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What drives urban community assembly in northern Amazonia? (DAVIES_KDICE17EE) - CASE project with Protected Areas Commission, Government of Guyana

Project description


Urban areas are home to >50% of the global human population. Future urbanisation is predicted to be rapid, posing a major challenge to biodiversity conservation and human welfare, particularly in the developing world. 

Study system

Guyana is a highly biodiverse developing country in northern Amazonia. With >80% of land still forested, it is an ideal system for investigating the ecological impacts of urbanisation.

Aim & novelty 

Nearly all urban ecological research has been conducted in temperate Europe/North America, with few studies from the tropics. Understanding what drives community assembly and responsiveness to different ecological/anthropogenic filters in novel ecosystems is a fundamental question that remains unanswered. Additionally, it is critically important for informing on-the-ground biodiversity conservation efforts.


1. Assess the different communities occurring spatially across Georgetown, capital of Guyana, and surrounding natural forest ecosystems. 

2. Examine functional trait variation within these communities, and the extent to which they are ecologically/functionally filtered relative to surrounding forests and regional species pool.

3. Test the common assumption that phylogenetic diversity is suitable proxy for functional diversity, using a taxon for which phylogenetic data is readily available.

Substantial fieldwork will be required to survey communities and habitats. Multiple focal faunal taxa will be used, based on CASE partner needs and the interests of the student. 

Methods & training

Transferable skills (e.g. communication, time management, collaboration with government and NGO partners)

Analytical skills (e.g. spatial analyses in ArcGIS/QGIS, statistical modelling in R including state-of-the-art functional trait approaches; e.g. convex hull, n-dimensional hypervolume and trait probability density methods)

Academic skills (e.g. writing peer-reviewed journal papers, giving conference presentations, academic interdisciplinary collaboration). 

Person specification

We seek a highly motivated individual excited by the prospect of conducting cutting-edge research with real-world application. The successful candidate will have an MSc in conservation/ecology/zoology/environmental sciences, strong analytical skills and tropical fieldwork experience. He/she will need to demonstrate enthusiasm for working collaboratively with social scientists, conservation NGOs and government agencies.


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners. 

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview day on the 14/15 February 2017

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17 the stipend was £14,296

For further information, please visit


Dr Jake Bicknell (DICE)

Dr Richard Davies (UEA)

Damian Fernandes (Protected Areas Commission, Government of Guyana).

  • Start date 1 October 2017
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study full time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years
Entry requirements
  • Acceptable First Degree conservation/ecology/zoology/environmental sciences
  • Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Honours degree