Designing protected areas networks that incorporate animal movement and habitat connectivity


Designing protected areas networks that incorporate animal movement and habitat connectivity


Project Description


Dr Aldina Franco, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Prof Carlos Peres, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Carlos David Santos, Federal University of Pará, Brazil

Dr Tiziana Luisetti, Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)/ Honorary Lecturer, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia


The establishment of robust networks of protected areas is key to address biodiversity loss. Species that move between breeding and non-breeding sites are among those that are most challenging to protect. With recent technological advances and increasing availability of animal movement data, it is possible to design effective protected areas for conservation. This project focuses on birds as indicators of wetland habitats to identify important areas for biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem services in South America. The objectives are 1) map wetland bird diversity and abundance based on aerial surveys and remote sensing; 2) identify foraging movements of wood storks and determine levels of structural and functional connectivity in wetland and mangrove habitats; 3) determine the value of wetland and mangrove ecosystem services (e.g. carbon storage, sediment deposition, availability of fresh water) and 4) identify priority areas for conservation that include landscape connectivity and deliver multiple ecosystem services.

Research methodology:

The project will use theoretical and practical ecological skills, remote sensing and statistics. You will explore existing datasets in GIS and/or using R, and investigate which environmental variables may influence species diversity and abundance. You will be trained to deploy state-of-the-art tracking devices that are being developed at UEA and will learn to analyse of animal movement data to inform the design of robust networks for wetland areas in South America.


This is a multidisciplinary project linking ecology, ecological economics and use of new tracking technologies to create evidence-based conservation. You will join an active research group generating world-class, NERC-supported science ( and and an energetic ARIES cohort. You will be trained to deliver world-class science. Through the collaboration with Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and governmental and non-governmental organisations in Brazil, you will translate science and evidence into practical conservation measures.

Person specification:

You should have a good degree in life or environmental sciences. In addition to the degree, a relevant MSc degree and/or relevant work experience will be advantageous.


  • 1-Gilroy JJ, Gill JA, Butchart SHM, Jones VR, FRANCO AMA (2016) Migratory diversity predicts population declines in birds, Ecology letters 19 (3), 308-317.
  • 2-Gilbert NI, Correia RA, Silva JP, Pacheco C, Catry I, Atkinson PW, Gill JA, FRANCO AMA, Are white storks addicted to junk food? Impacts of landfill use on the movement and behaviour of resident white storks (Ciconia ciconia) from a partially migratory population Movement ecology 4(1)
  • 3-Beja P, SANTOS CD, Santana J, Pereira MJ, Marques JT, Queiroz HL, Palmeirim JM (2010) Seasonal patterns of spatial variation in understory bird assemblages across a mosaic of flooded and unflooded Amazonian forests. Biodiversity and Conservation 19, pp. 129 – 152.
  • 4-Bustamante MR, Roitman I, Mitchell Aide T, Anderson LO, Aragão L, Asner G, Barlow J, Berenguer E, Chambers J, Costa M, Fanin TG, Ferreira L N, Ferreira J, Keller M, Magnusson W, Morales-Barquero L, Morton D, Ometto J, Palace M, PERES CA, Silverio D, Tumbore S, Vieira ICG (2015). Toward an integrated monitoring framework to assess the effects of tropical forest degradation and recovery on carbon stocks and biodiversity. Global Change Biology. 22.
  • 5-LUISETTI T., Turner K., Jickells T., Andrews J., Elliott M., Schaafsma M., Beaumont N., Malcolm S. J., Burdon D., Adams C. & Watts (2014) Coastal Zone Ecosystem Services: From science to values and decision making; a case study. Science of the Total Environment. 493, p. 682–693.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • 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 (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

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