After the Gold Rush: Vertebrate Communities in Abandoned Gold Mines and Implications for Restoration


After the Gold Rush: Vertebrate Communities in Abandoned Gold Mines and Implications for Restoration


Project Description


Dr Jake Bicknell (School of Anthropology and Conservation – DICE, University of Kent) contact me

Dr Matthew Struebig (School of Anthropology and Conservation – DICE, University of Kent)

Professor Zoe Davies (School of Anthropology and Conservation – DICE, University of Kent)

Project Background

Across Amazonia, small scale gold mining is on the rise. Over the last decade, this has led to a sharp increase in localised deforestation. The impacts of mines on biodiversity are largely unknown, but since mining removes entire areas of vegetation and soils, impacts are likely to be marked. Vertebrates are ideal for studying the responses of biodiversity to mining because they are likely to play a vital role in the regeneration of these areas via seed dispersal and other functions.

Research Methodology

This PhD will undertake a comprehensive field survey in a landscape dominated by gold mines scattered throughout the tropical forests of central Guyana. Employing a paired, mine-forest study design, the study will seek to understand the relationship between biodiversity and different characteristics of existing mines (e.g. size, shape, age, and vegetation). Data will be collected on birds, mammals, and regenerating patches of vegetation, and will seek to understand the relationship between vertebrates and regeneration, and use this to conduct cutting-edge land-use planning across the landscape.


This project is embedded in Conservation International (CI) Guyana’s Responsible Mining Initiative. The candidate will work closely with CI, and will have an opportunity to undertake an internship to assist CI in their mining impacts mitigation work, providing a wider perspective on the issues associated with gold mining. The candidate will receive training in transferable skills through the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will also be trained in specific census techniques (bird point counts and mist netting, camera trapping, vegetation plots), as well as analytical skills (e.g. spatial analyses in ArcGIS/QGIS, and statistical modelling in R, community analysis using PC-ORD). Over the course of the PhD, the candidate will also gain academic skills, in particular writing papers, and presenting at conferences and engaging with government departments.

Person Specification

We seek a highly motivated individual excited by the prospect of conducting research in a remote tropical forest in central Guyana. The successful candidate will have a degree in conservation/ecology/zoology/environmental sciences, analytical skills and fieldwork experience. He/she will also be willing to work collaboratively with conservation NGOs and government agencies.


  • 1. Kalamandeen, M., Gloor, E., Mitchard, E., Quincey, D., Ziv, G., Spracklen, D., Spracklen, B., Adami, M., Aragão, L.E.O.C. & Galbraith, D. (2018) Pervasive Rise of Small-scale Deforestation in Amazonia. Scientific Reports, 8, 1600.
  • 2. Bicknell, J.E., Collins, M.B., Pickles, R.S.A., McCann, N.P., Bernard, C.R., Fernandes, D.J., Miller, M.G.R., James, S.M., Williams, A.U., Struebig, M.J., Davies, Z.G. & Smith, R.J. (2017) Designing protected area networks that translate international conservation commitments into national action. Biological Conservation, 214, 168-175.
  • 3. Pfeifer, M., Lefebvre, V., Peres, C.A., Banks-Leite, C., Wearn, O.R., Marsh, C.J., Butchart, S.H.M., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Barlow, J., Cerezo, A., Cisneros, L., D’Cruze, N., Faria, D., Hadley, A., Harris, S.M., Klingbeil, B.T., Kormann, U., Lens, L., Medina-Rangel, G.F., Morante-Filho, J.C., Olivier, P., Peters, S.L., Pidgeon, A., Ribeiro, D.B., Scherber, C., Schneider-Maunoury, L., Struebig, M., Urbina-Cardona, N., Watling, J.I., Willig, M.R., Wood, E.M. & Ewers, R.M. (2017) Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates. Nature, 551, 187.
  • 4. Gardner, C.J., Bicknell, J.E., Baldwin-Cantello, W. Struebig M.J., Davies Z.G. (2019) Quantifying the impacts of defaunation on natural forest regeneration in a global meta-analysis. Nature Communications. 10, 4590.
  • 5. Kalamandeen, M., Gloor, E., Johnson, I., Agard, S., Katow, M., Vanbrooke, A., Ashley, D., Batterman, S.A., Ziv, G., Holder‐Collins, K and Phillips, O.L., Limited biomass recovery from gold mining in Amazonian forests. Journal of Applied Ecology.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.

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