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Thermal tolerance of intertidal species: scaling from organisms to regional responses to environmental change.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr N Mieszkowska
    Dr T Webb
    Dr Ana Querios
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Climate change is causing unprecedented responses in marine communities. Spatial and temporal trends are difficult to quantify, however, due to the lack of long-term datasets and the occurrence of small-scale variability from natural and anthropogenic drivers. Understanding these changes requires a multidisciplinary approach combining patterns identified within long-term datasets and the processes driving those patterns using biologically relevant information to attribute cause and effect. This includes future biological responses, and detection of underlying mechanisms in order to scale up from the organismal level to determine how ecosystems are likely to respond to future climate change.

Intertidal species are early indicators of climate change impacts, with biogeographic range shifts of up to 10km per decade, some of the fastest in any natural system. Range boundaries of many species occur around the UK coastline, which bisects the boundary between the cooler Boreal and warmer Lusitanian provinces, with implications for ecosystem structure and functioning.

The primary driver of range shifts under a changing climate is temperature, but the extent to which this single variable explains biological changes remains unclear. This can be addressed using a range of approaches from detailed, intensive field studies of species, to analysis of massive online databases that cover many species, but may be of questionable reliability. This project seeks to unite these two approaches, combining targeted field data collection with analysis of UK-level and global data on the occurrence and environmental tolerances of intertidal species.

Studentship objective:
This studentship aims to test how well widely available but variable quality data on species occurrences and sea temperature (global thermal affinity) reflect local thermal regimes experienced by intertidal species in the field. We will test whether the match between thermal affinity and thermal habitat differs between species with different life histories and habitat preferences. The project will use global databases, high quality data from UK surveys, and new data from targeted fieldwork.

Novelty and timeliness:
The use of thermal traits as an indicator of species-specific responses is becoming a high priority in scientific and policy communities, as mechanistic insights provide more accurate predictions of future changes in the distributions and success of species. This project provides a unique opportunity to use the MarClim dataset and high resolution UK temperature data (ERSEM); generate field data on individual organisms and provide new, biologically-relevant predictions of future responses of species to climate change.

Applications should be made online at the following link. Please apply for: Environmental Sciences (lab based) PhD

Please upload your cover letter when asked for your personal statement; For this application only a research proposal is not required.

Enquiries can be directed to:

Jayne Avies (PGR Administrator) at [Email Address Removed]

Interviews in or after the week commencing : 11th February 2019. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,777
tax-free, 2018-19) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.


Mieszkowska, N. & Sugden, H. 2016. Climate-Driven Range Shifts Within Benthic Habitats Across a Marine Biogeographic Transition Zone. Advances in Ecological Research 55: 325-369.

Querios, A., Fernandez, J.A., Faulwetter, S., Nunes, J., Rastrick, S.P.S., Mieszkowska, N., Aritoli, Y., Calosi, P., Arvanitidis, C., Findlay, H.S., Brange, M., Cheung, W.W.L., & Widdicombe, S. 2014. Quantifying ecosystem-level consequences of ocean acidification and warming by scaling up individual level responses of a predator snail and its trophic interactions. Global Change Biology, 21(1), 130-143.

Edgar, G.J., Bates, A.E., Bird, T.J., Jones, A.H., Kininmonth, S., Stuart-Smith, R.D. & Webb, T.J. 2016. New Approaches to Marine Conservation Through the Scaling Up of Ecological Data. Annual Review of Marine Science 8(1), 435-461.

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