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The historical ecology of Welsh sharks, skates and rays

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Heenan
    Dr J Hiddink
    Dr F St John
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Once considered common throughout Europe, Wales is likely one of the few locations in northern Europe hosting a viable population of the Critically Endangered Angelshark Squatina squatina. A lack of long-term data has previously hampered the population assessment of many rare elasmobranchs and scientists are increasingly using neglected data sources (e.g. newspapers, diaries and fishing logbooks) to understand how endangered populations have changed over time. By combining historical ecology with fisher-produced local ecological knowledge (LEK), Hiddink et al. (in press) revealed a 70% reduction in Welsh Angelshark over ~50 years. Importantly, reasons for this decline are unknown. It is also unclear whether Angelsharks were always restricted to small localised pockets due to habitat requirements, and whether the current hotspots in Wales (Cardigan Bay: Heessen et al. 2016) represent reproductively viable populations. This project will fill these information gaps by using historical ecology, local ecological knowledge and fish-habitat modelling, to understand the population trends of the Welsh Angelshark and other elasmobranchs.

Specifically the project will ask: How does nearshore fishing effort over time and space relate to elasmobranch population trends? What are the habitat requirements of Angelsharks? What has allowed the Angelshark to persist in Wales while disappearing in the rest of NW Europe?

By tackling these overarching questions, the project aims to understand the drivers of the historical range change and population status of Welsh elasmobranch species. These outputs will be used to identify areas that are likely to be suitable for Angelsharks. This will result in management measure recommendations to ensure critical elasmobranch habitats are protected.

The candidate will have supervisory and project support from an interdisciplinary team at Bangor University, the University of Exeter and the project partners at Natural Resources Wales and Zoological Society of London. This project offers unique opportunities for research and training in fisheries conservation and management.

Applicants must have a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Marine Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science or Geography and a demonstrated excellence in written and oral communication skills. An MSc with distinction in a relevant field, experience of statistical analyses, fisheries and/or local ecological knowledge and of working in a multidisciplinary field of research are all desirable qualities.

For further information visit Angelshark Project: Wales

For further details and to apply please contact Dr Adel Heenan (a.heenan

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