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Unifying aquatic ecology under climate change: patterns and mechanisms.PhD in Biosciences (NERC GW4 + DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor:
Dr Diego Barneche Rosado, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors:
Dr Ben Ashby, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath
Prof Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

- An stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
- Payment of university tuition fees;
- A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
- A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
- Travel and accommodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events
- No course fees for coursed run by the DTP

We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter


Project Background

The fate of humanity rests in part on our ability to predict and curtail greenhouse gases emissions within this century. Temperature is a primary determinant of CO2 and CH4 fluxes in living systems, however new evidence suggests that emissions are likely to be accelerated in the face of warming. Current theory does not account for this empirical knowledge, and in addition we do not understand how organisms in interconnected natural ecosystems will evolve in response to different temperature regimes. This project will directly address this gap by combining fieldwork experiments in geothermally warmed environments in Iceland, with laboratory experiments using freshwater microcosms, and mathematical theory. The student will have a unique opportunity to acquire a modern and unique skillset, being supervised by world-leaders in experimental physiology, mathematical modelling, advanced statistics, and eco-informatics. This project is therefore at the forefront of eco-evolutionary knowledge, and will inform management decisions with respect to climate-change mitigation.

Project Aims and Methods

In this project the student will artificially manipulate communities of planktonic and benthic organisms from multiple Icelandic streams exposed to different temperature regimes in order to predict and quantify how distributions of traits change in the face of environmental change. Properties of whole-community metabolism (Gross primary production and respiration) will be measured on the field. Samples of planktonic communities will be brought to the lab at the University of Exeter in Cornwall to set up a series of experiments manipulating the initial trait distribution of communities which will evolve at multiple temperature regimes in microcosms. Experiments manipulating the rate of immigration among different communities will serve as empirical tests to novel mathematical eco-evolutionary theory that the student will develop in collaboration with their team of supervisors. The student will characterise the individual-physiology of most organisms in these communities before and after temperature-driven evolution. These techniques will generate large datasets, and the student will learn techniques to appropriately store and analyse data using high throughput techniques using advanced eco-informatics and Bayesian statistics. Within this major theme, there is scope for the student to explore different sets of possibilities and ideas to best tailor the project to their own desired research directions.

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2020 entry. For eligible students, the studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20.

References

References / Background reading list

Allen AP et al. (2005) Linking the global carbon cycle to individual metabolism. Functional Ecology, 19: 202–213. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2005.00952.x.

Barneche DR et al. (2014) Scaling metabolism from individuals to reef-fish communities at broad spatial scales. Ecology Letters, 17: 1067–1076. doi: 10.1111/ele.12309.

Barneche DR & Allen AP (2018) The energetics of fish growth and how it constrains food-web trophic structure. Ecology Letters, 21: 836–844. doi: 10.1111/ele.12947.

Barneche DR et al. (2019) Warming increases the cost of biosynthesis in a model vertebrate. Functional Ecology, 33: 1256–1266. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.13348.

Brown JH et al. (2004) Toward a metabolic theory of ecology. Ecology, 85: 1771–1789. doi: 10.1890/03-9000.

Enquist BJ et al. (2015) Chapter Nine - Scaling from Traits to Ecosystems: Developing a General Trait Driver Theory via Integrating Trait-Based and Metabolic Scaling Theories. In: Trait-Based Ecology - From Structure to Function. Advances in Ecological Research, 52: 249–318. doi: 10.1016/bs.aecr.2015.02.001.

Sibly RM et al. (2012) Metabolic ecology: a scaling approach. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK. 375 pp.

Yvon-Durocher G et al. (2010) Warming alters the metabolic balance of ecosystems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365: 2117–2126.

Yvon-Durocher G et al. (2015) Five years of experimental warming increases the biodiversity and productivity of phytoplankton. PLOS Biology, 13: 1–22. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002324

Yvon-Durocher G et al. (2017) Long-term warming amplifies shifts in the carbon cycle of experimental ponds. Nature Climate Change, 7: 209–213. doi: 10.1038/nclimate3229.

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