Predicting vulnerability of coastal biodiversity to heat waves at management-relevant scales- a conservation physiology approach


Predicting vulnerability of coastal biodiversity to heat waves at management-relevant scales- a conservation physiology approach


Project Description


Dr Manuela Truebano, University of Plymouth – Contact me

Dr Oliver  Tills, University of Plymouth, School of Biological and Marine Sciences

Dr Hannah Wood, Natural England

Dr Enrico Rezende, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Dr Fernando Lima CIBIO-InBIO, Universidade do Porto (CIBIO)

Scientific Background

Heat waves are increasing in frequency and intensity, causing devastating effects on marine biodiversity. To protect the environment for future generations, we must be able to predict which areas are at most risk from this increasingly pressing environmental challenge. Using broad-scale surface temperature data, recent modelling approaches have identified broad regions across global oceans that are at greatest risk, but these approaches do not capture the small spatial scales over which climatic events impact marine animals through their physiology. Moreover, they do not work at the local and regional scales at which management decisions are made, limiting our ability to conserve coastal ecosystems.

This timely project integrates high-resolution in situ temperature data, a state-of-the-art physiological model that assesses individual-level sensitivity, and technology-led measurements of sensitivity in the field, to develop a novel approach to assessing site-specific sensitivity to heat waves in intertidal environments with unprecedented spatial resolution. In partnership with Natural England, it will also explore how outputs can be integrated into marine conservation advice.

Research Methodology

You will perform laboratory measurements of physiological tolerance in intertidal animals. A network of temperature loggers in the Southwest of the UK will provide high-resolution temperature data to simulate future heat waves at local scales. You will combine physiological and temperature data with a novel physiological model to predict mortality of intertidal animals during heat waves at different locations, and use this to assess site-specific vulnerability. Finally, you will explore how vulnerability assessment can inform conservation management plans.


You will join an established, multi-disciplinary team and receive training to develop expertise in:

–           Marine ecophysiology, animal husbandry.
–           Analysis of high-resolution temperature data and forecasting.
–           Automated technologies, autonomous data loggers, and AI.
–           Physiological modelling.
–           Policy. You will carry out a 3-month internship at NE to learn what is needed to convert your research outputs into policy.
–           Data analysis, critical thinking, scientific writing.

Person Specification

BSc degree in biology or related field. An interest in animal physiology and climate change, and strong quantitative analysis skills are essential.


  • 1 Dwane C, Rezende EL, Tills O, Galindo J, Rolán-Alvarez E, Rundle S & Truebano M (2023) Thermodynamic effects drive countergradient responses in the thermal performance of Littorina saxatilis across latitude. Science of The Total Environment 863, 160877-160877.
  • 2 Tills O, Holmes LA, Quinn E, Everett T, Truebano M & Spicer JI (2023) Phenomics enables measurement of complex responses of developing animals to global environmental drivers. Science of the Total Environment 858, 159555.Tills O, Holmes LA, Quinn E, Everett T, Truebano M & Spicer JI (2023) Phenomics enables measurement of complex responses of developing animals to global environmental drivers. Science of the Total Environment 858, 159555.
  • 3 Rezende EL, Bozinovic F, Szilagyi A & Santos M (2020) Predicting temperature mortality and selection in natural Drosophila populations. Science 369,1242-1245.
  • 4 Verberk WCEP, Hoefnagel KN, Peralta-Maraver I, Floury M, & Rezende EL (2023). Long-term forecast of thermal mortality with climate warming in riverine amphipods. Global Change Biology, 29, 5033–5043.
  • 5 Bates A E, Helmuth B., Burrows MT., Duncan MI, Garrabou J, Guy-Haim T, Lima F, Queiros A M, Seabra R., Marsh R, Belmaker J, Bensoussan N, Dong Y, Mazaris AD, Smale D, Wahl M, & Rilov G. (2018). Biologists ignore ocean weather at their peril. Nature, 560(7718), 299-301.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2024. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 10th January 2024.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) 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. We expect to award between 4 and 6 studentships to international candidates in 2024.
  • 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.
  • ARIES funding is subject to UKRI terms and conditions. Postgraduate Researchers are expected to live within reasonable distance of their host organisation for the duration of their studentship. See for more information

Applications open

Click this link to apply to University of Plymouth