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PhD Studentship: Restoring Biodiversity and Functional Connectivity in Sumatra's Community Managed Forests

University of Kent

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Canterbury
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,668 stipend plus fees and research funding
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 31st October 2022
Closes: 11th January 2023
Reference: STRUEBIG_K23ARIES

Qualification Type: PhD – funded by NERC/ARIES

University of Kent – Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation   Supervisory team contact – Dr Matthew Struebig

Scientific background: Land-use change and resource extraction continue to impact tropical forests, bringing negative consequences for biodiversity and ecological functions. The UN Decade on Restoration seeks positive outcomes in these degraded forests for biodiversity, climate change and people. However, this ‘triple win’ will be hard to achieve due to several ongoing challenges. 

Need: The immense ecological challenges of restoration aside, interventions are plagued by insufficient monitoring data, making it difficult to evaluate whether long-term environmental benefits can be achieved. The time, expertise and personnel required to monitor forests and biodiversity using conventional methods are too high to be cost-effective. While remote sensing technologies have greatly improved forest monitoring, technological applications to facilitate biodiversity monitoring in tropical countries have yet to be fully investigated in restoration settings. Biodiversity is often assumed to simply return after habitats are restored, with very little supporting evidence – the so called ‘field of dreams’ hypothesis.

Objective: This PhD project will address this by developing efficient methodologies for monitoring biodiversity in newly-established forest restoration settings in Indonesia.

Training: The student will undertake some of the first ecological surveys of animal biodiversity and habitat functionality in community-managed forests in Sumatra. They will use remote-sensing technologies (camera trapping and/or bioacoustics) to sample the vertebrate community in restoration versus control areas, and use these data to develop biodiversity indicators for continued monitoring. They will also utilise satellite-based data to help define forest degradation and regeneration, and use this information to map functional connectivity at the landscape scale. They will have opportunity to validate these data from other sources, compare restoration treatments and/or track variation in biodiversity outcomes over the timeframe of the project.

The project is embedded within a new collaboration between the University of Kent and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, with conservation practitioners and local communities in Indonesia. The team are developing an evidence-base for forest restoration and effective monitoring, while helping communities access funding. The PhD results therefore have strong potential to influence environmental practices on the ground.

Person specification: The successful candidate will have experience of ecological fieldwork, strong analytical skills (including GIS), and be familiar with sustainability policies relevant to tropical countries.

Candidates should apply by 12:00 am (UK time) on 11th January 2023 using the online application form.

For more information regarding eligibility etc., please see the ARIES doctoral training programme website.

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