
to the whole country), and over different lengths of time. These rates will be
compared with rates of extinction, investigating the circumstances under which
overall diversity is declining or increasing. You will also use a combination of
your own fieldwork (including at RHS gardens) and citizen science projects
(gathering feedback from gardeners and others), and further analysis of existing
data, to examine the dynamics of particular insect colonists. This will allow you
to analyse rates of distribution change since establishment in Britain, geographic
trends in the abundances of invaders, and the relative contributions of climate,
human-mediated dispersal (including the horticultural trade), and novel
environments (habitat change, habitat heterogeneity, horticultural plantings
and naturalised plants) to the establishment of species.

The project will suit a student who wishes to understand the impacts of
humanity of the Earths biodiversity, who is comfortable with data analysis, and
who is prepared for fieldwork and happy to engage with the public. If you love
insects, so much the better! You should be objective, numerical, wish to
combine historical and present-day perspectives, and excited about developing
and answering fundamental scientific questions.

Being based in York at the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity,
with visits and co-supervision at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
(Wallingford) and Royal Horticultural Society (Wisley; CASE partner), 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 NERC ACCE
PhD programme, which will provide additional support and training, as well as
facilitating interactions with PhD students in other departments at York, and
with other universities and research organisations.

Funding Notes

This NERC ACCE DTP studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years in the first instance, and students must complete their PhD in four years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020, but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. You can extend your funding period for up to 6 months by applying to a 3-month placement and 3-month writing up period for a publication.


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 programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, 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)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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