PHD Project

November 9, 2020

Drivers of tropical freshwater biodiversity: a DNA metabarcoding approach

Drivers of tropical freshwater biodiversity: a DNA metabarcoding approach

Southeast Asian (SE-Asian) freshwater biodiversity is declining rapidly. This is particularly true for Borneo, renowned for its highly diverse and globally important biodiversity. The situation is alarming as rivers are a critical resource for humans, providing water, food and energy. Conservation of freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide requires in-depth knowledge of which species they support and the factors that influence their distribution. Unfortunately, this knowledge is currently lacking for SE-Asia.

This project will provide the first detailed assessments of the drivers and threats to freshwater invertebrate diversity in a SE-Asian river, using the Rajang River basin in Borneo as a case system. To achieve this, we will combine state-of-the-art methods from hydroecology, molecular ecology (including DNA metabarcoding) and geospatial modelling. The supervisory team is composed of experts from each of these fields who are affiliated to the Universities of Nottingham and Bangor, the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, IUCN and WWF. Knowledge gained from the project will provide an evidence base for developing policies to mitigate anthropogenic threats to tropical freshwater biodiversity and services.

The successful applicant will be willing to travel and work in Borneo for extended periods. The successful applicant will receive training in eight of the 15 most wanted skills in the Environment Sector outlined in the NERC 2012 report, including tropical aquatic fieldwork, freshwater invertebrate sampling and identification, molecular laboratory techniques, sequence analysis, data management and modelling.

Programming (ideally in R), ecological field experience/freshwater invertebrate identification, database management, statistical analysis/GIS skills or bioinformatic skills are assets, but enthusiasm for nature, curiosity about the impact of environmental change on ecosystems and willingness to take opportunities are the most important requirements.


The successful applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level, or equivalent, in a relevant subject area including Environmental Science, Natural Science, Bioscience, Bioinformatics, Physical Geography or Geosciences. Fieldwork experience is strongly desired. Experience in molecular laboratory work and/or GIS is an asset.

The project may be undertaken on either a full- or part-time basis.


For further information about the studentship please e-mail Alexandra Zieritz or Simon Creer