Project proposal details

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Project title
What determines landscape permeability for wild dogs?
Contact name
Nathalie Pettorelli
Project based at
Zoological Society of London
Project description
Wide-ranging species such as African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are particularly sensitive to ongoing fragmentation of their habitat due to human land use change and infrastructure development (Cozzi et al. 2013, Pretorius et al. 2019). Barriers to animal movement, such as fences and areas of intensive land use, can reduce landscape permeability (Popescu & Hunter 2011); this can lead to reduced access to resources and low levels of connectedness with neighbouring populations (Ahmadi et al. 2017). Lessened landscape permeability can also threaten the conservation prospects of wild dogs, e.g. by reducing their ability to track changes in suitable environmental conditions due to climate change (Littlefield et al. 2016), or by slowing down gene flow within and between populations (Coulon et al. 2004, Gauffre et al. 2015).

This project will take advantage of an existing dataset tracking the movement of ca. 45 wild dogs in and around the Savé Valley Conservancy, a 3,000 km2 game reserve in Zimbabwe, and Gonarezhou National Park (also Zimbabwe) to identify the environmental factors shaping landscape permeability for this species. By supplementing existing information about potential movement barriers with satellite remote sensing derived information, this project will investigate, in particular, how much of a problem artificial and natural barriers are for wild dog conservation in this part of the world.

The student will identify and map environmental variables that can affect landscape permeability for wild dogs, such as roads, rivers, fences, agricultural areas and settlements, in and around Savé Valley Conservancy and and Gonarezhou National Park. This will be based on a thorough review of the literature, the mapping of existing field data as well as the analysis of freely available satellite remote sensing data. They will then model the movement of wild dog packs (based on an existing archive of movement data from ca. 45 wild dogs spanning a decade in total) in relationship to these variables to quantify landscape permeability.

Additional requirements
Solid experience with R and experience with movement data/spatial analyses in R would be very beneficial
Available support
The student will have access to the ZSL library and the UCL Library (if necessary) and will be based within the Institute of Zoology where desk space will be allocated. All necessary training to complete this project successfully will be given. There will be a Health and Safety induction for working within the Institute as is standard procedure for visitors. There are no serious health and safety risks involved with this desk-based project.
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.

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