Professor Zoe Davies (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent)
Dr Rachel Golden Kroner (Conservation International)
Dr Cleo Cunningham (UNEP-WCMC)
Conservation areas are vital for conserving nature (Golden Kroner et al, 2019) but research on their effectiveness typically only focuses on state-managed protected areas (Butchart et al, 2015). This is changing, with case-studies showing that privately- and community-managed conservation areas can play a key role. However, we lack spatial data (e.g., accurate locations, boundaries) on these non-state conservation areas, so cannot fully understand how they contribute to conserving global biodiversity. Collecting such data for every country is a long-term process (Bingham et al, 2019), so DICE-led research has developed a new sampling methodology based on a representative subset of countries. This studentship will test and refine this new approach, collecting additional data and testing hypotheses to better understand how different types of conservation area help meet global targets for landscape connectivity and biodiversity representation.
Our new approach is based on identifying an ecologically and socio-politically representative sample of countries using spatial conservation prioritisation techniques (Smith et al, 2019) and collecting all available conservation area data for each country (Sykes et al, 2020). This studentship will investigate: (1) the robustness of the sampling approach by comparing results from different prioritisation techniques; (2) the relative role of state-, private- and community-managed conservation areas in representing biodiversity and maintaining landscape connectivity; (3) whether different types of conservation area are more effective at reducing habitat loss; (4) the suitability of the sampling approach for marine conservation areas.
The student will be based at DICE, Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and receive additional training from Kent Graduate School. They will develop spatial databases using ArcGIS/QGIS, identify the samples using the Marxan and Zonation software packages, work with partners to collect conservation area data and analyse the results using R. They will also learn academic skills such as academic writing, giving conference presentations and time management.
A highly motivated student interested in combining biogeography with conservation science to produce high-impact, policy-relevant research. The candidate should have a degree in conservation, ecology or environmental sciences, strong analytical skills and, ideally, GIS expertise.