Microclimate Refugia Site Management Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation


Microclimate Refugia Site Management Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation


Project Description


Dr Aldina Franco (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia) contact me

Professor Phil Atkinson (British Trust for Ornithology)

Dr James Gilroy (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Dr Inês Catry (Institute of Agronomy, University of Lisbon)

Project Background

Climate change is a severe threat to biodiversity. Many species are adapting by changing their ranges and retreating to areas with cooler climates [1]. Areas with a high variety of microclimates may provide opportunities for species to persist in a changing climate [2]. Animal species, exposed to microclimate variability throughout their life cycles [3], may be able to use favourable microclimate sites to shelter from extreme events. With the advent of new tracking technologies, high spatial and temporal resolution data is available [4] for a wide range of taxa enabling the quantification of individual exposure to microclimate variability [5] and the identification of behavioural strategies individuals adopt to cope with climate extremes. The results will be used to recommend habitat management actions that promote microclimate variability and the creation of refugia sites needed to protect species that are vulnerable to climate change.

Research Methodology

Using existing GPS location data with high spatial and temporal resolution (e.g. datasets from Movebank.org), and newly collected data using new tracking technologies, this project will examine the microclimate characteristics [5] of sites used by individuals living at the edge and core of their climatic ranges. Detailed data on the behaviour of individuals (e.g. resting, foraging, moving) can be obtained through accelerometer sensors, these in combination with the GPS location data provide a powerful tool to understand behavioural responses to environmental variability.


The project will use theoretical and practical ecological skills and new animal tracking technologies. You will be trained in experimental design, testing hypothesis, to trap and manipulate wild animals and deploy tracking devices and in analyses of animal movement data. You will have the opportunity to explore existing datasets using R, and investigate which microclimate variables influence animal behaviour. Large datasets with animal movement information will be used to reveal the main environmental drivers behind range limits, and will inform the design of robust management actions to protect species under a changing climate.

Person Specification

You should have a degree in the life sciences, relevant research experience, and be keen to advance scientific understanding of our natural environment. This project is available to highly numerate candidates.


  • 1. Chen, I., Hill, J. K., Ohlemüller, R., Roy, D. B. & Thomas, C. D. (2011) Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science. 333, 1024–1026
  • 2. Suggitt, A.J., Wilson, R.J., Isaac, N.J.B. et al. (2018) Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering. Nature Climate Change 8, 713–717. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0231-9
  • 3. McDermott Long O, Warren R, Price J, Brereton TM, Botham MS and Franco AMA (2016) Sensitivity of UK butterflies to local climatic extremes: which life stages are most at risk? Journal of Animal Ecology, 86(1), 108-116.
  • 4. Gilbert NI, Correia RA, Silva JP, Catry I, Atkinson, PW, Gill, JA and Franco AMA (2016) 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, 7 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-016-0070-0
  • 5. Maclean IMD, Mosedale JR, Bennie JJ (2019) Microclima: An r package for modelling meso‐and microclimate. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10 (2), 280-290

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.

Get in Touch

aries.dtp@uea.ac.uk /