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Changes in species distribution for temperate marine fish: historic analysis and future projections on the western European margin

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C McGonigle
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a funded PhD studentship tenable in the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at the 
Coleraine Campus.

All applicants should hold a first or upper second class honours degree in Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Marine Science or related area.

Understanding the historical and future distribution of temperate marine fish is key information needed to support successful ocean resource management in the European Union (e.g. Kaiser et al. in press). The distribution of marine taxa is highly variable in space and time, and is driven by the interaction of individual life history and behaviour, recruitment, predation and competition, habitat availability, fishing pressure, seasonality and long-term climate forcing, inter alia (e.g.Cheung et al., 2009; 2013; Simpson et al., 2011; Poloczanska et al., 2013; Englehard et al., 2014; Rutterford, 2015; Hill et al., 2015). Of these drivers, two have been demonstrated to be of particular importance in influencing marine fish distribution: temperature and benthic habitat complexity (e.g. North Sea cod: Rutterford et al., 2015). Temperature has been demonstrated to have a strong influence on marine fish distribution and, by implication, changes in climate have the potential to exert a significant impact on this distribution, ultimately affecting the ecological and socioeconomic dynamics of marine resources (Murawski, 1993; O’Brien et al., 2000; Perry et al., 2005; Brander et al., 2003; 2007). Similarly, for demersal fisheries in particular, benthic habitat complexity is an important component of habitat suitability and can drive the range and distribution of marine taxa (e.g. Diehl, 1992; Kaiser et al., 1999; Grabowski, 2004).

Species distribution models quantify the relationship between a set of environmental and/or biological variables and observed species occurrences, providing an analytical framework for improved understanding of the controls on species distribution (Sinclair et al., 2010; Guisan et al., 2013). SDMs are a well-established tool in terrestrial ecology, with a variety of techniques and approaches emerging in recent years (Guisan and Zimmerman, 2000; Guisan and Thuiller, 2005; Monk, 2013; Rengstorf et al., 2013; Franklin, 2013). These modelling tools are rapidly gaining momentum in the marine environment, where the approaches have potential to address a series of key research issues, including climate change adaptation, biogeography, invasive species biology, marine spatial planning (Robinson et al., 2011) and in the North Pacific are being used to delineate Essential Fish Habitat, (Valavanis et al. 2004, 2008; Rooper et al. 2014; Miller et al 2015). There has been significant debate in the scientific community about the long-term sustainability of fishing activity and how this can be affected by the quality of observations that inform our understanding (Watson and Pauly, 2001; Hilborne, 2006; Pauly, 2009; Pauly and Hilborne, 2013; Pauly et al., 2014).

The overall aim of this PhD project is to analyse historic and current trends in the population dynamics of temperate marine fish on the western European margin with a view to understanding and predicting their future distribution in a changing world. It will utilise data from a variety of sources in the construction and critical evaluation of SDMs based on environmental data that are spatially and temporally relevant. This aspect of the project will make an important contribution to the implementation of species distribution modelling for ocean resource management by providing insight into the potential benefits and limitations of the use of fisheries data.

Successful candidates will enrol as of September 2016, on a full-time programme of research studies leading to the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The studentship will comprise fees together with an annual stipend of £14,296 and will be awarded for a period of up to three years subject to satisfactory progress.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications is 26th February 2016.
Interviews will be held during March 2016.

Further information may be found at - http://www.science.ulster.ac.uk/gradschool/environmental/
if you wish to discuss this topic or receive advice on research please contact Dr Chris McGonigle
Coastal Systems, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University
Tel: +44 (0)28 7012 4076
Email: [email protected]
For more information on applying go to ulster.ac.uk/research 
Apply online ulster.ac.uk/applyonline

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