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Assessing demographic resilience of tropical and temperate reef organisms


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Dr Maria Beger
Additional supervisors
Dr Josh Firth; Dr Rob Salguero-Gomez
School of Biology
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The School of Biology invites applications from postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for a PhD in marine ecology to study reef tropicalisation in 2024/25. Adapt, move, or die. These are the three options that reef organisms have as the environment around them changes, such as that happening under ongoing climate change. Global warming facilitates range shifts of tropical corals towards colder high-latitude temperate reefs, but it is unclear to what degree corals &ndash; and other organisms &ndash; can mould their life history strategies to cope with such marginal conditions. Evaluating this question relies on capturing the rates of growth, recruitment, and survival of hundreds of corals across multiple locations, strategically situated along a thermal gradient.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Within this research agenda, there is a choice between two main trances of investigation:</p> <p>A)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;AI Driven Data Collection: Focus on AI to support coral image analyses to support faster and larger scale data collection, or</p> <p>B)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Quantifying Reef Dynamics: Focus on quantitative analyses of short-term and long-term dynamics of reef corals and other biota.</p> <p>A) AI Driven Data Collection: The analytical and time requirements for digitising photographic records currently form a major bottleneck to ecological forecasting, so automating the data collection and analysis process by training computer AI algorithms is key to analyse coral images showing how corals change over time. The specific PhD projects goals could be:</p> <p>A1. Develop coral recognition deep learning pipelines designed to characterise and model coral life history strategies, working with a unique dataset containing time-series data for 7 years that follows individual corals through live annually.</p> <p>A2. Automate the recognition and fusion of multiple underwater photographs at different spatial scales and timepoints, from individuals to communities, to build digital twins of reef systems that you can then interrogate for ecological questions.</p> <p>B) Quantifying Reef Dynamics: Thermal stress events that lead to coral bleaching and wide-spread mortality are transforming coral communities both in the tropics and in marginal high-latitude refugia. New fine-scale thermal stress data, linking remote sensing, loggers and climate models can elucidate how thermal environments affect coral population and community dynamics, but such fine-scale factors remain unexplored. The specific PhD projects goals could be:</p> <p>B1. Develop IPM models that project the performance and fate of coral populations under climate change, working with a unique dataset containing time-series data for 7 years that follows individual corals through live annually.</p> <p>B2. Predict the future of coral communities by linking the population trajectories of multiple coral species, accounting for fine-scale climate exposure and biotic factors such as competition.</p> <p>We expect candidates to highlight the plan of investigation they are most interested in and prepared to undertake in their application, please submit a mini-proposal to outline your ideas. Applicants need to have a relevant MSc, be quantitatively inclined, and hold an advanced SCUBA diving qualification (PADI Divemaster or equivalent).&nbsp;</p> <p>For project-specific enquiries, and to discuss research direction, please contact Associate Prof Maria Beger, <a href=""></a>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>To apply for this project opportunity applicants should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support their application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable)</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Biology as your programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> </ul> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>This project is open to applicants who have the funding to support their own studies or who have a sponsor who will cover these costs.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For information about the application process please contact the Faculty Admissions Team:</p> <p>e: <a href=""></a></p>