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The relative importance of different species traits for predicting invasion success and impact - a sensitivity analysis approach

Project Description

Project details:

The overall aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of the factors making a potential invader most dangerous. It will quantify species traits (e.g. life-history, physiological behavioural and morphological) for predicting invasion success by animal species. The approach will be to develop a stage-structured (difference equation) population model of the putative invader within the context of its new host community. Then to use multivariate sensitivity analysis of the model organism’s population performance and total resource acquisition rate to rank the traits’ control over invasion success. Results will be compared with empirical data from known species invasions.


a) Build multi-species stage structured population matrices with specific sub-models for growth, food intake (functional response), mortality processes and ecological interactions with and among host-community species (using e.g. Matlab or Mathematica packages);
b) statistical analysis of the results using multi-variate sensitivity analysis, perhaps including techniques such as Morris importance sampling and ‘extended variance analysis’;
c) statistical analysis of existing invasion ecology data from published literature and data files;
d) synthesis of ecological theory based on the results of the modelling and data analysis work.

This project will be supervised by Dr Keith Farnsworth and Dr Isabella Capellini of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences.

Applications MUST be submitted through

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

The project is only suitable for students who already have a good grounding and strong ability and interest in mathematics, statistics and computer programming. Previous experience of ecological model building using a computer package will be a strong advantage.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements:

Funding Notes

Only UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Before applying, it is strongly recommended that you read the full information on eligibility criteria available from DfE: View Website.

Please note in particular that not all successful applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship (i.e. fees and stipend) - please read in detail the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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