About this project
Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship assessing the impacts of species re-introduction in river ecosystems using environmental DNA, as part of the University of Hull’s REWILD Research cluster (see “About the research cluster” below for more details of the cluster).
The re-introduction of keystone species is a key component of the rewilding process. The trophic cascades triggered by such events entail fundamental changes to the biotic and sometimes abiotic components of the ecosystem, which are extremely difficult to predict. Rewilding projects therefore need to be accompanied by effective and comprehensive biodiversity monitoring programmes. The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) has been shown to be highly effective for such purposes and at the University of Hull we have established eDNA work flows for monitoring communities of fish, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates (e.g. Hänfling et al., 2016; Lawson Handley et al., 2019: Harper et al. 2019. Blackman et al., 2020; Harper et al., 2020). In river ecosystems the spatial resolution of these methods is currently restricted because of eDNA dispersal in the environment, but a recent study has shown that eDNA transport models can account for these processes (Cararro et al 2021). The studentship will apply such approaches to understand the impact of species reintroductions in river ecosystems.
We will work closely with stakeholders involved in river rewilding projects such as the Rivers Trust and Natural England and case studies may include the reintroduction of the burbot to the river Wissey and the removal of migration barriers in the River Severn allowing natural recolonisation with the twaite shad. The broad objectives of the project are to:
- Further develop existing ecological models to accurately predict the distribution of river biodiversity from an eDNA signal.
- Apply these models to rewilding case studies to produce spatially explicit data on species distribution after reintroduction events and to predict the impact on the broader ecosystem
We are looking for an enthusiastic student with the following qualities: i) some experience of community and/or molecular ecology, including biodiversity monitoring ii) a proficiency in, or willingness to become proficient in ecological modelling and data analysis iii) an interest and ability to work effectively in both the field and lab.
For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Bernd Haenfling.
About the REWILD research cluster
REWILD: understanding ecological, environmental and societal costs and benefits of rewilding.
We are experiencing a global climate and biodiversity crisis. Closer to home, more than half of UK species are in decline and a further 15% threatened with extinction. Rewilding - the large-scale restoration of ecosystems by allowing reinstatement of natural processes and missing species - is seen as one potential solution for the protection and recovery of ecosystems. The rewilding of terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats can make a critical contribution to carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, water quality, biodiversity, and human wellbeing. However rewilding can also be highly controversial, with conflicts arising because of competing interests of different stakeholder groups. The REWILD research cluster at the University of Hull is a multidisciplinary team of researchers across biology, environmental science, psychology and systems thinking, working with diverse stakeholders to collectively understand the ecological, environmental and societal costs and benefits of rewilding. Our 6 PhD studentships focus on understanding i) the impacts of rewilding projects on biodiversity, sedimentation rates and carbon sequestration dynamics, ii) the community benefits of blue spaces, and the perceptions, values and challenges of rewilding the sea, and iii) how animal “personalities” drive public perceptions of species reintroductions.
Click here to watch a recording of our recent webinar about this funded postgraduate research opportunity. You'll hear from programme leaders, supervisors, and students and listen to queries from other applicants in the Q&A.
Other PhDs in this cluster
Uncovering the Biodiversity Impacts of Rewilding on Entire Ecological Communities at a Landscape Scape Using Environmental DNA
Greening Blue Spaces in Hull
Understanding Environmental Adaptability in Wild Mammalian Carnivores: a Multidisciplinary Perspective
Optimising Blue Carbon Storage in Estuaries Using Rewilding and Eco-engineering Approaches
Rewilding the Sea: Perceptions, Values and Challenges