I am always interested in hearing from prospective students or post-doctoral fellows based in the UK, or elsewhere, who wish to join the research group. There are a number of options, depending on the career stage and location of prospective lab members.
I strongly encourage women, queer, indigenous, and other minority group scholars to get in touch. I support flexible working hours and locations.
Contact me for information.
PhD studentship – The lost biodiversity of paradise: understanding avian extinctions on Lord Howe Island
Island ecosystems have suffered disproportionate biodiversity loss, and extant fauna are more threatened, and more poorly known than mainland counterparts. Human habitation of islands often results in the introduction of invasive species, the extinction of endemic native species, and altered nutrient pathways, and therefore contaminant burdens, in native biota.
Lord Howe Island, Australia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been inhabited since 1788. Despite its remoteness in the Tasman Sea, the islands’ ecosystem has been severely altered. Nine putatively endemic species or subspecies of bird have been confirmed extinct, with many more species now restricted to offshore islets. Species that persist on the main island are declining, and suffer considerable pressure from human-wildlife conflict, disturbance, and development.
Despite this long history, the circumstances around these extinctions are mostly anecdotal, and the taxonomic status of the lost populations is largely unknown.
This project aims to:
- Develop laboratory methods for reliably and successfully producing high-quality genomic data from museum specimens 100-200 years old.
- Place the extinct Lord Howe taxa in a phylogenetic and biogeographic context through genomic analysis of museum specimens.
- Inform the management of Lord Howe Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which may seek to reintroduce surrogate taxa following a planned rodent eradication.
- Understand the extinctions and historic pressures on the avian community through historical research and extinction date modelling.
- The supervisory team will work with the PhD candidate to determine the precise nature of the questions, depending on their scientific interests. While field work on Lord Howe is not guaranteed, it could form part of a funding bid once the candidate is in place. Participation in some collection-based work is expected, and there will be ample opportunities for conducting outreach/science communication activities with the NHM.
The Vertebrates Division at the Natural History Museum comprises 15 curators, 6 research scientists, and 10 PhD students. The candidate will split their time between a world-class molecular facility at NHM, using state-of-the-art techniques and actively engaging in methods development, and one of the largest avian museum collections in the world, home to >1 million specimens at the NHM’s Tring site. Further, visits to the co-supervisor (Dr Frank Hailer) at Cardiff University will provide ample opportunity for a broader training in evolutionary genetics, and engagement with the molecular ecology and genomics group there.
We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated candidate who is keen to develop expertise in bioinformatics and population genomics with an interest in applied conservation and management, birds, extinctions, restoration ecology, and island ecosystems. A background in evolutionary genetics and/or applied conservation is desired, and relevant training in statistics and/or programming, and science communication will be highly beneficial.
The candidate can be based at either the University of Cardiff or the Natural History Museum at Tring.
Applications are primarily open to UK residents only (minimum residence of 3 years excluding time in further education), however, a limited number of full studentships are also available to EU residents. All applicants need to comply with the registered university’s English-language requirements.
Applicants should have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master’s degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.
How to apply
Applications for the PhD are processed through the Natural History Museum.
To apply please send the following documents to the Postgraduate Office at firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Curriculum vitae.
- Covering letter outlining your interest in the PhD position, relevant skills training, experience and qualifications for the research, and a statement of how this PhD project fits your career development plans.
- Names of two academic referees.
The deadline for applications is 7 January 2019.
Start date: September 2019. Funded by the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership
Download the PDF of the advert here.
You can also check out my list of Languishing Projects.
Prospective Honours students
The NHM does not have a specific Honours research programme, but I am able to collaborate with faculty in the UK and overseas in co-supervising Honours students. Students must have a university supervisor, and be accepted into the Honours programme.
Prospective Masters students
The NHM participates in three masters-level courses where students complete short research projects:
- M.Sc. in Taxonomy and Biodiversity (Imperial College London)
- M.Res. in Biosystematics (Imperial College London)
- M.Res. in Biodiversity, Evolution, and Conservation (University College London)
Students must register in these courses, and select their project via the course coordinator, consulting the prospectus or list of projects distributed as part of the course. Students interested in pursuing these options are welcome to contact me before applying to inquire about potential projects, or propose their own (both subject to admission to the course, and approval of the course coordinator).
Prospective Ph.D. students
The NHM participates in a number of Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs):
- ACCE2 (NERC)
- GW4+ (NERC)
- INSPIRE (formally SPITFIRE; NERC)
- London (NERC)
- Oxford (NERC)
- SSCP (NERC)
- CENTA (NERC)
- ARIES (NERC)
- SEAHA (EPSRC)
- TECHNE (AHRC)
Depending on the DTP, there are varying arrangements, but prospective students will need a university-based primary supervisor. I can also co-supervise PhD students at other UK and international institutions on an ad hoc basis.
Prospective post-doctoral fellows
I am happy to discuss potential funding options for post-doctoral fellows through candidate-driven research council funding (e.g., NERC, NSERC, NSF, ARC, DAAD, etc.), or other funding sources (e.g., Marie Curie Fellowships).
Prospective students at the University of Tasmania
Students interested in research degrees (Honours, Masters, or Ph.D.) at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania, should contact me for more information and to discuss suitability.
I am always interested in hearing from prospective students or post-doctoral fellows who have research interests in (marine) ornithology, conservation, islands, and pollution topics. Students or researchers in other fields, including the arts, humanities, and social sciences, are also welcome to contact me about potential projects around the history of the collections, particular collectors or ornithological figures, sustainability of plastic use, or other topics.
In addition to the topics detailed below, several other projects are available, and prospective lab members are welcome to bring their own ideas. In particular, I welcome projects that make use of museum collections, or are desk-based.
Conservation status of large gulls (Larus spp.) in the North Atlantic
Despite being ubiquitous in costal and urban environments throughout the North Atlantic, the populations of many large species of gulls (Great Black-backed Gull, European Herring Gull, American Herring Gull) have declined significantly in the last 30 years, for a variety of reasons. Depending on the scope of project, location of the student, and time available, this desk-based project will examine the population trends of 1-3 species of large gull in the North Atlantic and reassess their global conservation status using recent counts, historical data, and unpublished surveys.
This project is ideal for a North American or UK Honours student, or a UK Masters student, where 6-9 months will be dedicated to the work. Honours and Masters students must be accepted into the programme. Students, or supervisors with prospective students are encouraged to contact me for more details.
(Sub)species delimitation in seabirds
Many widely-distributed seabirds have been classified into subspecies based on restricted ranges. Because subspecies designations are often used in local, regional, and national conservation planning and assessment, an understanding of the uniqueness and validity of these groups is essential. From a functional perspective, understanding how different populations respond to environmental conditions, and whether this differs among (sub)species can provide important insights into species’ ecology and conservation needs. Depending on the scope of project, location of the student, student’s interests, and time available, this project will look to assess the validity of subspecies in one or more species, using a combination of genetic, morphometric, and other methods. This project will rely primarily on museum collections, but there may be scope for limited field work (again, depending on the programme, student, and questions of interest).
This project is very flexible, and could be suitable for Honours, Masters, or PhD. students. Honours and Masters students must be accepted into the programme. Students, or supervisors with prospective students are encouraged to contact me for more details.