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.

To find a particular PI's email or look up other PI details, use the menu at the top of this page (PIs tab).

The devil is in the detail: the importance of understanding intraspecific responses to tropical deforestation
It is generally assumed that species do not show intraspecific variation in their responses to environmental change. This assumption is at the basis of the indicator species concept, and it is part of the reasoning behind Red Lists. However, recent evidence obtained from the Atlantic Forest of Brazil indicates that there is a large variability in species responses to habitat loss (Orme et al. 2019 Nat. Ecol. Evol.), and that this variability is driven by distance to the species’ range edge. Populations occurring near their species’ range edge are generally negatively affected by habitat loss, while populations from the same species near the range core are either not affected or are positively affected by habitat loss. To date, we do not know what are the possible drivers of such patterns, yet understanding these differences is key for effective conservation planning. In this project, the student will assess the relative roles of the following mechanisms underlying intraspecific variation in sensitivity to habitat loss: (1) climatic suitability (Pérez-Tris et al. 2000 J Biogeo.), (2) species interactions at the community level (e.g. Angelini et al. 2016 Nature Comms., Orme et al. 2019 Nat. Ecol. Evol.), and (3) drift (Hubbell 2001, Princeton Univ.). Specific hypotheses are below. For any given species, we expect that individuals will be less sensitive to habitat loss if: 1- They are sampled in areas of higher climatic suitability, and that these areas will shift with climate changed. 2- They have weak interactions with remaining species in the community. This hypothesis is based on the idea that competition becomes a stronger stressor as resources reduce with habitat loss. Also, facultative mutualistic species may be more resilient to environmental changes, while obligate mutualism may confer lower resilience (particularly if one of the species is more sensitive to habitat change). 3- Their local population size was declining. This alternative neutral hypothesis assumes that variation in sensitivity across regions is mostly due to demographic drift. The student will build on an existing database of species responses to habitat loss and use a range of models to test these hypotheses. Hypotheses 1 will require the use of GIS techniques and species distribution modelling (likely an ensemble model using Maxent, GLM and random forests) to assess current and future climate suitability. Hypotheses 2 and 3 will be assessed through the use of the Tangled Nature (TaNa) model defined by Christensen et al. (2002 in J Theor. Biol.). The TaNa model is an individual-based model that explicitly incorporates parameters related to species interactions, drift, speciation and dispersal, and unlike any other model allows one to also include intraspecific variation in traits. The TaNa model was developed by researchers working on complex systems theory and uses statistical mechanics to study emergent phenomena arising from the many interactions taking place at a microscopic level (Jensen & Arcaute 2010 Ann NY Acad. Scie). This model is incredibly powerful and will allow the student to compare simulate patterns (with a known mechanism) against empirical patterns. The results from this project have clear conservation importance, and may help design next generation of conservation and management policies.
Cristina Banks-Leite
Manuela Gonzalez-Suarez
Henrik Jensen, Maths Department, Imperial College (
Development of mathematical theory, Computing, Quantitative data analysis
Henrik Jensen
The student will model communities using C++ programming, and will modify the TaNa model to explore intraspecific variation in traits. This approach, in addition to the use of advanced statistical analyses, GIS techniques and species distribution modelling, will allow the student to develop new theory and new methods to explain what drives intraspecific variation in sensitivity to habitat change.
This project will use a complex systems approach to conduct community modelling. Although this has been partially done in the past, this project would further develop the Tangled Nature model to explore how competition and mutualisms within-guild could drive species responses to habitat loss.
Currently species are considered to be either sensitive or non-sensitive to habitat loss. Recent research however has shown that species show large intra-specific variation in their responses to habitat changes. These new findings raise the need to reassess the theoretical framework underpinning the approaches used to evaluate the drivers of species sensitivity.
Our ability to mitigate the 6th mass extinction is dependent on our capacity for predicting how species and communities will respond to habitat and climate change. This project will further our understanding of the drivers of species sensitivity and which areas are most important to invest in conservation and restoration.
This project poses little risk and will be addressing a topic (i.e. intra-specific variation to habitat loss) that has only recently been approached (Orme et al. 2019). Orme et al. findings are already being used by local NGOs to further based their conservation strategies on scientific evidence, and the expectation is that the results from this project would extensively further this impact.
The student will learn about macroecological patterns and processes with Dr. Gonzalez-Suarez, community ecology and landscape ecology with Dr. Banks-Leite, and complexity science from a statistical mechanics approach with Prof. Jensen. The student will learn about conservation biology with Dr. Gonzalez-Suarez and Dr. Banks-Leite.
Climate and climate change, Community ecology, Conservation ecology
The student will receive training in Python (for GIS analyses) and statistics and R at Imperial College, and will also receive training in C++ with guidance from Prof. Jensen. The student will also engage with BirdLife Brazil to further the conservation impact of the results obtained.
Silwood Park, South Kensignton.
2019-05-31 11:02:04