Designing landscapes to support pollination services for the soft fruit industry

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Primary supervisor: Dr Lynn Dicks. Secondary supervisor: Prof Doug Yu

Project description:
BerryWorld is the UK’s leading soft fruit marketing company, sourcing raspberries, strawberries and blueberries from around the world for UK supermarkets. BerryWorld recognises pollination as a core element of sustainability for the business. This PhD project will work with them to develop a ‘blueprint for pollinator-friendly landscapes’.

Globally, pollinators are worth $235 to $577 billion per year for their direct contribution to production of crops, including many fruits, vegetables and oils. Approximately half of this pollination value comes from wild insects, many of which are declining in range and/or abundance. Effective conservation action to reverse these declines is needed, and agriculture is a key sector for taking action. This project is at the forefront of pollinator conservation, engaging agricultural industry in managing landscapes to support specific natural resources of direct value to their business through pollination.

The research has two overarching aims. First, to characterise what soft fruit pollinators need from the surrounding landscape. Second to quantify in the UK context how landscape management for pollinators compares, in cost-effectiveness, to planting wild flower strips on farms, or using purchased bumblebee colonies or honey bee hives to support pollination of soft fruit.

The research is interdisciplinary. The student will have the opportunity to learn pollination ecology, landscape ecology, mathematical modelling, DNA meta-barcoding and bioinformatics, and to use social science methods to investigate the costs and feasibility of manipulating landscape elements to enhance pollination. The project includes three months of industrial placement with BerryWorld, including one month working with soft fruit growers in South Africa.

There will be an opportunity to join the EnvEast Doctoral Training Programme at UEA (www.enveast.ac.uk) as an Associated Student, but this project is independently funded directly by NERC.

Person specification: Who are we looking for?

The ideal student will have a first degree in biological or agricultural sciences with strong interests in agro-ecology, pollination, conservation and experience of working with industry, or a desire to do so. Standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding notes: This NERC Industrial Case studentship is in partnership with BerryWorld Varieties funded for 4 years. An annual stipend (in 2017/18 the stipend is £14,553) will be available to the successful candidate who meets the UK Research Council eligibility criteria. These requirements are detailed in the RCUK eligibility guide which can be found at http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/publications/traininggrantguidance-pdf/. In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award.  Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award. 

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South East England