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The ecology of invasion: Disentangling the role of biotic and abiotic factors at different spatial scales

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S M Sait
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Invasive species pose a significant threat to biodiversity. This project will explore the mechanisms underpinning the spread and establishment of an invasive species and consider, in particular, the role that biotic factors, such as competing native species and natural enemies, may play. However, abiotic factors, such as climate, are also likely to play a role in the success of the invader as well as the landscape context of invasion. Disentangling the relative importance of these forces would be the aim of the project.
The project would build upon an established field study system, comprising the invasive magpie moth, a competitor, the winter moth, and their natural enemies. Both moth species are serious pests on heather moor land. These are sensitive habitats for a number of protected bird species so the project could have important conservation implications.
Whilst the study sites would be based principally in the Orkney islands, the student would be encouraged to explore populations in mainland Scotland and England, which exhibit strikingly different patterns in abundance.
This is a collaborative project with Prof. Rosie Hails at NERC CEH-Wallingford and will continue an established research programme on insect-enemy community ecology. It will combine aspects of temporal and spatial ecology, insect pathology and molecular techniques. Thus, the student would benefit from a multidisciplinary approach that combines the expertise of the supervisors and their respective institutions.

Funding Notes

There may be funded places available depending on the nationality and studentship availability for UK/EU Students and suitable candidates will be put forward for a Faculty-wide competition for a NERC or BBSRC quota studentship. Other funding options may also be available.


Burden, J.P. et al. (2003) Covert infections as a mechanism for long term persistence of baculoviruses. Ecology Letters 6, 524-531.
Graham, R.I. et al. (2004) Genetically variable nucleopolyhedroviruses isolated from spatially separate populations of the winter moth Operophtera brumata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in Orkney. Journal for Invertebrate Pathology 87, 29-38.
Raymond, B. et al. (2002) Escape from pupal predation as a potential cause of outbreaks of the winter moth, Operophtera brumata. Oikos 98, 219-228.
Raymond, B. et al. (2002) Host plant species can influence the fitness of herbivore pathogens: the winter moth and its nucleopolyhedrovirus. Oecologia 131, 533-541.
Sait, S.M. et al. (2000) Invasion sequence affects predator-prey dynamics in a multi-species interaction. Nature 405, 448-450.

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