About this project
Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship assessing the impacts of rewilding 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).
High-resolution biodiversity assessments are needed to understand the impacts of rewilding projects. Organisms leave traces of DNA in their environment, for example via shed cells and waste matter. This “environmental DNA” or “eDNA” can be analysed to detect single species or entire assemblages of species. eDNA is a rapidly developing technology that is revolutionising the way we monitor biodiversity (see e.g. Deiner et al., 2017 for a review). At the University of Hull, we have pioneered the use of eDNA for monitoring communities of fish (e.g. Hänfling et al., 2016; Lawson Handley et al., 2019), mammals (e.g. Harper, Lawson Handley, Carpenter, et al., 2019), amphibians (e.g. Harper, Lawson Handley, Hahn, et al., 2019) and invertebrates (e.g. Blackman et al., 2020; Harper et al., 2020). This studentship will use this technology to understand the impacts of rewilding projects on whole communities, at a landscape scale.
We will work closely with stakeholders involved in rewilding projects, including AECOM and The Lifescape Project at the Natural Capital Laboratory in Scotland, to deliver evidence to support their conservation programmes. The broad objectives of the project are to:
- Ground truth eDNA methods against conventional survey methods for producing comprehensive biodiversity inventories
- Investigate the impacts of rewilding on taxonomic and functional diversity, and on the structure and resilience of food webs
- Assess the success, impact and public perception of species reintroduction, using pine martens as a case study.
We are looking for an enthusiastic student with the following qualities: i) an interest in working closely with stakeholders, to deliver evidence for conservation and policy, ii) some experience of community and/or molecular ecology, including biodiversity monitoring, iii) an interest and ability to work effectively in both the field and lab, iv) a proficiency in, or willingness to become proficient in data analysis using R.
You will be part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary and nurturing environment to help realise your potential, and will be provided with excellent opportunities for external networking. We will hold regular monthly meetings with the entire cluster, with opportunities to present and discuss research, invite internal and external speakers and collaborators and foster networking.
For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Lori Lawson Handley.
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.
Join us at a webinar on Thursday 16 December at 6pm to find out more about this PhD cluster. Register here.
Other PhDs in this cluster
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
Effective Biodiversity Monitoring of River Rewilding Projects Using eDNA Modelling
Rewilding the Sea: Perceptions, Values and Challenges