How is environmental change shaping the future of Southeast Asia’s top predators? (GROOMBRIDGE_KDICE17EE) - CASE project with TRACE wildlife forensics network
With widespread habitat fragmentation occurring across human-dominated landscapes, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how environmental change affects connectivity and gene flow in wide-ranging large carnivores. The elusive nature of big cats makes them particularly challenging for obtaining comprehensive data on population status across human-modified landscapes, yet their top-predator status means they act as ‘singing canaries’ highlighting the vulnerability of other biodiversity to human disturbance. This study will use the Malayan tiger as a focal species to explore the impacts of environmental change on small populations by generating new spatial genetic data from tiger faecal samples in Malaysia, and combine this with ecological forecasting to predict how populations respond in the face of future change.
Research questions and methodology
1. How will populations change under future environmental, habitat and management scenarios, and what are the key drivers of change?
The student will combine existing climatic, landscape, and tiger occupancy data and use advanced spatially-explicit modelling techniques and resource selection approaches to explore patterns of change in population status and distribution.
2. To what extent do external factors affect gene flow and how do landscape barriers align with potential areas for habitat connectivity?
The student will conduct field surveys in peninsular Malaysia to collect faecal samples for DNA extraction and genotyping and integrate this new genetic information with environmental and occupancy data to identify potential dispersal corridors.
The student will have access to a rich array of specialist training and support at DICE (https://www.kent.ac.uk/dice/), including expertise on climate and landscape-change assessment in Southeast Asia (Dr Struebig), and optimised methods for tiger landscape genetics (Dr Groombridge). In Malaysia, the student will receive field survey support under Rimba, and be a part of international scientific collaboration through Panthera. In-country expertise on DNA techniques will be available through CASE partner TRACE.
An ambitious and independent student, who wishes to develop their skills in landscape genetics and international large carnivore conservation. The ideal applicant will have a postgraduate qualification in wildlife biology or similar subject, with previous research experience in Southeast Asia, carnivore biology, and population/habitat modelling.
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 www.enveast.ac.uk/apply.
Dr Matthew Struebig (DICE)
Dr Rob Ogden (TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network)
- Start date 1 October 2017
- Programme PhD
- Mode of Study full time
- Studentship Length 3.5 years
- Acceptable First Degree wildlife biology or similar subject
- Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Honours degree