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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisor: Andrew Tanentzap (Plant Sciences)  

Importance of the area of research:

Protected areas deliver enormous benefits inside of their boundaries, but their contribution to the biodiversity of wider landscapes is poorly understood.  Meta-population theory predicts that protected areas may benefit landscape biodiversity and ecosystem processes as species move from core populations inside reserves into connected habitat patches nearby (Brudvig et al. 2009).  Testing this prediction with empirical data has important implications for policy as the 196 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are aiming to protect 17% of the world's land surface by 2020, leaving 83% highly fragmented and potentially vulnerable to species-loss.

Project summary:

This project will ask whether biodiversity, and its associated processes, move from protected areas (PAs) into surrounding habitat patches.  First, we will test how the abundance of individual birds and bird-dispersed tree species are spatially structured across ca. 55,000 ha of fragmented forest in South Island, New Zealand using advanced statistical models (Tanentzap & Lloyd 2017).  We will focus on how the traits of species influence spill-over and build meta-population models to estimate colonisation-extinction dynamics among habitat patches in relation to distance to the PA.  Second, we will relate the genetic structure of bird-dispersed seedlings to spatial landscape configuration using existing habitat maps.  There is also the potential to test empirically how intensive management of pests inside PAs influence their distribution in the surrounding landscape.

What the student will do:

The student will carry-out field work to supplement a large multi-year dataset of bird counts and existing forest plot measurements alongside local collaborators.  They will also deploy seed traps to monitor dispersal and collect material for subsequent population genetics analyses in relation to surrounding parent plants.  The student will lead the design of the population genetic study, identifying suitable markers and study species with guidance from the supervisor.  Finally, the student will carry out all of the lab work, bioinformatics, and statistical analyses.

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.


Brudvig, L.A. et al. 2009. Landscape connectivity promotes plant biodiversity spillover into non-target habitats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 106, pp.9328-9332. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0809658106

Tanentzap, A.J., Lloyd, K.M. 2017. Fencing in nature? Predator exclusion restores habitat for native fauna and leads biodiversity to spill over into the wider landscape. Biological Conservation, vol. 214, pp.119-126. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.08.001

Hanski, I. 2017. Ecological and genetic basis of metapopulation persistence of the Glanville fritillary butterfly in fragmented landscapes. Nature Communications, vol. 8, 14504. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14504

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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