Advanced Research and Innovation in the Environmental Sciences
The University of Kent is proud to be part of the Advanced Research and Innovation in the Environmental Sciences (ARIES) Doctoral Training Partnership which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). ARIES will equip the next generation of environmental scientists with the knowledge and tools to better understand and manage our planet by:
ARIES is built upon scientific excellence within five overlapping research themes, click on a theme below for more information:
Deforestation and forest degradation are key causes of carbon emissions and biodiversity decline in tropical countries. Tackling these challenges requires innovative ways to manage disturbed habitats. Ecosystem restoration licenses (ERLs) offer a commercial mechanism through which degraded forest can be restored back to ecological equilibrium. Pioneered by Indonesia, ERLs could herald an era of improved forest management across the tropics. Nonetheless, key questions remain regarding their effectiveness.
RSPB's Harapan Rainforest restoration project in Sumatra provides an excellent case study, as the first ERL in Indonesia operating for 95-years. This PhD will examine the likely effectiveness of ERLs in achieving positive ecological outcomes (e.g. carbon storage, biodiversity and forest regeneration) and how best to finance these objectives at Harapan.
Understanding predictors of extinction risk is crucial to address the global biodiversity crisis. Whilst ecological predictors of extinction are well-known, the impact of genomic diversity is less-well understood. Reference genomes and resequencing data for many hundreds of species have become available to guide conservation, and the next challenge is to integrate these data with detailed ecological data and IUCN Red List of these species.
This PhD project will (i) identify and study genome features that can predict extinction risk across two well-studied groups of birds, parrots (Psittaciformes, 421 species) and falcons (Falconiformes, 66 species), and (ii) test whether immunogenomic diversity (and other genomic features) can predict species-specific differences in susceptibility to two viruses that are emerging infectious diseases.
The parrots and falcons share a recent evolutionary history and yet comprise the full range of Red List status, from non-threatened to extinct species, as well as highly invasive species. In this PhD studentship we ask the question what makes species vulnerable to extinction, and what makes others such successful invaders? Furthermore, each group of birds harbours a well-documented viral pathogen; Beak and Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) in Psittaciformes and Falcon adenovirus in Falconiformes. Closely related species differ markedly in their susceptibility to these viruses (i.e., mortality rate), and the PhD student will determine what underpins these differences.