Understanding extinction risk in the Anthropocene

   Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

We live in a humanized world in which even the most remote areas have been affected by the actions of our species. Human impacts have caused a widespread loss of biodiversity, to the point that we have likely entered the sixth mass extinction event on Earth, the first primarily caused by humans. Understanding how diverse human impacts are affecting the broad diversity of species is key to promoting proactive and effective conservation, which requires identification and targeting of the worst threats and the most sensitive species.

This project seeks to reveal global scale (macroecological) patterns in extinction risk of vertebrate species exploring questions such as:

1) What traits (e.g., body size, reproductive rates) characterize the most sensitive species?

2) What are the most dangerous threats (e.g., habitat loss, climate change, introduction of invasive species)?

3) How do traits influence sensitivity to different threats?

Depending on the student interest and expertise, these questions could be explored at regional and/or local scale to address specific conservation challenges. This project offers an opportunity to work on pressing and large-scale conservation questions using big databases and applying diverse modelling approaches; thus, providing an opportunity to develop very transferable skills. The expected outcomes include publications in the scientific literature as well as the potential to engage with policy makers and managers to use the research findings in conservation legislation and practice. The supervisor is an Associate Professor at the University of Reading with expertise in the topic and very interested in mentoring motivated and passionate students, including those from currently underrepresented groups in science. She leads the Ecology and Conservation Research team, a friendly, diverse, and welcoming team interested in understanding and protecting biodiversity on this planet.

You can find more about Dr. Manuela González-Suárez and the Ecology and Conservation Research team at https://sites.google.com/site/manuelagonzalezsuarez/Home.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading:

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities.

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills.

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically.


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in Ecology, Zoology or related disciplines. Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements.

How to apply:

Submit an application for a PhD in Biological Sciences at http://www.reading.ac.uk/pgapply

Further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/biologicalsciences/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/PhD/sbs-phd.aspx

Enquiries: Dr. Manuela González-Suárez, email:

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Johnson, TF; Isaac, N; Paviolo, A; González-Suárez, M (2020) Handling missing values in trait data. Global Ecology and Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/geb.13185
Bernardo-Madrid, R; Calatayud, J; González-Suárez, M; Rosvall, M; Lucas, PM; Rueda, M; Antonelli, A; Revilla, E (2019). Human activity is altering the world’s zoogeographical regions. Ecology Letters 22: 1297-1305 DOI: 10.1111/ele.13321
Lucas, PM; González-Suárez, M; Revilla, E (2019) Range area matters, and so does spatial configuration: predicting conservation status in vertebrates. Ecography 42: 1103–1114. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.03865.
Polaina, E; González-Suárez, M; Revilla, E (2019). The legacy of past human land use in current patterns of mammal distribution. Ecography 42: 1623-1635. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.04406. EDITOR CHOICE
Please also view Dr Manuela González-Suárez' academic profile:

Register your interest for this project

Where will I study?

Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.