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PhD Studentship: Designing Protected Areas Networks that Incorporate Animal Movement and Habitat Connectivity (FRANCO_UENV20ARIES)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 7th October 2019
Closes: 7th January 2020

Start date: October 2020 

Hours: Full Time or part time  

Studentship length: 3.5 years

Supervisor: Dr Aldina Franco (

Project description:  


The establishment of robust networks of protected areas is key to address biodiversity loss. Species that move between breeding and non-breeding sites are among those that are most challenging to protect. With recent technological advances and increasing availability of animal movement data, it is possible to design effective protected areas for conservation. This project focuses on birds as indicators of wetland habitats to identify important areas for biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem services in South America. The objectives are 1) map wetland bird diversity and abundance based on aerial surveys and remote sensing; 2) identify foraging movements of wood storks and determine levels of structural and functional connectivity in wetland and mangrove habitats; 3) determine the value of wetland and mangrove ecosystem services (e.g. carbon storage, sediment deposition, availability of fresh water) and 4) identify priority areas for conservation that include landscape connectivity and deliver multiple ecosystem services. 


The project will use theoretical and practical ecological skills, remote sensing and statistics. You will explore existing datasets in GIS and/or using R, and investigate which environmental variables may influence species diversity and abundance. You will be trained to deploy state-of-the-art tracking devices that are being developed at UEA and will learn to analyse of animal movement data to inform the design of robust networks for wetland areas in South America.  


This is a multidisciplinary project linking ecology, ecological economics and use of new tracking technologies to create evidence-based conservation. You will join an active research group generating world-class, NERC-supported science ( and and an energetic ARIES cohort. You will be trained to deliver world-class science. Through the collaboration with Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and governmental and non-governmental organisations in Brazil, you will translate science and evidence into practical conservation measures.  

Person Specification:  

First degree in Environmental Sciences or Life Sciences.

In addition, a relevant MSc degree and/or relevant work experience will be advantageous.  

Funding notes:   

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020. Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area. For further information, please visit 

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