DPhil opportunity: Using Positive Deviance to identify and understand UK farmland biodiversity successes

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.


Lindsay Turnbull (Plant Sciences, University of Oxford); EJ Milner-Gulland (Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, Zoology Department, University of Oxford); Barbara Smith (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University); Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, Somerville College, University of Oxford) and Owen Lewis (Community Ecology Research Group, Zoology Department, University of Oxford)

Project description:

Present efforts to reduce the rate of loss of UK farmland biodiversity are by and large failing. A new approach is needed. This interdisciplinary PhD uses Positive Deviance (PD) to identify the social and environmental factors associated with higher levels of farmland biodiversity than would be expected, based on the characteristics of the farm (e.g. which part of the country it is in, or whether the farmer is a member of a higher level stewardship scheme). Through understanding why some farms seem to exceed expectations, you will identify 1) the land management strategies implemented by PD farmers and 2) the social and behavioural factors that underlie these strategies. A country-wide assessment of PD in existing large-scale datasets will lead to a more detailed analysis of PD within a region based on existing data and field assessments, and then to a more qualitative understanding of the factors underlying PD in individual cases. This hierarchical approach will give a nuanced understanding of the factors underpinning PD at a range of scales.
The PD approach has not been previously used in ecology, and is just starting to be applied in conservation (e.g. Cinner et al, 2016 Nature). Hence this is an exciting early application of a methodology that takes a positive approach to understanding and scaling up conservation success.

This project will give the student skills which are highly applicable to a wide range of interdisciplinary questions in conservation (including ecological and social fieldwork, statistical modelling, GIS and analysis of big datasets) and will produce a novel and high profile study with relevance to policymakers in the UK and worldwide.

Student profile:

We are seeking a student with a strong background in ecology, conservation science or related disciplines, i.e. a student with a good undergraduate degree and preferably a good Master’s degree. The project would particularly suit someone who has experience of ecological and/or social fieldwork, a keen interest in natural history, and who wants to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. Strong statistical skills are also desirable. You will work closely with farmers and conservation groups, and engage with landowners and regulatory bodies, so good communication skills are essential. Experience with outreach or conservation practice would be helpful. The student must be ready to start in October 2017.


More information and how to apply

Fake caterpillar study reveals global pattern in predation

Thursday, May 18th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

A study led by Eleanor Slade has investigated whether higher diversity in the tropics translates into differences in interaction rates among species. A large team of collaborators deployed dummy caterpillars, made from plasticine modelling clay, across six continents. We found that predator attack rates were higher toward the equator, but only for arthropod predators. Read the full article in Science or Oxford University’s press release.

The joys of fieldwork

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Chris Jeffs and Joel Brown have been busy setting up our rainforest insect foodweb experiment in Australia. Our main study organisms are tiny Drosophila flies and the even smaller parasitoid wasps that attack them, but fieldwork often leads to wonderful encounters with some larger insects. Here, Chris is enchanted by a passing Cairns Birdwing, Ornithoptera euphorion, one of the world’s largest butterflies. Photo (c) Joel Brown, 2017.


Dr Milton Barbosa

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017. Posted by Becky Morris.

Congratulations to Milton Barbosa for passing his DPhil viva yesterday!

Many thanks to the examiners Frank van Veen and Kayla King.


Catherine Gresty viva success

Friday, March 3rd, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Congratulations to Catherine – latest CERO student to pass her viva.

Dung Beetles: We Should All Talk More About Poo

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Discover why dung beetles are so important in this fascinating blog post by CERO DPhil student Beth Raine.

Becky Morris’ move to Southampton

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017. Posted by Becky Morris.

Becky has moved to Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton. She is now a Senior Research Associate in the Zoology Department at Oxford University, and will continue to be an active PI and DPhil supervisor in CERO, whilst she has current grants and research group members based in Oxford.

See Becky’s new Southampton web page here.

Closure of the Tinbergen Building

Saturday, February 11th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

It was announced yesterday that CERO’s home, the Tinbergen Building, will be closing from Monday for up to 2 years so that asbestos can be removed from the building. Most of our work is field based, so we won’t be disrupted as badly as some other groups. We’ll still be taking on new graduate students and continuing with our various projects. We hope to be set up with new office space within the next few weeks.

Congratulations Paul and Sarah Jane

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Many congratulations to CERO alumnus Paul Manning and Sarah Jane who were married this weekend in Nova Scotia, Canada.


New video spotlighting our work in Borneo

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

The LOMBOK project, led by our group in Oxford, is investigating biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, as part of NERC’s Human Modified Tropical Forest programme.

A new video, featuring CERO’s Dr Eleanor Slade and Ross Gray, provides a great introduction to this work, and can be viewed on our website.

It’s the first in a planned series of short videos put together in collaboration with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership, whose photographers Nick Heard and Sonny Royal have been following our researchers in the field. The first video in the series is a short introductory overview to our work. Watch out for the next videos on our work on biogeochemical cycling, mammals, invertebrate dispersal, leeches, dung beetles, and birds.