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Understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change on farmland plant-pollinator and host-parasitoid networks: an environmental informatics approach

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Merging DNA metabarcoding with ecological network analysis provides a revolutionary opportunity to construct large, phylogenetically structured species-interaction networks, providing new ways to: (i) monitor biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; (ii) assess the robustness of interacting communities to species loss; and (iii) build ecosystems that are more resilient to environmental change.
This project will complement a EU H2020 grant recently awarded to Newcastle University: ‘Stacking of ecosystem services: mechanisms and interactions for optimal crop protection, pollination enhancement, and productivity (EcoStack)’ and specifically develop molecular methods and environmental informatics to examine the responses of plant-pollinator and host-parasitoid networks to climate change through field, lab and in silico experiments.
By linking with a range of multidisciplinary academic and industrial partners, skills gained as part of the training for this project include: 1) metabarcoding and bioinformatics (parallel sequencing of bulk DNA mixtures to detect the species interactions within whole communities) using NU-OMICS - the state-of-the-art DNA sequencing facility at Northumbria University (with Dr. D. Smith); 2) analysis of ecological networks with Newcastle University’s Network Ecology Group (Dr. D. Evans); 3) dynamic network modelling and complexity science (with Dr. C. Emary, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics, Newcastle University). The project complements ongoing collaborations with Rothamsted Research and Fera Science, with exciting opportunities to apply fundamental science to address global challenges.

Experience of ecological network analysis and/or molecular ecology (PCR, DNA barcoding etc) combined with programming and/or numeracy skills is essential. Team working on multidisciplinary projects and scientific publishing is desirable.
For more information, please contact Dr. Darren Evans ().

Funding Notes

We have a minimum of 12 (3.5 year) PhD fully funded studentship awards available for entry September 2019. Each award includes fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£14,777) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).

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