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The role of woodlands in the diversity and resilience of pollinator communities in agricultural landscapes (DAVIESUBIO21ARIES)

School of Biological Sciences

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Dr R Davies , Dr M Taylor No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Scientific Background
Intensive agriculture is a key driver of declines in pollinating insect populations and pollination services. Ecological intensification to mitigate these effects has focused largely on restoring field-scale semi-natural habitat including florally enhanced field margins (1). However, provision of pollination services on farmland is also dependent on wider landscape context, with relatively little attention being paid to the influence of woodland patches upon pollinator communities (2).
Uncertainty remains over which plant species are the most valuable food resources for pollinator species, and how their relative value varies seasonally (3). While the benefits to bees of grassland-associated wildflowers is well-established, the complementary role of trees and woodland as pollinator resources is less well-studied in agricultural landscapes. Woodlands can provide among the highest levels of nectar production for a major UK habitat, and the use of tree species by pollinating insects may be disproportionate to the abundance of woodland in the landscape (4). Woodland tree species composition also influences other plants, with consequences for pollinators (5). Woodlands and woody corridors in landscapes provide nesting and larval microsites for a range of pollinator species.
This exciting project will combine community and molecular ecology approaches to investigate the role of woodlands in promoting the abundance and diversity of pollinating insects, and temporal stability of floral resource provisioning, in agricultural landscapes. Understanding the influence of landscape management of trees within woodland and woody corridors, on pollinator assemblages and services in farmland, provides the rationale for this project.

Research Methodology (role of the candidate) and Training
The candidate will carry out and receive training in: design and implementation of field-sampling of pollinating insects; morphological taxonomic methods for pollinator insects; use of DNA metabarcoding for identifying pollinator species from insect samples; computational and statistical methods in community and landscape ecology using R and ArcGIS software; preparation of outputs for publication.

Person Specification
We seek a versatile scientist with a strong interest in community and landscape ecology and/or field entomology and botany. Experience of molecular ecology methods is highly desirable, although training will be given. Excellent people skills are needed for this position as the candidate will be liaising with farmers.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria are awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020-21) and research funding. International applicants (EU/non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

For further information, please visit

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here

The type of programme is PHD

The start date of the project is 1st October 2021

The mode of study is full or part time (visa restrictions may apply)

The studentship length is 3.5 years

Funding Notes

Entry requirements:
Acceptable first degree subjects Ecology, zoology or biology/biological sciences or a related discipline


1. Kovács-Hostyánszki, A, Espindola, A, Vanbergen, A., Settele, J., Kremen, C. & Dicks, L. V. 2017. Ecological intensification to mitigate impacts of conventional intensive land use on pollinators and pollination. Ecology Letters 20: 673–689.
2. Mandelik, Y., Winfree, R., Neeson, T. & Kremen, C. 2012. Complementary habitat use by wild bees in agro-natural landscapes. Ecological Applications 22: 1535–1546.
3. Peel, N., Dicks, L. V., Clark, M. D., Heavens, D., Percival-Alwyn, L., Cooper, C., Davies, R. G., Leggett, R. M. & Yu, D. 2019. Semi-quantitative characterisation of mixed pollen samples using MinION sequencing and Reverse Metagenomics (RevMet). Methods in Ecology and Evolution 10: 1690–1701.
4. Donkersley, P. 2019. Trees for bees. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 270: 79-83.
5. Barsoum, N., Coote, L., Eycott, A. E., Fuller, L., Kiewitt, A. & Davies, R. G. 2016. Diversity, functional structure and functional redundancy of woodland plant communities: how do mixed tree species plantations compare with monocultures? Forest Ecology and Management 382: 244-256.

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