NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Impacts of artificial night-time lighting on animal time partitioning in Kruger National Park

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

Main supervisor: Prof. Kevin J. Gaston (Biosciences, University of Exeter)

Artificial night-time lighting (originating from streetlights and other such infrastructure) is increasingly recognized as constituting a significant pressure on natural ecosystems. The erosion of darkness that has occurred in a high proportion of the world’s protected areas is thus of great practical concern, as well as offering opportunities to understand some fundamental ecological processes. Very large protected areas have been viewed as relatively uninfluenced by artificial light at night, but recent work has shown that a high proportion of Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa, one of the world’s preeminent very large protected areas, experiences marked skyglow. This has the potential to change the way in which many species time their activities (including foraging, singing, reproduction). In collaboration with South African National Parks (SANParks) and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), this project will first quantify the spatial and temporal dynamics of the gradient in skyglow across KNP, using remote sensing and ground-based techniques. It will then use this gradient to test from existing field data and new data collected during the project whether skyglow changes the timing of (i) physical activity patterns of lions (particularly hunting); (ii) vocal activity patterns of birds (particularly onset of singing); and (iii) foraging activity patterns of bats (particularly onset and conclusion of echolocation behaviour). The project offers extensive training opportunities in savannah ecology, field sampling, GIS, bioacoustics and data analysis. The impact of artificial night-time lighting on the environment is a topic of great policy, management and media interest. It is thus anticipated that the results of this project offer substantial scope for practical impact and will attract much attention.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see

At least 4 fully-funded studentships that encompass the breadth of earth and environmental sciences are being offered to start in September 2017 at Exeter. The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,296 per annum for 2016-2017, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

See please for more details on how to apply.

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South West England