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January 16, 2017

Changing patterns of insect migration studied with a network of weather radars

Changing patterns of insect migration studied with a network of weather radars 400 x 400 px

Long-range insect migration occurs on an enormous scale and provides huge costs and benefits to agricultural ecosystems. Insect population dynamics and migration phenology are both strongly influenced by climate, and thus patterns of insect migration are likely to be highly responsive to global environmental change.

It is vitally important to understand such changes if we are to effectively manage the impact that migrant insects have on sustainable food production. However, studying insect migration is very challenging, as most insects migrate at great heights above the ground and are too small to be observed or tracked directly.

This project aims to use long-term data on high-altitude insect movements from specialised insect-detecting radars in the UK, and also insect data collected by a Europe-wide network of 200 weather radars. In combination with climate and environmental data, the student will be able to examine the effect of recent climate change and landscape change on the population dynamics and migration routes of continental-scale insect migrants. The research will principally focus on two groups of migrant insects which are important in agricultural systems: (i) nocturnal pest moths, and (ii) day-flying beneficial hoverflies which provide crop protection and pollination services. The research carried out during this studentship will be embedded within a larger Europe-wide project entitled the “”European Network for the Radar surveillance of Animal Movement”” (ENRAM; http://www.enram.eu/), which will allow considerable interaction with animal movement research groups throughout Europe, and potentially worldwide.

This project provides an excellent opportunity to carry out ground-breaking studies of insect migration, and to engage in multi-national comparative studies of animal movement over very large spatial scales. The student will receive training in radar biology and the analysis of animal movement data, and will benefit from frequent interaction with leading scientists in this field throughout Europe and beyond.

Eligibility: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Biology or related subject. For further details please contact Dr Jason Chapman (Jason.chapman@rothamsted.ac.uk)