Students – ACCE 2 – Cohort 2

Eleanor Absalom

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jill Edmondson

Project Title: Understanding urban trees: form, function and vulnerability

Sylvan Benaksas

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Tom Webb

Project Title: Are we stealing food from the birds? Developing the evidence base to develop targets for ecologically sustainable fisheries

Research Interests: I am interested in studying the effects of fishing on marine ecosystems. My PhD project focuses on resource competition between seabirds and industrial fishing in the North Sea and the potential role this has played in regional decline in many seabird populations over the past 20 to 30 years. The research will quantify and model the mechanistic links between seabirds, their prey and the fisheries that target these fish, with the aim of providing evidence for sustainable fishing quotas. The project is in collaboration with Cefas and UKCEH.

Twitter: @HngryHngryBirdo

Chris Bousfield

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Prof David Edwards

Project Title: Impact of tropical selective logging on avian feeding interactions

Research Interests: My research focuses on the impacts of selective logging on avian diets and explores how logging induced dietary shifts might alter the structure of interaction networks in the forest, linking changes in food resources to changes in species abundance. My research will utilise the latest DNA sequencing techniques, using DNA metabarcoding to collect large datasets of bird diets, which I will use to assess the sub-lethal effects of selective logging on birds and the interaction networks of the wider forest community.

Poppy Collins

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Raj Whitlock

Project Title: The impacts of climate change on pollinator-plant interactions

Research Interests: Interactions between plants and pollinators are critical for the reproductive success of many plant species. My PhD thesis aims to investigate the impacts of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions, specifically on the phenology of flowering and reproductive success of plants, the quantity and quality of resources for pollinators, and the structure of the plant-pollinator networks. The methods that will be used include observational fieldwork, experimental climate manipulation of intact ecosystems, community weighted analysis and metabarcoding. The project will utilise the UK’s longest-running climate manipulation experiment at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab where a species-rich calcareous grassland has been subjected to different climate treatments including winter warming, summer watering, summer drought and combinations of these, over the past 28 years. The results produced from this project will contribute towards identifying & quantifying the effect of climate upon plants, pollinators and their interactions. Understanding these potential changes will be key to mitigating and adapting too, the impacts of climate change.

Twitter: @PollinatorPoppy

Joanne Cook

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Prof Lisa Emberson

Project Title: How will air pollution and climate change combine to impact future global food supply

Research Interests: My project will look at how the air pollutant ozone, and the impacts of climate change will affect nutrition security in India. To do this, I will modify the existing DO3SE (Deposition of Ozone for Stomatal Exchange) crop model to incorporate quality parameters, including protein concentration, within the wheat grain. Using the model with future ozone and climate scenarios in India will allow me to see the impact of these environmental variables on the quality of wheat crops. Once I have ascertained the impact on the quality of the crop, I hope to understand how a change in crop quality will impact on an individual’s nutrition security.

Twitter: @_JoCook

Sally Derrett

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Bob Johnston

Project Title: Future fens: using palaeoecology to inform restoration and conservation of the Lincolnshire Fenlands

Research Interests: My research interests are based around reconstructing past environmental changes and investigating human-environment interactions in prehistoric landscapes, and their relevance to future conservation strategies. My PhD will use palaeoecological research techniques to investigate how the Lincolnshire Fenland environment has developed and changed in response to climate, sea level and anthropogenic influences throughout the Holocene. The project is a collaboration between the Archaeology Department at the University of Sheffield, the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, who are CASE partners.

Hazel Farthing

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr David Montagnes

Project Title: Disease control and conservation: applying grazing pressure to solve ‘the world’s worst wildlife infectious disease’

Research Interests: My research examines the dynamics by which microorganisms may be able to control infectious diseases through grazing. Specifically, I am investigating top-down control by protozoa on the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a devastating amphibian pathogen. This applied grazing pressure may have the potential to reduce the likelihood or severity of disease outbreaks caused by Bd.
Interactions between pathogens and their host’s microbiome may lead to reduced disease transmission. Therefore, the focus of my PhD is to determine the role of the protozoan community within the amphibian microbiome, and characterise both the predator-prey and pathogen-host dynamics.

Chris Fitzpatrick

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Julia Ferrari

Project Title: The aphid microbiome: ecological and evolutionary dynamics of multispecies interactions

Jessie Foest

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Andrew Hacket-Pain

Project Title: Understanding the response of variability in tree reproduction (masting) to climatic and environmental change

Research Interests: Many plant populations produce remarkably different quantities of seed each year. The resulting seed resource pulses have profound effects on the establishment of seedlings, forest dynamics, and food webs. The mechanisms driving this variability are thought to rely directly or indirectly on climate. My project investigates how inter-annual variability in seed production has responded to recent changes in climate, and seeks to predict future changes in masting. I am particularly interested in understanding how temporal variability of seed production differs between plant species and ecosystems. My project will use the MASTREE+ dataset, which can be explored via my Shiny App.

Twitter: @FoestJessie

Clare Jones

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Jane Hurst

Project Title: Reducing harm to wildlife from rodent pest control strategies

Research Interests: I am interested in ecology and conservation, with particular emphasis on the behaviour of small mammals in relation to pest control. There is a global reliance on anticoagulant rodenticides for the management of invasive rodents. These compounds are not species specific and this leads to the poisoning of many non-target species such as bank voles, field voles and wood mice. If these animals are then eaten by a predator, secondary poisoning can occur. My project aims to understand the interactions between non-targets and pest control strategies and to identify the impacts these strategies are having on non-targets. From this we hope to develop mitigation which can be applied to pest control. There is a need to manage invasive rodents but we must find a way that is effective and reduces the harm to wildlife.

Louisa Mamalis

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Colin Beale

Project Title: Landscapes for the conservation of the Giant Ibis in Cambodia

Research Interests: My project is looking at the conservation of the giant ibis which is a critically endangered bird that lives in Cambodia. Historically it was present all across southeast Asia but now its populations (~200 adults) are confined solely to northern and eastern Cambodia. Alongside the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) I will be looking in more detail at the threats to the populations and solutions that can be implemented to increase its numbers in the future. The main aim is develop an updated conservation management plan for the giant ibis.

I will be focusing on the loss of water holes which are an important resource to the giant ibis. I will be using satellite imagery and field data to analyse the change in water holes over time and the dominant drivers in the loss of these water holes. I will be examining the impact of changing weather conditions such as precipitation, as well as the influence of land use changes such as conversion of land for agriculture and the influence of distance to roads and villages on water hole persistence.

My project will also be examining the influence of the reintroduction of native water buffalo. In recent decades the number of large herbivores has declined sharply due to habitat loss and hunting. WCS have begun a small scale water buffalo reintroduction project to explore how the reintroduction of these large ungulates can affect water holes. It is predicted that large ungulates help to maintain water holes through trampling, wallowing and eating vegetation. They deepen and expand the water holes and reduce the encroachment of vegetation around the water holes increasing access to water by other smaller species such as the giant ibis.

I also hope to explore population dynamics through use of large scale acoustic monitoring and through GPS tagging young giant ibis chicks to explore habitats they are using and why they are not surviving to adulthood. The low level survival success of young giant ibis is another driving factor of their decline.

Eve Merrall

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Green

Project Title: Assessing multiple pressures on seabirds

Samuel Morris

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Paula Stockley

Project Title: Female competition and maternal effects in a social mammal

Research Interests: I am interested in phenotypic plasticity and how animals are able to rapidly adapt to their changing environments. In my PhD I will focus on how varying levels of female competition and maternal competitive phenotypes influence maternal effects in a social mammal.

Helen Mylne

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Dan Franks

Project Title: The impact of social relationships on crop raiding in male African savannah elephants

Peter Price

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Alison Wright

Project Title: The evolution and genetics of sexual dimorphism

Research Interests: My main interests are in evolutionary models and how they can be used to understand the evolutionary past and evolvability of systems and/or species. I’m currently working to assess how the varying cellular composition of tissues across phylogenies can affect transcriptomic datasets generated from whole-tissue RNAseq and, in turn, how this can bias predictions from models of transcriptional evolution. Hopefully, after this, we’ll use our findings to investigate the dynamics guiding splicing and regulatory network evolution within the context of sexual dimorphism.

Twitter: @PeterDPrice

Camille Riley

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stewart Plaistow

Project Title: Does phenotypic plasticity help or hinder rapid adaptation?

Research Interests: My PhD project seeks to understand the complex interaction between adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity: the ability of a single genotype to express different phenotypes in response to environmental change. Life truly is plastic, yet whether this short-term flexibility helps or hinders long-term evolutionary change is debated, particularly in the context of novel, human-induced environments. Using the model organism Daphnia, I hope to contribute vital empirical data to this question, elucidating the mechanisms by which populations respond to our rapidly changing world.

Twitter: @camillelriley

Joshua Sammy

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Prof Chris Thomas

Project Title: The dynamics of insect biodiversity in novel British landscapes

David Scott

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stephen Cornell

Project Title: Designing landscapes that are robust to climate change

Harriet Sleight

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Sylvia Toet

Project Title: Pharmaceuticals in agriculture – Assessing the impacts of wastewater irrigation on crop production and soil health

Research Interests: My PhD combines the fields of environmental chemistry, soil science and ecotoxicology to investigate the impacts of pharmaceuticals on the environment. I am particularly interested in the impacts of pharmaceuticals on the health of agricultural soils and crops and how this might affect future food security.

Jack Walker

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Kate Parr

Project Title: Global insect declines? Assessing the resilience of urban insects

Research Interests: My research aims to assess the resilience of urban insects by quantifying trends in insect morphology and behaviour across an urban-rural gradient to provide an insight into the traits that facilitate persistence at different intensities of urbanization. I am also interested in the impacts of urbanization on insect-mediated ecosystem processes and use stable isotope analysis to investigate variation in urban insect diets.

Amber Wood-Bailey

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Alana Sharp

Project Title: Evolution of unique skull morphology and function in lagomorphs: a combined effect of locomotion and mastication?

Research Interests: My project looks at a unique cranial characteristic in leporid lagomorphs (rabbits and hares). The leporid cranium features the only known instance of organised cranial kinesis in Mammalia, arising from an intracranial joint which extends around the latter portion of the braincase (Bramble, 1989). This is most elaborate in the genus Lepus, a group known for their high-speed (up to 75mph) and vertical “observation jumping” (up to 4.5m). It has been hypothesised that this trait may act as a shock-absorbing mechanism to minimise the effects of large impulsive loads associated with this locomotory form. However, this has not been tested using modern in silico biomechanical techniques (such as finite element analysis). Other potential functions such as feeding and burrowing have also not been explored fully.

Twitter: @apwoodbailey

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