PhD Studentship: Population Dynamics of the Fox in Dorset

Updated: about 2 months ago
Location: Bournemouth, ENGLAND
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 03 May 2020

Funding amount: £15,225 maintenance grant per annum

Lead Supervisor name: Dr. Emilie Hardouin

The project aims to understand how the predation pressure experienced locally by bird species of conservation concern may be determined by the population dynamics of a key predator across a large region.

Studies of declining wading bird populations throughout Europe have typically found that, because of breeding-season predation, productivity is insufficient to replace natural mortality of older birds (Macdonald & Bolton 2008).  Several of the predator species such as the fox implicated are generalists that thrive in modern human-dominated landscapes to become disproportionately numerous relative to individual prey species.

The Avon Valley Special Protection Area (14 km2 of river corridor between Salisbury and Christchurch) is a key site for breeding wading birds including lapwing (Birds of Conservation Concern Red List) and redshank (Amber List).  Since 2015 an EU-LIFE funded GWCT project Waders for Real (W4R) has stabilised numbers by working with local landowners to improve breeding wader habitat and reduce predation. However, population recovery remains limited by high predation of eggs and chicks. Concentrations of breeding waders within the Avon Valley are now largely restricted to a few estates where considerable effort is put into predator control. 

Gamekeepered estates with lethal fox control act as population sinks, but replacement of culled foxes can be extremely rapid, limiting the effectiveness of control (Porteus et al 2019). To improve conservation measures, we need to understand the source of this very high immigration pressure. Large conurbations with associated anthropogenic food resources typically support high fox densities and may act as source populations for neighbouring rural areas. Among 22 gamekeepered estates around England studied by Porteus et al. (2019), the highest estimated replacement rate was just outside Christchurch. Intensive gamebird releasing in some parts of the region may provide another significant resource affecting regional fox dynamics.

The study will increase our understanding of critical ecological relationships within this human-dominated landscape for example by helping determine fox migration sources and the impact of anthropogenic food sources on fox population growth.

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £15,225 per annum (unless otherwise specified), to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

  • Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
  • An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.
  • Applicants will also be required to have a driving licence as the student will need to reach certain location or participate in a fieldwork where public transport is not available.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on 3 May 2020

For further information on how to apply click the ‘Apply’ button below or email

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