April 06, 2005

PhD Opportunity (Biology/Physics)

I currently have a vacancy for a PhD student on a BBSRC strategic studentship starting in October 2005. The stipend for the studentship is £12,500.

If you are interested, then send me an email.

Project Title: Habitat Complexity and Biodiversity in Agro-Ecosystems

Supervisor: Dr D Skirvin

Background and PhD Project:

Existing work has suggested that biodiversity of ecosystems is strongly linked to the structural complexity of the habitat. Given that vegetation structure is the key component determining the structural complexity of a habitat, it is reasonable to assume that the canopy structure of the habitat provides a good approximation of the structural complexity of a habitat, but at present, there are no quantitative methods available that are able to characterise the structural complexity of the habitat.

The aim of this PhD project is to determine how habitat structural complexity influences biodiversity within agro-ecosystems. The project will involve developing computer models of the three-dimensional architecture of plants. These models will then be used to develop models of plant canopies found in agro-ecosystems. The structure of the canopies generated from the models will be analysed using fractal geometric methods to determine the connectedness of the plant canopies and whether percolation-type models can be used to represent the structure of the plant canopies. These analyses will be used to form the basis for a quantitative method of characterising plant canopies.
Having developed suitable percolation-type models of plant canopies, simulation models of the movements of insects within the canopies will be developed to examine how the structure of the plant canopy influences the movement of insects within the canopy.
Data on the biodiversity of selected agro-ecosystems will be collated from the literature and from existing BBSRC projects at Warwick HRI. These data will then be compared against the quantitative measure of habitat structure developed in the project and analysed to determine the relationship between habitat structural complexity and biodiversity.

The studentship is for 3 years with a start date of October 2005 and will be registered at the University of Warwick.

For further information about the project please e-mail: David.Skirvin@warwick.ac.uk

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