PhD: Investigating the mechanisms behind moth declines: plants, landscape, pollution and climate
I am an ecologist mainly interested in insect ecology and conservation. I finished an MSc in Applied Ecology at the University of Exeter in 2014. My final project there was a study on the effectiveness of hedgerow trees as an agri-environmental scheme option, measuring moth diversity and abundance and also looking into the effect that isolation from woodland has on broadleaf-feeding moth abundance. Since then, I have spent two years out of academia. I worked in Madagascar for a year with a small NGO designing and running a conservation, research and education project on a small semi-forested island, looking mainly at birds, lemurs and reptiles. While I was there I initiated a survey of the parasitoid wasps of the island, working with the Natural History Museum, London. Since returning to the UK I have been working with the NHM to identify and DNA-extract these specimens, describe the ones that are new to science and add the mounted specimens to the collection.
Working with the Rothamsted Insect Survey, I will be looking at the factors that have caused the significant decline in moth populations over the last 40 years and I will be investigating how these trends can be reversed. A large part of my project will involve studying the effectiveness of extended field margins and wildflower strips in increasing moth abundance and diversity in the agricultural landscape. Using a randomised block design I will establish different treatment types of field margins and monitor how moth abundance and diversity changes over the 3 years. I will also look into moth food-plant and nectar preferences, measuring larval abundance as well as nocturnal flower visitation.