Dr Louise Firth, University of Plymouth School of Biological and Marine Sciences
Prof David Bilton, University of Plymouth School of Biological and Marine Sciences
Professor Kerry Howell, University of Plymouth School of Biological and Marine Sciences
Anthropogenic activities are changing ecosystems worldwide – manifested as mass extinctions, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. These impacts are driven, in part, by replacement of natural habitats with man-made structures, resulting in lost/reduced coherence of ecological networks as landscapes become increasingly fragmented and reconfigured. Several international policies (e.g. Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD); UN Decade of Action) call for solutions to reverse biodiversity decline and promote sustainable development, but our understanding of how habitat reconfiguration/fragmentation disrupts the dispersive networks that are fundamental to the maintenance and persistence of existing biodiversity/marine communities remains a largely unexplored topic and a NERC research priority.
This studentship will explore ecological connectivity in marine systems and significantly advance understanding of the role of multi-species dispersal in biodiversity maintenance and functioning across seascapes. Expected outcomes include a better theoretical understanding of the drivers of change in biodiversity and community structure, in turn informing applied conservation practices. To address this challenge, the student will draw on remote-sensed data to undertake habitat modelling, have the opportunity to undertake field surveys to describe the distribution of contemporary marine communities, and develop highly sought-after numerical/analytical skills in ecological/hydrodynamic modelling to predict dispersal and construct ecological networks in European coastal seas.
Based in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth (recently ranked global #1 in Sustainable Development Goal 14 ‘Life Below Water’; Times Higher Impact Rankings 2021), you’ll join an established and vibrant research group of undergraduate and postgraduate students associated with the supervisors, and a wider welcoming community of staff and students. During the project, you will build independence and expertise through research leadership including project management and scientific communication (i.e. publications, conference presentations) and receive project-specific bespoke training in field sampling, marine taxonomy, numerical methods, experimental design/statistics, ecological/hydrodynamic modelling from all of the supervisory team, the host (UoP) and collaborative (Met Office) institutions, and wider training from the ARIES DTP training schemes.
Desirable skills include numeracy, programming, statistics (e.g. R/Matlab).