PhD Studentship: Monitoring Responses of Tropical Vertebrates To Land-Use Change Using Acoustic Technologies

University of Kent

We seek a highly motivated individual excited by the prospect of conducting research with real-world application. The successful candidate will have an MSc in conservation/ecology and strong analytical skills. Experience with tropical fieldwork and bioacoustics is desirable.

We wish to submit this exciting project to the NERC Environment East Doctoral Training Partnership (EnvEast DTP) Scholarship competition. Reference: (STRUEBIG_KDICE18EE)

Project description

The future of tropical biodiversity depends on how human-modified landscapes are managed, but keeping track of how species respond to management is challenging. Remote automated technologies offer opportunities to sample biodiversity rapidly, but are only now being trialled in tropical environments where ecological data is often lacking.

Tropical bats are diverse, filling numerous ecological niches and providing ecosystem services such as pest control, pollination and seed dispersal. Logging exerts subtle changes on bat assemblages and in fragmented habitats local extinctions and diversity declines are reported. Despite these impacts, surprisingly little is known about bat responses to land-use change, largely because they are poorly surveyed compared to larger, charismatic vertebrates. Inventories rely on cumbersome live-trapping, which can be limited to accessible areas, and prone to problems in detectability in converted habitats. Thus, it is difficult to ascertain whether anecdotal declines in converted habitats are genuine or simply due to problems with sampling technique.

Recent advances in acoustic technologies allow us to record ultrasonic information continuously and remotely for long periods, even in challenging humid tropical environments. This PhD will utilise these state-of-the-art bioacoustic approaches to investigate the impacts of land-use change on bat community structure in the Asian tropics. Acoustic techniques will be developed and combined with live-trapping to provide new insights into the fate of fragmented wildlife.

The study will be nested within the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems project in Sabah, Borneo, running alongside NERC's Human-Modified Tropical Forests programme. The student will undertake fieldwork to build upon an acoustic monitoring dataset and compare this data with live-capture information derived from harp-traps (the main survey technique for echolocating bats in Asia). They will train on acoustic identification and animal handling in UK and Sabah, and will contribute to a reference library of bat calls alongside colleagues in Malaysia and Australia. They will establish an automated analytical pipeline to identify bat calls and use this data to address questions on bat occupancy in different land-uses and forest fragments.


Main supervisor: Dr Matthew Struebig (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology. DICE)
Dr Jake Bicknell (DICE)
Dr Stephen Rossiter (Queen Mary University of London)

Further details

  • Start date: 15th September 2018
  • Programme: PhD
  • Mode of study: Full-time
  • Studentship length: 3.5 years
  • £14,533 (2017/18 rate) maintenance grant plus tuition fees at the Home/EU rate

Apply Now

Key dates
Application deadline 23:59 on 8 January 2018
Kent interviews on 19th January 2018
NERV interviews on 12/13th February 2018

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