May 4, 2020

Evolutionary ecology and conservation biology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham

Paid summer research placement opportunity

A funded opportunity is available for an undergraduate student in a quantitative discipline such as mathematics, computing or physics ( please subject to eligibility criteria below) to form part of a pilot project at the University of Nottingham with Dr Mark Ravinet during summer 2020. Work will begin from 14th July and will run until September (approximately 6-8 weeks of flexible working, depending on age and experience). The successful applicant will be supported by a student stipend of £230 per week (National Living Wage) from the Envision NERC scheme. This paid research placement is an exciting opportunity to gain experience in evolutionary ecology and conversation biology, all while developing your CV.

Vulture species are currently facing a critical threat – 70% of species in Africa, Asia and Europe face extinction. Scavenging vultures provide an important ecosystem service in the form of removing decaying carrion which might otherwise spread contagion and pollute water resources. Therefore, their conservation is of importance for human as well as ecosystem health. The Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) is widespread across Africa but has suffered a reduction in population over the last 50 years. However, in some parts of West Africa, the species is extremely abundant and appears to have adapted to living closely alongside human settlements.

This project seeks to use a data driven approach to investigate potential factors that might drive variation in Hooded Vulture density across West Africa. It will use large datasets on bird occurrence, human population density and land use to investigate the relationship between vulture density and human activity. It will also make use of transect data collected over the past 20 years to examine finer-scale variation in vulture densities. The overall aim of the project is to combine this data into an interactive spatial tool.

The placement will provide experience in applying data science to an evolutionary ecology and conservation biology question. The student will be given support to develop skills in R and Python, with a focus on geospatial and statistical analysis. The successful applicant will be encouraged to develop their own ideas and to write up the project results for publication. Due to the covid19 crisis, this project will be run remotely but will include regularly online meetings and support from the supervisor.

To apply, send a short (maximum one A4 page) letter of motivation and your CV to Dr Mark Ravinet ( by the 29th May 2020. Please feel free to contact Dr Ravinet if you have any further enquiries or wish to discuss the opportunity further.

Please note the eligibility criteria, all applicants should:

  • Be studying for an undergraduate degree in a quantitative discipline outside of NERC’s scientific remit (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics).
  • Be applying for a placement in a different department to their undergraduate degree.
  • Be undertaking their first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters).
  • Be expected to obtain a first or upper second class UK honours degree.
  • Be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (i.e. UK, EU or right to remain in the UK).