October 10, 2023

Identifying mechanisms for decline and pathways to recovery in Lepidoptera populations in calcareous habitats


Many butterflies and moths in the UK are in decline. This is a consequence of multiple pressures including climate change, habitat loss and pollution. Across the UK, butterflies and moths of limestone regions are especially at risk. Limestone habitats have been considerably reduced in their extent in recent years. For example, the extent of lowland calcareous grasslands is estimated at 30,000 ha, with a reduction of 13,000 ha between 1990 and 2007. Meanwhile limestone pavements cover only just over 2000 ha and over 40 % of these have been heavily damaged. This project will focus on changes to butterfly and moth populations and how we can manage habitats across multiple scales to benefit them. We will consider a range of management and climate drivers but will have a particular focus on the species found in limestone habitats. The project will involve fieldwork in Lancashire, Yorkshire and other areas and use of modelling approaches to assess large-scale impacts of global change drivers, especially air quality.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop skills in butterfly and moth identification, and environmental modelling, as well as to build other transferable skills such as writing, data presentation and public speaking.

They will work on the project jointly between Lancaster University, Rothamsted Research and Butterfly Conservation providing access to facilities from across these organisations. You will join friendly and exciting research groups and have opportunities to network with other students and researchers through these institutions and the wider ENVISION programme.


Candidates shall be good honours graduates in appropriate subject areas, of a recognised university or comparable university, or persons holding equivalent qualifications who show evidence of exceptional ability, or who have demonstrated their ability in graduate studies.

Email address for enquiries.

c.stevens@lancaster.ac.uk; chris.shortall@rothamsted.ac.uk