PhD (Funded) - The Role of Biodiversity in Ecosystem Resilience to Climate Change, Mathematics Ref: 2669

College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

University of Exeter

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the recently launched QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and Research Training Support Grants to the successful applicants.

10 generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, 5 offered by the University of Exeter and 5 by the University of Queensland. This select group will have the chance to study in the UK and Australia, and will graduate with a double degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD Studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of: Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

Closing date for applications is 11 September 2017, with interviews on 26 September 2017. Start date in January 2018.

Please note that of the 11 Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to 5 posts will be filled.


Exeter Academic Lead: Prof Peter Cox

Queensland Academic Lead: Prof Peter Mumby

Project description

Ecosystems are under increasing pressure from climate change, climate variability, and direct human disturbance. This is especially the case in high-diversity tropical ecosystems, such as coral reefs and tropical forests. It has been widely-accepted that biodiversity confers additional resilience by including a wide-range of functional and genetic characteristics, each of which can ‘step-up’ and become more prevalent should conditions change. In this way, greater biodiversity is expected to imply a greater ability of ecosystems to adapt to emvironmental change. However, the mechanism for this adaptive capacity is essentially a change in the species composition of the ecosystem, and that process depends on the characteristic lifetime of the species involved. We might therefore expect the importance of diversity for the resilience of ecosystems to depend on the lifetime of the key species.

This PhD project will model the role of biodiversity in ecosystem resilience to climate change, constrasting tropical forests for which the primary producers are very long-lived trees, and coral reefs for which the primary producers are short-lived phytoplankton and algae. The motivating question for the PhD project will be : ‘What is the role of biodiversity in ecosystem resilience to climate change, in both tropical forests and ecosystems?’. It will combine the respective expertise of the primary supervisors in modelling tropical forest responses to climate change (Cox), and in understanding the response of coral reefs to environmental stressors (Mumby). In addition, this PhD would build-upon a very successful previous PhD studentship co-supervised by Cox & Mumby (Lester Kwiatkowski) which yielded a number of high-profile papers, including two in Nature journals:

Kwiatkowski L, Cox PM, Economou T, Halloran PR, Mumby PJ, Booth BBB, Carilli JE, Guzman HM (2013) Caribbean coral growth influenced by anthropogenic aerosol emissions. Nature Geoscience, 6, 362-366.

Kwiatkowski L, Cox P, Halloran PR, Mumby PJ, Wiltshire AJ (2015) Coral bleaching under unconventional scenarios of climate warming and ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 5, 777-781.

Academic Entry Requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

Funding information

Funding applies to:
Open to applicants from a range of countries
Funding notes:

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £3,000 are available over the 3 year programme

Contacts and how to apply

Administrative contact and how to apply:

For further information and details of how to apply please see here.

Application deadline:

11 September 2017