About

PhD project: Monitoring responses of tropical vertebrates to land-use change using acoustic technologies

Forest clearance and land-use change are major threats to tropical biodiversity in Southeast Asia. However, much of this diversity still remains poorly understood. Borneo is one of the world’s richest areas of bat diversity. They constitute ~40% of the island’s land mammal diversity and are integral to its ecosystem functioning. 

Despite this, limitations in survey design and surveying effort means that less than half of these species have been assessed by the IUCN RedList. As such, there is a lack of sufficient information on how environmental change is affecting their populations and the corresponding consequences this is having on ecosystem functionality. It is vital for the inclusion of these species in land-use change impact studies as threats to tropical forests expand across Borneo. 

This study seeks to assess the effectiveness of using bioacoustics to determine the effects of land-use change on tropical biodiversity and ecosystem function, focusing on bat species in Malaysian Borneo. Reference calls will be collected from the field and from secondary reference libraries to train an automated pipeline capable of recognising relevant species. This method will then be compared against traditional live-capture techniques to determine the best protocol for monitoring Borneo’s bat fauna. In addition, both techniques will be used to investigate population- and community-level impacts for bat species along land-use disturbance gradients in Sabah. 

This project is linked to NERC’s Human-modified Tropical Forests programme and the research findings aim to inform future conservation efforts, supporting Southeast Asia’s bat research priorities. The project will involve collaboration between DICE, Dr Kyle Armstrong (Specialised Zoological) and Dr Tigga Kingston (Texas Tech University). 

Natalie Yoh is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology and the Tropical Defaunation Hub

Supervisor(s)

Dr Matthew Struebig
Dr Jake Bicknell

Funding

NERC EnvEast PhD Scholarship

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