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Understanding bumblebee wildflower meadow habitat preferences using multi-scale remote sensing data

Project Description

Over the last couple of decades it has been recognised that pollinator species globally are experiencing declines (Goulson et al. 2005; Potts et al. 2010, 2015). Improvements in vegetative diversity have been found to both boost pollinator species richness and abundance (Haaland et al. 2011); however, more tools are needed to enable landowners and conservation practitioners to select those areas that would most benefit from habitat restoration and creation at a landscape level. This project aims to investigate the use of multi-scale remote sensing data to help improve our understanding of wildflower meadow habitat preferences of bumblebees to aid targeted conservation practices.

Conventional bumblebee monitoring methods rely on point observations on the ground; however, ongoing developments in Remote Sensing technology show promising means of collecting data on the relative importance of different habitat conditions over larger areas. The image data types and collection techniques that are now available provide data on habitat factors on a range of scales from ultra-high resolution imagery (< 0.3 m) from pole aerial and drone photography, very high resolution imagery (0.3 – 10 m) from satellites and aerial platforms, including LiDAR, to high resolution satellite imagery (> 10 m) from Sentinel satellites. The studentship will investigate how habitat factors, such as temperature, topography and vegetation composition, can be quantified at 3 to 4 scale levels and how they relate to observations of bumblebee populations. The student will test if the results from finer scales can be translated to coarser scales, and they will consider whether the more integrated nature of coarse scale data can potentially provide a better representation of the complex nature of bumblebee habitat preferences. This data will be used in combination with bumblebee occurrence records to construct species distribution models for UK bumblebee species. This in turn will be used to validate this method for assessing habitat quality for bumblebees for conservation management.

Funding Notes

During the period of your studentship you will receive the following:
• a tax free bursary of £15,009 for a period of 3 years
• a fee-waiver for 4 years
• a budget to support your project costs for the first 3 years of the project
• a laptop
• use of the Research Student Study Space in the Research School

You will play an active role in the life of both the Research School and of the School. You will be given opportunities to gain experience in learning and teaching under the guidance of your Director of Studies.


Goulson, D., Hanley, M.E., Darvill, B., Ellis, J.S. & Knight, M.E. (2005). Causes of rarity in bumblebees. Biological Conservation, 122, 1–8.

Haaland, C., Naisbit, R.E. & Bersier, L.-F. (2011). Sown wildflower strips for insect conservation: a review. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 4, 60–80.

Potts, S., Biesmeijer, K., Bommarco, R., Breeze, T., Carvalheiro, L., Franzén, et al. (2015). Status and trends of European pollinators: key findings of the STEP project.

Potts, S.G., Biesmeijer, J.C., Kremen, C., Neumann, P., Schweiger, O. & Kunin, W.E. (2010). Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 25, 345–353.

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