A great PhD opportunity in the lovely north of England with Prof John Grey of Lancaster Uni/Wild Trout Trust working with the Ribble Rivers Trust.
Using isotope-derived metrics of food web architecture to test the success of habitat restorations
Why we want to do this science
The practice of ‘habitat restoration’ began in earnest in the early 1900s and has gained momentum owing to the perceived benefits provided to both wildlife and society. However, there are surprisingly few robust assessments as to its efficacy and success. To communicate the worth of such work (in supporting the Ecosystem Service approach & Natural Capital principles) to the wider public and to potential future funders, and thus maintain, increase and maximise the potential impact, there is urgent need for some simple and accessible assessments using key parameters.
We will develop the use of new academic research techniques for restoration practitioners, to improve scientific-based outcomes in the delivery sector. We propose to use the concept of the food web in this context because: a) the knock-on effects of habitat degradation translate into food web alterations very quickly; and b), the food web is recognised by a broad swathe of society and from a very early age. Hence, it can be used as an engagement & educational tool that will increase the understanding and value of restoration projects, as well as a tangible and effective measure for funding applications. Food web architecture (which encompasses ecological measures such as food chain length; niche space; resource diversity, trophic redundancy) can be qualified and quantified using stable isotopes and derived metrics. These parameters encompass suites of species and ecological information (irrespective of ecosystem type) which expands the public audience engaged in the outcomes of restoration and reflects the focus of restorations to deliver ‘multiple benefit’ outcomes. Using river habitat restoration schemes (e.g. weir removals; by-pass channels; reach rehabilitations) of varying scales as planned by the RRT, the student will use stable isotope-derived metrics to determine food web structure and address various questions and hypotheses. These might include whether: a) habitat degradation of a certain type (e.g. a weir) impacts upon the food web in a specific way; b) restorations effectively recreate the ‘natural’ food web architecture; and c) some components of the food web respond quicker than others, and can trajectories of restoration be ‘mapped’.
What’s in it for you
Become expert in the analysis of stable isotopes and their application to ecological research. We will use our in-house, state-of-the-art, continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometry facility to determine natural abundance carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios in components of aquatic food webs. You will receive training in stable isotope analysis and the derivation of isotope-based community and population metrics, as well as many field collection (e.g. electric-fishing) and river habitat restoration techniques.
Develop links with external organisations. You will be based with the Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) alongside their dynamic Survey Team and sharing office space with other PhD researchers. The RRT is a well-established delivery organisation, whose activities include habitat improvement, land management and educational activities based on ecosystem service principles, and informed by a scientific approach to environmental conservation through its own monitoring programme (including aquatic ecology and water chemistry) and working with many Universities. You will develop practical skills and knowledge transfer skills to ensure research outcomes are put into practice, a much sort after combination in both the academic and practical delivery fields which will aid in advancing your career. The project will benefit further from close links with organisations such as the Wild Trout Trust and The River Restoration Centre.
Join an exciting research environment. You will benefit from the outstanding lab facilities and research training programmes offered by the Faculty of Science and Technology at Lancaster University, and by being part of the large and vibrant Lancaster Environment Centre which includes The Centre for Global Eco-innovation, winner of the ‘Outstanding Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Initiative’ category in The Impact Awards 2015.
The small print
Studentship funding: Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 2015/16 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years or full studentships (International tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 2015/16 [tax free])) for International students for 3 years.
Academic Requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.
Deadline for applications: 14 February 2016
Provisional Interview Date: [tbc] Week Beginning 29 February 2016
Start Date: October 2016
For further information or informal discussion about the position, please contact Prof Jonathan Grey ([log in to unmask]).
Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download from http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/lec/pg/LEC_Funded_PhD_Application_Form.docx) and a covering letter outlining your background and suitability for this project at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications, http://www.lec.lancs.ac.uk/postgraduate/pgresearch/apply-online.
You also require two references, please send the reference form (download from http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/lec/pg/LEC_PG_Reference_Form.docx) to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod ([log in to unmask]), Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.
Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.
1. Jackson MC, Jackson A, Britton JR, Donohue I, Harper DM & Grey J 2012 Population-level metrics of trophic structure derived from stable isotopes and their application to invasion ecology. PLoS One 7(2): e31757 2. Jackson MC, Jones T, Milligan M, Sheath D, Taylor J, Ellis A, England J & Grey J 2014 Niche differentiation among invasive crayfish and their impacts on ecosystem structure and functioning. Freshwat Biol 59: 1123-1135 3. Kiljunen M, Grey J, Sinisalo T, Harrod C, Immonen H & Jones RI 2006 A revised model for carbon stable isotopes of aquatic organisms, and implications for the use of isotope mixing models to evaluate diets of consumers. J Appl Ecol 43: 1213-1222.
4. Harrod C, Grey J, McCarthy TK & Morrissey M 2005 Stable isotope analyses provide new insights into ecological plasticity in a mixohaline population of European eel Oecologia 144: 673–683.