PhD Studentship: Demographic consequences of different migratory strategies in a partially migratory species

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date: October 2017

Supervisor: Dr Aldina Franco

Project description:  

The project

In partially migrant species there are individuals that migrate and individuals that are resident and stay all year in the breeding areas. The consequences of different migratory decisions are poorly understood due to limitations in data availability. Understanding the demographic and population mechanisms by which environmental change can influence population size, trends and the migratory behaviour of populations will improve our ability to predict how species will respond to global environmental change and will be essential for designing effective conservation strategies for migratory species. This project will examine the effect of intra-specific variability (e.g. morphology, age and sex) and environmental constraints (e.g. land use, weather during migration and in the wintering area) on: (1) duration of the Autumn and Spring migrations, (2) selection of migratory route, (3) arrival date at breeding area, (4) demography and (5) reproductive success in different populations.

Lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni) will be the model species. The PhD student will work with existing data and will collect new data in Southern Spain and Portugal. This species is colonial, easy to capture and manipulate and a large % of the individuals are marked with colour rings deployed during past projects in both areas. Due to sharp population declines and past Globally Endangered conservation status, this species has been targeted by conservation actions (e.g. Catry et al. 2009) and now has an increasing population trend in Europe. The PhD student will work with the Movetech group (a partnership between UEA, University of Lisbon, Porto and the BTO, currently developing light weight GPS tracking devices) and will be involved in deploying new tracking devices on lesser kestrels of known age and reproductive output during the breeding period. The PhD student will join and interact with a dynamic NERC funded group at UEA and at the BTO looking at migratory decisions of birds in a changing world.

Person specification: The ideal candidate will have a first degree in Ecology, Zoology or Environmental Sciences or another relevant discipline, will have field work experience and good numerical skills. There will be opportunity to learn demographic and survival models at UEA and at BTO.

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17 the stipend was £14,296.

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