Project proposal details

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Project title
The mechanistic basis of the r vs K tradeoff
Contact name
Samraat Pawar
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Imperial contact email
Project description
As climatic temperature continues to increase at an alarming rate, it is becoming increasingly important that we understand how this change will affect population dynamics and persistence. Temperature is expected to affect population dynamics due to its effects on individual metabolism, which scales up to determine growth rate and interaction strength, both within and between populations. This project aims to increase our understanding of these effects, looking at the well-observed trade off between growth rate (r) and carrying capacity (K) (with species that have high growth rates tending to have lower carrying capacities), how this changes with temperature and the consequences for population dynamics.

The project will involve the expansion and curation of an existing database on population growth data across different temperatures, analysis of population growth data to identify trade-offs between r and K and the application of these findings to population dynamics models. The focus will be on microbes, potentially across the spectrum from heterotrophs to autotrophs, and from prokaryotes and fungi to phytoplankton.


Savage et al. (2004) Effects of body size and temperature on population growth The American Naturalist 163(3), pp.429-441.
Bernhardt et al. (2018) Metabolic theory and the temperature-size rule explain the temperature dependence of population carrying capacity. The American naturalist, 192(6), pp.687-697.
Brown et al. (2004) Toward a metabolic theory of ecology. Ecology, 85(7), pp.1771-1789.
Additional requirements
Ability to code in R or Python
Available support
Desk space
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
5 months, 9 months
Available date limitations
Autumn (Sept-Oct), Winter (January), Spring (April-May)
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MSc), Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MRes), Ecological Applications, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes