Microclimate, microrefugia, and species persistence in a changing climate. Self funded Biosciences PhD Ref: 3196

About the Research Project


Primary Supervisor: Dr Ilya Maclean, University of Exeter 
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Regan Early, University of Exeter

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

Project Description:
Over the last 15 years coarse-scale species distribution models have been widely used to predict ecological responses to climate change. Results from these models suggest catastrophic consequences for life on earth, predicting for example, that by 2050, between 15 and 37% of species will be committed to extinction. Thus far, however, climate change has been implicated as a major cause of the extinction of just nine species. Mounting evidence from palaeoecology provides a compelling explanation for this discrepancy. Many species survived periods of rapid climate change in microrefugia: locations with suitable microclimate that would be missed entirely by coarse-scale models. To date, research in this emerging field has been hampered by a limited ability to model climate change and variability at a sufficiently fine resolution, and the lack of long-term high-resolution biological data with which to validate models. Building on our previous work, this project will utilise recent advances in remote-sensing and microclimatic modelling, to identify the microclimatic characteristics and locations of microrefugia. The student obtain field measurements of microclimate, collect field data and the distribution of species and develop and apply high-resolution bioclimate models to identify the places that are likely to serve as microrefugia.

There is scope to apply the models and approaches to many systems and we are happy to discuss potential study systems with prospective candidates. Our current and previous research focuses on plant, bird and butterfly communities in the UK, the Falkland Islands, Uganda, Finland and South Africa. We are particularly keen to extend the work to areas with high species endemism, including the Canaries and Azores, Easter Arc Mountains in Tanzania and tropical Andes.

Outputs, in addition to scientific content will include policy recommendations that promote biodiversity conservation. Candidate will have a degree in ecology or a related subject, be numerically and statistically adept, good natural history skills, and have experience of GIS and/or remote-sensing. Willingness to undertake extensive fieldwork, potentially in remote areas, is essential.

Project costs:
Please note, there are bench fees associated with this project. Approximately £14,000 to cover research costs and travel budget throughout the project. For more information on these costs, please contact the lead supervisor: Dr Ilya Maclean.

Things to consider:
Information about current fees : https://www.exeter.ac.uk/pg-research/money/fees/
Information about possible funding sources: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/pg-research/money/alternativefunding/
Information about Doctoral Loans: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/pg-research/money/phdfunding/postgraduatedoctoralloans/

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr Ilya Maclean

Entry requirements

You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree from a UK university, or equivalent, in Ecology or a related subject.  Good numerical skills and experience of conducting fieldwork are desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.


How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and two academic references. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project. You may also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

Please quote reference 3196 on your application and in any correspondence about this project.


Application deadline:24th September 2018
Value:This project is self-funded
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: PGR Enquiries pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk