PhD studentship: Predicting species dispersal in marine systems: A multi-disciplinary approach
University of Plymouth

Location: Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,296 per annum
Closes: 19th November 2016

Director of Studies: Dr Antony Knights, Plymouth University

2nd Supervisor: Dr Alex Nimmo-Smith, Plymouth University

3rd Supervisor: Dr Jeff Polton, National Oceanography Centre

4th Supervisor: Dr Kerry Howell, Plymouth University

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on January 1st 2017.

Project Description
Worldwide, the threat of climate change, ocean acidification and human introductions is transforming marine communities. Geographic distributions of many species continue to shift, irreversibly changing the structure and functioning of ecosystems, and threatening biodiversity and human economic interests.

Predicting how range boundaries are shifting is subject to debate. Attempts to predict shifts using a combination of dispersal and recruitment models have had limited success due to the failure of models to accurately predict when and where species occur; a result of behavioural responses to environmental cues decoupling physical and biological processes.

This exciting PhD seeks to better understand how behavioural responses of meroplankton are manifested in nature and their relationship with environmental variables. The successful candidate will amalgamate a novel combination of state-of-art field-based observations and modelling approaches to generate cutting-edge predictions of marine species spread rates under climate change. The aims of the project are to: (i) obtain high-resolution field-derived estimates of meroplankton vertical distributions; (ii) using these data to generate mechanistic descriptions of meroplankton movement; (iii) assess how movement affects dispersal; and (iv) use species distribution modelling to assess the biogeographic range of species today and in the future.

You will join two of the UK’s leading research centres for marine biology and oceanography, namely the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre ( at Plymouth University and the National Oceanography Centre ( Based in Plymouth, you’ll join a vibrant and active postgraduate community with many opportunities for career and personal development.

Applicants should have a first or 2:1 honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant Masters qualification. Candidates will be a numerate marine biologist or physical oceanographer with an interest in ecology. Field and boat experience and a working knowledge of Matlab and R are desirable. The project will undertake laboratory taxonomic analysis of meroplankton samples. Training will be provided, but an independent approach to skill development is essential.

The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,296 per annum. The studentship will fully fund applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications, but Overseas applicants are required to cover the difference between Home/EU and overseas tuition fee rates (~£11,040 p.a.). More information can be obtained from Dr Antony Knights, who can be reached by email ( or telephone (+44 (0) 1752 587889).

General information about research degrees at Plymouth University is available at:…/the-g…/applicants-and-enquirers

Online application forms can be found at: Please mark applications FAO Francesca Niedzielski ( and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences.

The closing date for applications is 12pm, 19th November 2016. Interviews will be held on the 30th November. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. If you do not receive an email by 26th November 2016, please consider your application unsuccessful on this occasion.

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