Examining biodiversity changes in UK butterflies and moths

Supervisor:  Professor Jane Hill (Biology)

Co-supervisors:  Dr David Roy (CEH Wallingford) & Professor Chris Thomas (Biology) & Richard Fox (Butterfly Conservation)

Project description

Human-caused environmental change is altering the distribution of species, but there is considerable variation in the responses of species to these changes. This project will examine the relative importance of climate and habitat change on UK Lepidoptera over the past century, and examine spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity change. The increased availability of long-term data on moth and butterfly biodiversity, combined with climate data and habitat change information, provide the first opportunity to carry out this study. Outputs from the project will quantify the extent to which species ranges have changed, and the factors associated with Lepidoptera range dynamics. The relationships between changes in distributions of butterflies and moths to past spatio-temporal changes in climate and land use will then be used to project biodiversity under future scenarios of climate and habitat change.

The project will highlight areas where biodiversity has declined and increased the most, testing new fundamental ecological questions about the maintenance of biodiversity, as well as providing information for UK policy developers and NGOs wishing to better-understand past and future impacts of environmental change.

The project will examine:

  • The relative importance of habitat change and climate change in determining changes in UK Lepidoptera biodiversity;
  • Relationships between alpha and beta diversity at small and large spatial resolutions, and over time;
  • Spatial and temporal changes in Lepidoptera community composition.
  • Project future changes in biodiversity to identify species and locations predicted to be most affected by key drivers of change.

The project will provide opportunities for the student to develop analytical skills by collating and analysing existing data, and they will also carry out field work to collect new empirical data. The project will quantify changes in alpha and beta diversity in the UK since 1900s, and relate these changes to changes in climate and habitat. The project will link temporal and spatial changes in biodiversity, and associations with key environmental drivers of change, capitalising on the availability of biodiversity, climate and habitat information for the UK over the past century. Outputs from the analyses will be tested with new field data, at selected sites and habitat types in the UK, and used to make projections of biodiversity under future scenarios of climate and habitat changes.

Funding:  This is a NERC ACCE DTP studentship fully funded for 3.5 years and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,533 for 2017-2018, to be confirmed for 2018-2019), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

The studentship is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. 

We strongly encourage you to email the project supervisor prior to submitting an application to discuss your suitability for this project.  Please email: jane.hill@york.ac.uk

Please read the 'How to apply' tab before submitting your application.

Applications are now closed.

Interviews will be held on Thursday 15 February 2018 and Monday 19 February 2018