Integrating multi-taxa biodiversity conservation into upland ecosystem service land-use models.


Integrating multi-taxa biodiversity conservation into upland ecosystem service land-use models.


Project Description


Professor Paul Dolman (University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences) – Contact me

Dr James Gilroy, Environmental Sciences, UEA

Robert Hawkes, RSPB


Project background

Conservation is still failing to reverse biodiversity declines, but land-use strategies must now be balanced with multiple other ecosystem services (ES) including food, carbon sequestration, and flood mitigation. To resolve this crisis, decision makers need robust evidence of what management to undertake, and where. However, existing spatial models and ES decision-support tools lack comprehensive understanding of biodiversity, instead relying on inappropriate proxies. The student will develop novel analytical approaches, to incorporate large bodies of information on biodiversity distribution and requirements, into future land-use models recently developed by RSPB scientists. Results will directly address how upland habitats in the UK can be best managed to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change.


Existing ES decision-support tools rely on inappropriate proxies without efficacy for biodiversity enhancement. This studentship will incorporate evidence for biodiversity outcomes across the fullest suite of priority (threatened, rare) taxa, into spatially-explicit land-use models, to optimise strategic ES management. The student will analyse plant and invertebrate species distribution, niche and trait databases, building on biodiversity auditing methodologies developed at UEA, to develop stacked environmental species distribution models (SDMs) in R. These multi-SDMs will be integrated with RSPB models for other ES, to evaluate plausible future land-use scenarios, examining trade-offs and additionalities across forestry, agriculture, moorland management and rewilding.


The student will receive one-to-one training from the highly experienced supervisory team based in UEA and RSPB, covering Big Data, spatial modelling, study design and hypothesis testing, scientific writing, data visualisation and science communication. Working with RSPB nature delivery teams, and running workshops with private and public land managers in upland regions, will give in-depth understanding of land management policy and skills in communicating research with end-users. You will be encouraged to develop your own research ideas alongside the core project aims.

Person specification

The successful applicant will have a degree in ecology, geography, biology or related discipline, demonstrable experience of R and GIS, and an enthusiasm for nature conservation.


  • Crowther, L.P., Gilroy, J.J., Salliss, D., Hawkes, R.W., Dolman, P.M. (2022) Biodiversity Audit of the Norfolk Coast – Phase 1. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich. ISBN 978-0- 9567812-8-4.
  • Hawkes, R.W., Smart, J., Brown, A., Jones, H., Lane, S.A., Lucas, C., McGill, J., Owens, N., Ratier-Backes, A., Webb, J.R., Wells, D., Dolman, P.M. (2021a) Experimental evidence that novel land management interventions inspired by history enhance biodiversity. Journal of Applied Ecology, 58, 905-918.
  • Fuller, R.J., Williamson, T., Barnes, G., Dolman, P.M. (2017) Human activities and biodiversity opportunities in pre-industrial cultural landscapes: relevance to conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54, 459-469.
  • Pedley, S.M., Dolman, P.M. (2014) Multi-taxa trait and functional responses to physical disturbance. Journal of Animal Ecology 83, 1542-1552. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12249
  • Dolman, P.M., Panter, C.J., Mossman, H.L. (2012) The biodiversity audit approach challenges regional priorities and identifies a mismatch in conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 49, 986–997. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2012.02174.x

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, 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, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. 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.
  • 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 non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past 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 follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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