The QMEE CDT Project proposal database

Welcome to the QMEE CDT Project proposal database. This is a live list of projects proposals put forward by PIs across the CDT partner institutions

PIs/Supervisors will continue to add projects to this list over the next few months, so do keep checking back! You can search the projects using the box below: simply enter some text and press Search to do a text search across all the database fields. If you want to search more finely, the search tool also allows you to search on particular details of the project descriptions: you will see these finer search options appear if you click on the search box.

Click on the view button next to a project to get the full proposal description. If you want to download project details, either for all projects, or for a subset you have searched for, then click on the 'Download details' button.

Project IsoKite. What explains the Red Kite conservation success story?
Red Kites (Milvus milvus) are one of our most charismatic birds of prey and they are an unparalleled conservation triumph. In medieval times, Red Kites were abundant, but from the mid-16th century, they were systematically slaughtered. By the 1930s only a few pairs survived in Wales. However, a successful reintroduction programme brought the Red Kite back in the 1990s and we now have close to 1600 breeding pairs in Britain. Following re-introduction, no one expected that Red Kites would return to some of our cities. In Reading, some 300 Kites visit the town each day, a substantial proportion of the local population. These raptors are primarily scavengers, and it was thought that they were attracted by road kill and discarded food along the roadways, but work showed that this was an order of magnitude less than that required for the Kites. A questionnaire revealed that today ~10% of households in Reading have provided food for Red Kites. A national survey revealed that they were being fed a range of foods, from left-overs to prime cuts of meat. Is the success of the Red Kite partly explained by the provision of supplementary food? To answer this, the project will use stable isotope and fully mechanistic ecological modelling approaches to examine what/how much Kites are being fed on across the country. This will enable an understanding of the contribution of supplementary feeding to the conservation success of the Red Kite reintroduction programme. Naturally shed Red Kite feathers have been collected by licensed volunteers at >40 locations across Britain by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Samples of feathers and prey items (collected from nests) will be analysed for a range of stable isotopes (C, N, O, H and S) to determine the Kites’ diet components (natural vs human food). Feathers will also be analyzed sequentially for a time series on some sites (urban vs rural). These data will be modelled using an ‘isoscape’ (isotope mapping) approach in ArcGIS ModelBuilder together with a fully mechanistic ecological model in R that would aim to build a model parameterised by the data from the field, and existing national scale datasets. This will be a process-based model for Red Kites to predict the impact of environmental and food changes based on a dynamic species distribution model approach. The fully mechanistic model will incorporate data from BTO on red kite distribution and abundance, detailed habitat and climatic data from CEH, small mammal distributions, and results from our national survey of supplementary feeding. This model will allow a detailed assessment of the relationships between Red Kite abundance and supplementary feeding. The model will be used to predict the impact of a range of future feeding scenarios on the sustainability of Red Kite populations. The will produce a resilience map of the UK, highlighting areas where Red Kites are susceptible to declines should supplementary feeding stop. The model will also be used to form a predictive element for Red Kite distribution using a probabilistic assignment of Kites to habitats from the feather isotope data, together with isotope water, small mammal and data sets available from the literature. This will identify areas where Red Kites are reliant on supplementary feeding and at risk. This work will lead to developments in understanding the importance of similar human-wildlife interactions in determining the distribution and abundance for species.
Mark Fellowes
Tom August
Stuart Black, Reading, s.black@reading.ac.uk; Rebecca Thomas, Royal Holloway, rebecca.thomas@rhul.ac.uk
Quantitative data analysis, Ecological observations / data collection
Stuart Black
The student will learn to work with large and varied data sets including questionnaire data, isotope data, time series data and spatial data. These data will be combined and analysed using statistical models both in ArcGIS ModelBuilder and in R. This will include stable isotope analysis models and mechanistic species distribution models.
This project integrates perspectives from questionnaires, isotopic analysis of diet and species distribution modelling. This is highly innovative, providing a novel insight into the sustainable management of re-introduced species. Also, the link between the behaviours of thousands of people and the success of the Red Kite provides an exceptional opportunity to engage the public with conservation.
This project allows us to examine how a bottom-up effect (predictable, widespread supplementary food resources) can affect the ecology of species at higher trophic levels. In effect, in some regions due to anthropogenic food resources the Red Kite may be maintained at levels otherwise unsustainable, and this work will provide insights into the consequences for competitors.
Understanding how people have affected the abundance and distribution of a key species of conservation concern will help us develop recommendations for other raptors. We expect to extend such work to vulnerable species such as vultures (fed at ‘vulture restaurants’) and hen harriers (persecuted for gamebird predation) or to invasive species (e.g. Grey Squirrels) supported by supplementary feeding.
There can be few British conservation success stories which challenge that of the Red Kite for visible impact. This work will change how we view the interaction between individuals engaging with wildlife and the cumulative effect that they have on biodiversity. Millions feed birds, provide nest sites, garden for wildlife. This work will provide a case study of just how great their impact can be.
This project crosses a range of disciplines from social science through to isotope ecology and modelling. The use of ‘big data’ from environmental data sets (small mammals, water, feathers) will bring together key disciplines to address the problem and provide cross over between these perspectives. This is an inherently multidisciplinary project.
Conservation ecology, Population ecology, Ecological/Evolutionary tools, technology & methods
The student will acquire key quantitative laboratory analytical skills (isotopic) as well as species distribution modelling (GIS-based and R programming), statistical (e.g. multivariate Principal Component Analysis and Multi Discriminant Analysis) and ecological skills. The project will require numeracy for the probabilistic isotope mapping and process-based model parameterised by the field data.
University of Reading, CEH
No
2017-10-02 20:46:30