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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisors: Edgar Turner (Zoology) and David Aldridge (Zoology

Importance of the area of research:

Southeast Asia includes four of the world's identified 'biodiversity hotspots', but has experienced very widespread rainforest disturbance by logging, as well as conversion of forest to agriculture. As of 2010, the region had lost 70% of its lowland forest, with large areas being heavily degraded. Such land-use change has substantial impacts on freshwater ecosystems and can cause changes in water flow rates, sediment and organic matter input, and light. All of these factors can have negative effects on the abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates, with changes in community assemblage being widely recorded. However, management strategies, such as maintaining forest margins by the side of waterways, may reduce some of these negative impacts, providing a pragmatic option for conservation of aquatic systems in modified tropical forest landscapes.

Project summary:

This project will assess the effectiveness of conserving different widths of river margins on aquatic macroinvertebrates and associated ecosystem functions in tropical forest landscapes. Based in the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project landscape in Sabah, Malaysia, this project will investigate the impacts of a recent wide-scale logging event on river margin and aquatic biodiversity, and associated ecosystem processes. Uniquely, the project will draw on detailed historical data from the area, collected before the recent disturbance, to allow a before-after comparison. Results from the work will add substantially to existing knowledge of tropical riverine ecosystems, as well as provide results of real relevance to land management and rainforest restoration.

What the student will do:

The student will carry out surveys on a range of different environmental factors, aquatic taxa and ecosystem processes on rivers throughout the SAFE landscape. Lab work will include identification of insect specimens, with support from the Insect Ecology Group and use of facilities and material in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. The student will also have access to insect specimens and data on ecosystem processes collected before the recent round of logging in the area, allowing a before-after comparison of the effects of widespread logging for timber extraction.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Luke, S.H., Nainar A., Walsh R.P.D., Bidin K., Barclay H., Chey V.K., Ewers R.M., Foster W.A., Pfeifer M., Reynolds G., Turner E.C. & Aldridge D.C. 2017. The effects of catchment and riparian forest quality on stream environmental conditions across a tropical rainforest and oil palm landscape in Malaysian Borneo. Ecohydrology, vol. 10, e1827., DOI: 10.1002/eco.1827

uke S.H., Dow R.A., Butler S., Chey V.K., Aldridge D.C., Foster W.A. & Turner E.C. 2017. The impacts of habitat disturbance on adult and larval dragonflies (Odonata) in rainforest streams in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Freshwater Biology, vol. 62, pp.491–506., DOI: 10.1111/fwb.12880

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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