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:
Being part of the research community has helped me gain a number of new skills, particularly within the statistical programming language of R.
Each year, 57 million non-native gamebirds are released into the UK countryside for recreational shooting. This number vastly exceeds any other gamebird release in Europe or North America, with released Ring-necked pheasant and red-legged partridge representing more than twice the biomass of all native UK breeding birds combined. The increasing number of gamebirds released in the UK has triggered questions about the ecological impacts of this activity amongst conservationists, policymakers and within the shooting community itself. While there is evidence that game estate management can benefit biodiversity, questions remain about potential ecological impacts of gamebird release on native fauna and flora. Anecdotal evidence suggests that gamebird release may be having negative impacts on protected species of reptile, but conclusive studies are lacking. Understanding the impacts of large-scale releases of gamebirds represents a major challenge.
Conservation areas are vital for conserving nature (Golden Kroner et al, 2019) but research on their effectiveness typically only focuses on state-managed protected areas (Butchart et al, 2015). This is changing, with case-studies showing that privately- and community-managed conservation areas can play a key role. However, we lack spatial data (e.g., accurate locations, boundaries) on these non-state conservation areas, so cannot fully understand how they contribute to conserving global biodiversity. Collecting such data for every country is a long-term process (Bingham et al, 2019), so DICE-led research has developed a new sampling methodology based on a representative subset of countries. This studentship will test and refine this new approach, collecting additional data and testing hypotheses to better understand how different types of conservation area help meet global targets for landscape connectivity and biodiversity representation.
At a time of biodiversity loss, including widely reported insect declines, citizen science data play a vital role in measuring changes in species’ populations and distributions and in seeking to understand the pressures influencing such changes. Lepidoptera respond quickly to habitat and climatic change, and hence are valuable biodiversity indicators. In the UK, millions of species occurrence records for Lepidoptera have been gathered by two large citizen science recording schemes, of which the full potential has not been fully realized. Analysing recording data of this nature presents unique challenges relating to their vast quantity but also associated sampling biases. Using cutting edge modelling, this project will maximise these valuable datasets to enhance our understanding of species’ phenology (flight periods), distribution and range dynamics to help inform future conservation delivery and policy for UK butterflies and moths.