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Transcript
Investigating the role of ecological interactions in shaping species
distributions and range shifts under climate change
Supervisors
Main supervisor: Doctor Orly Razgour (University of Bristol)
Co-supervisor: Professor William Symondson (Cardiff University)
Co-supervisor: Professor Justin Travis (
University of Aberdeen
)
Co-supervisor: Dr Javier Juste (
Doñana Biological Station (Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC), Seville, Spain
)
Project enquiries - Email: [email protected] Contact number: +44 (0) (+44) 0117 3941383
Host Institution: University of Bristol
Project description
A major scientific challenge this century is to understand how biodiversity will respond to global climate
change in face of anthropogenic habitat loss. Although mounting evidence shows that many species have
already responded by shifting their ranges and changing phenotypes, genotypes and phenology, individual
species’ responses are variable, suggesting that other factors may also play a role. Predictive species
distribution modelling offers an effective tool for forecasting how future climate change may alter global
species diversity and distributions. However, commonly used approaches have been criticised for being oversimplistic and failing to integrate key ecological and evolutionary processes that shape species ranges and
community structure, like interspecific ecological interactions and dispersal1.
We are looking for a highly-motivated student with good numerate skills to study the role of ecological
interactions in limiting species distributions, and how they can be incorporated into predictive modelling. This
multidisciplinary project will integrate methodologies from the fields of ecology, mathematical modelling and
molecular biology, and will have applied conservation management implications. The PhD student will:
1. Study fine-scale mechanisms of resource partitioning of habitat, space, and diet, using molecular tools to
construct ecological interaction networks and fine-scale spatial modelling.
2. Develop methods for incorporating interspecific interactions, from competition to predator-prey interactions,
into predictive species distribution models based on current and future climatic conditions.
3. Model multi-species range shifts under future climate change using individual-based demographic models,
taking into account species-specific movement patterns across the landscape and interactions between species.
This project will use sympatric cryptic bat species complexes from across the world as case studies. Bats are
important ecosystem components and providers of diverse ecosystem services. They are predicted to experience
distributional shifts and range contractions due to future climate change, which can result in considerable losses
of genetic diversity, compromising the evolutionary potential of some species2. This project includes fieldwork
in the Iberian Peninsula, where the effects of future climate change are predicted to be particularly severe, to
study fine-scale mechanisms of niche partitioning between the recently confirmed endemic bat species of the
Myotis nattereri species complex.
This project will advance our understanding of ecological interactions and provide novel modelling tools to
study the effects of future climate change on biodiversity. It includes training opportunities in GIS, spatial
statistics, ecological modelling, molecular ecology, bioinformatics and fieldwork techniques.
[1] Thuiller et al. (2013) Ecology Letters 16: 94-105
[2] Razgour et al. (2013) Ecology Letters 16: 1258-1266
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