PhD Studentship: Dormouse Conservation and Woodland Management

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Main Supervisor: Professor Robbie McDonald, Environment and Sustainability Institute & Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter
Co-Supervisor: Professor Mike Bruford, Dr Frank Hailer, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
Co-Supervisor: CASE partner: Dr Alice Broome, Forest Research; GW4+ Associate Partners: Kat Walsh, Natural England; Dr Liz Halliwell, Natural Resources Wales

Despite their strict protection and major conservation efforts, populations of hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius in England and Wales continue to decline. Recent analyses by the University of Exeter (Goodwin et al 2017) identified a 72% decline in dormouse populations from 1993 to 2014 and suggested that the species could be categorized as Endangered in the UK. Our recent work has also highlighted the importance of improving woodland management to enhance the conservation status of the species in the UK. This collaborative CASE project will involve fieldwork on dormice and forestry practice. The student will work alongside key conservation organisations to build on recent work on dormouse ecology and to evaluate and improve woodland management practices in order to reverse the fortunes of this most endearing British mammal.

The overall aim of this project is to understand variation in dormouse conservation status, evaluate woodland management and provide evidence for improved practices to support dormouse recovery in the UK. This will be achieved by extensive analysis of dormouse populations and of woodland characteristics, using remotely sensed data, accompanied by intensive surveys of dormice and habitats in a sample of commercial and non-commercial, broadleaf and coniferous woodlands. The student will survey woodland managers to understand practice in relation to conservation regulation and commercial and other management objectives. The student will also have the opportunity to employ molecular genetic techniques to understand dormouse population processes and to develop population models to understand how variation in practice might affect populations in the long term. The student will work at public and private forests across England and Wales, sampling sites at which dormice are thriving and sites where they are in decline. The project will require extended periods of fieldwork away from Cornwall, and periods in the laboratory in Cardiff and at Forest Research.

Candidate: The project will suit a student interested in a career in animal ecology, conservation science and wildlife management. The work will require a high degree of analytical ability and a willingness to work in the field conducting ecological studies of wildlife and practitioner surveys, in the laboratory and at the computer conducting statistical and analytical work.

Forest Research is the lead CASE partner, and will host placements in the field and at FR research stations. This is also a partnership project with two GW4+ Associate Partners: Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. NE and NRW are members of the UK Dormouse Biodiversity Steering Group and will also offer a policy placement opportunity, allowing the student to shadow specialist conservation advisors.

Funding Maximum

3.5 year studentship: UK/EU/International tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at the Research Council rate of £14,553 per year

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England