PhD Studentship available in ‘The Benefits of Biodiversity: Human-Wildlife Interactions in Urban Guyana’

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Over 50% of the global human population now live in urban areas. Future rates of urbanisation are expected to be rapid and pose a major challenge for both biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing. As more people’s lives are dominated by urban experiences, the experiential gap between humans and the natural world is likely to become ever greater. Worryingly, given this growing disconnect, evidence is accruing rapidly regarding the personal and societal benefits that are derived from exposure to urban greenspaces (defined as vegetated ecosystems) and the wildlife within them.

While a significant body of research has examined human-wildlife interactions within urban areas across Europe and North America, little has been done in biodiverse tropical countries. However, economic growth in the tropics during the last twenty years has pushed cities to expand and become more densely populated at an unprecedented rate. As a consequence, greenspaces are becoming increasingly fragmented and homogenous. It has been suggested that this has contributed to biodiversity declines in the tropical belt.

Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, contains numerous urban greenspaces and has an extensive network of canals, both of which represent important habitats for species of global conservation concern. Nonetheless, there is potential for these greenspaces to be built upon, and for the canals to be replaced by modern drainage systems, as the human population continues to rise. As such, urban wildlife is threatened by development across the city. Given the potential benefits of exposure to greenspaces, understanding why and how people perceive and interact with urban nature is important for informing future biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing policies.

We are seeking a highly motivated individual who is excited by the prospect of working within an interdisciplinary research area, and willing to undertake both ecological and social fieldwork in Georgetown. The project will operate in close collaboration with relevant government agencies and WWF. Our selected candidate will be entered into an open competition for an ESRC PhD scholarship to support UK/EU students.

Ideally, the individual will have an MSc degree in conservation, psychology, environmental sciences or human sciences. However, applications will also be considered from exceptional students with a first class BSc degree who wish to undertake a funded MSc prior to embarking on the PhD programme.  If funded, the PhD student will be based at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, with supervisors Dr Zoe Davies and Dr Jake Bicknell.

To be considered for the scholarship, please send your CV and a covering letter to Zoe Davies by 30th December 2015.

Image is of a Hoatzin bird, found across Guyana.

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