The University of Exeter, in partnership with the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), is inviting applications for a NERC Industrial CASE-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2016 (or as soon as possible thereafter). For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of £14,296 for 3.5 years.The student will be based in Biosciences in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

This fully-funded studentship is a unique opportunity to address an emerging scientific challenge, and improve biodiversity monitoring and conservation. There are some 1800 species living in the UK that originate from elsewhere and have been introduced by humans. Some of these non-native species are classed as “invasive”, meaning they cause ruinous damage to ecosystems and/or threaten native species. However, another kind of non-native species has emerged: species that are colonising the UK without human assistance (“natural colonists”), often because climate change is creating suitable habitat for these species in the UK. Incidences of “natural” colonisation are on the rise as climate change progresses. It is increasingly suspected that some natural colonists might pose a serious threat to UK biodiversity and ecosystems. Other natural colonists may be innocuous additions to the UK’s biota or may even be threatened elsewhere and merit conservation in the UK.

The studentship will perform a comparative study of the impact of natural colonists and human-introduced non-natives, based on techniques that detect early-warning signals of invasive impacts. The studentship will also evaluate whether existing natural colonists should receive conservation attention. The practical outcome of the project will be to improve the monitoring of non-native species regardless of their origin. The broader scientific outcome will be to develop a decision-making framework for how to respond when species colonise areas outside their historical range.

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