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Understanding the role of livestock management on invertebrate communities of wet pastures

   Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The supervisory team comprises:

Glyn Barrett (School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading), Robin Buxton (Patsy Wood Trust) and Ben Woodcock (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology).

Wet pastures along the Thames, Oxfordshire, represent areas of natural beauty and historic biodiversity. However, modern management has had particularly negative impacts on invertebrate communities. These are important both, but also as food resources for other trophic levels like farmland birds.  

Reasons for this decline include:  

1. sward management by re-seeding and fertiliser application.  

2. grazing management; species, breed, intensity, and season; and  

3. veterinary treatment of livestock and the effects of agricultural medicines, including nematicides and muscicides.  

There is a strong suggestion that dung beetles may have suffered particularly, although observations suggest that this may be reversible where antihelmintic treatment on grazing cattle and sheep are suspended. Similarly, where we manage livestock to minimise nematicide concentrations, do we see a change in populations and diversity of soil invertebrates, and those specifically associated with dung? This study aims to identify both the extent of the impacts of these management practices on invertebrate biodiversity, both terrestrial and soil, as well as seeking to understand applied management solutions to mitigate these impacts, while supporting productive pasture systems. This work will be undertaken at Wittenham, Oxfordshire, as well as a nearby site with a standard approach to cattle management and treatment. This study is aimed at developing a model of wet pasture management that other farmers could realistically follow, without significant inconvenience or financial penalty.  

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 Biological Sciences or a strongly-related discipline. 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


Further information:


Please see Dr Barrett's profile on the following link: Dr Glyn Barrett – University of Reading

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.

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