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The establishment of novel insect biodiversity in Britain

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 at
the University of York’s Biology Department, 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 world’s 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 the rates, causes, patterns and
consequences of the establishment of non-native insects in Britain.
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, 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 Earth’s biodiversity, who is comfortable analysing large
databases, and who is also 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, 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

Funding: This is a 3.5 year fully-funded studentship part of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE). The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year), (ii) tuition fees at UK/EU rate, (iii) research consumables and training necessary for the project.

Entry requirements: At least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.


Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding

Shortlisting: Applicants will be notified if they have been selected for interview in the week commencing on Monday 28 January 2019.

Interviews: Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place in the Department of Biology at the University of York in the week beginning 11 February 2019 (or the following week). Prior to the interview candidates will be asked to give a 5 minute presentation on a research project carried out by them.

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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