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ENV East Doctoral Training Partnership

 

Applications to the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership are now closed.

Below you can browse some of the PhD projects we have previously funded; if you would like to be informed when applications open, or if you have any questions about EnvEast and our application process, please email us.

Projects previously funded by EnvEast

DAVIES_UBIO16EE

Effects of farmland management on functional traits and pollination ecology of bee and hoverfly assemblages (CASE award with Conservation Grade)

Project description

Scientific background and rationale
With the widespread intensification of agriculture, a key concern has been the decline in abundance and diversity of insect pollinators and their associated pollination services. This has stimulated a range of farmland management interventions within agri-environment schemes both in the UK and elsewhere. Yet the benefits of one intervention over another, for the structure and functioning of insect pollinator assemblages, is neither proven nor well understood.

This exciting project will combine cutting-edge community and molecular ecology approaches to address this gap in knowledge for farmland bee and hoverfly assemblages. The student will first assess the level of between- and within-species variation in key functional traits such as tongue length, across multiple farmland sites. The extent to which flower species specialism can be predicted from individual variation in such traits will be tested. This will be achieved using state-of-the-art molecular tools in pollen analysis. Since pollinator efficiency is partly a function of level of flower specialism of individual insects, we will test how the latter varies in relation to total pollinator niche width of species. Establishing the influence and efficacy of management interventions such as floristic enhancement on pollinator assemblage structure and functioning, is a major theme underpinning the work.

Research methodology and training
The student will carry out and receive training in: ecological field-sampling design and Malaise trapping of bees and hoverflies across East Anglia; morphological taxonomic methods for bees, hoverflies and wildflower pollen samples; insect morphometric measurement and literature searches for collection of functional trait data; use and refinement of DNA barcoding methods for identifying pollen associated with multiple individual insect samples; computational and statistical methods in R and ArcGIS software; preparation of outputs for peer-reviewed publication.

References
Bolnick, D. I. et al. 2003. The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization. The American Naturalist 161:1-28.

Meier, R. et al. 2015. $1 DNA barcodes for reconstructing complex phenomes and finding rare species in specimen-rich samples. Cladistics on line early.

Morandin, L.A. & Kremen, C. 2013 Hedgerow restoration promotes pollinator populations and exports native bees to adjacent fields. Ecological Applications 23: 829–839.

Wood, T. J. et al. 2015. Pollinator-friendly management does not increase the diversity of farmland bees and wasps. Biological Conservation 187: 120–126.

Co-Supervisors

Prof Andrew Bourke (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Prof Douglas Yu (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Mr Brin Hughes (Conservation Grade; CASE supervisor)

  • Start date September 2016