Reconfiguring seascapes in the Anthropocene: assessing how connectivity pathways maintain biodiversity


Anthropogenic activities are changing ecosystems worldwide – manifested as mass extinctions, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. These impacts are driven, in part, by the replacement of natural habitats with man-made structures, resulting in lost or reduced coherence of ecological networks as landscapes become increasingly fragmented and reconfigured, disrupting connecting pathways. 
Several international policies (e.g. Convention for Biological Diversity and UN Decade of Action) call for solutions to reverse biodiversity decline and promote sustainable development, and specifically highlight efforts to maintain and protect connectivity. However, our understanding of how habitat reconfiguration/fragmentation disrupts the dispersive networks and connections that ecologically are recognised as fundamental to the maintenance and persistence of existing biodiversity/marine communities remains a largely unexplored topic and a NERC research priority. 

The project

This studentship will explore ecological connectivity in marine systems and significantly advance understanding of the role of multi-species dispersal in biodiversity maintenance and functioning across seascapes. Expected outcomes include a better theoretical understanding of the drivers of change in biodiversity and community structure, in turn informing applied conservation practices. To address this challenge, the student will draw on remote-sensed data (e.g. habitat mapping), have the opportunity to undertake field surveys to describe the distribution of contemporary marine communities, and develop highly sought-after numerical and analytical skills in ecological and hydrodynamic modelling. 
Based in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences and the University of Plymouth (number one in the world for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 'Life Below Water'; Times Higher Impact Rankings 2021), you'll join an established and vibrant research group of undergraduate and postgraduate students associated with the supervisors, and a wider welcoming community of staff and students. 
During the project, you will build independence and expertise through research leadership including project management and scientific communication (i.e. publications and conference presentations) and receive project-specific bespoke training in field sampling, marine taxonomy, numerical methods, experimental design/statistics, ecological/hydrodynamic modelling from all of the supervisory team, the University and collaborative (e.g. Met Office) institutions, and wider training. 
The applicant should have a degree in marine biology/ecology, oceanography or a related discipline. Desirable skills include numeracy, programming, and statistics (e.g. R and MATLAB).