Dr Martin Taylor, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Recent studies have reported steep long-term declines in insect populations, implicating both anthropogenic land-use and climate change, and raising concerns of an ‘insect apocalypse’. Being exceptionally diverse both taxonomically and functionally, insects are critically important in provisioning of essential ecosystem services (ES) such as pollination, pest control, and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems.
Agriculture is a key driver of declines in biodiversity. Efforts to mitigate impacts of agriculture have focused largely on restoring semi-natural habitat patches. However, the resilience of biodiversity and ES on farmland is also dependent on wider landscape structure and connectivity. Relatively little attention has been paid to trees in the landscape, their role in resource provisioning to wider biodiversity, micro-climate (including temperature), and connectivity to woodland patches.
Trees provide key resources for the life cycles of many farmland insects including floral resources, fruits and seeds, nesting and larval micro-sites (including dead wood), and associated insect diversity maintaining food webs. Yet uncertainty remains over how the immediate environment surrounding a tree (in woodland, hedge or field) modifies resource provisioning and usage, and how this interacts with the micro-climatic and other physical (e.g. shade and temperature) influences of the tree itself.
This exciting project will combine community and molecular ecology approaches to investigate the role of trees in agricultural landscape in influencing the diversity and abundance of insect communities present along linear habitat features (hedgerows), and the implications for landscape connectivity with respect to woodlands.
Research methodology (role of the student) and training
The student will carry out and receive training in: design and implementation of field-sampling of insects and environmental data; morphological and DNA metabarcoding approaches to insect ID; computational and statistical methods in community and landscape ecology using R statistics and GIS software; preparation of outputs for publication.
We seek an enthusiastic and versatile scientist with a strong interest in community and landscape ecology and/or field entomology and botany. Experience of molecular ecology methods is highly desirable, although training will be given. Excellent people skills are needed for this position as the student will be liaising with farmers.