Conservation of marine phylogenetic diversity in the face of global change

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Life Sciences


Our planet is experiencing the sixth global mass extinction. Given the limited resources available for conservation efforts, it is more important than ever to find key regions and species to target.
While much attention has been given to the terrestrial realm, conservation prioritisations for the marine realm-which comprises >70% of the Earth's surface and supports more than half of all vertebrate species diversity-are severely lacking. Using cutting edge techniques and global datasets on phylogenetic diversity, extinction risk, and environmental variables, this PhD will address important gaps in information for effective conservation of unique evolutionary history in the oceans. The research will generate species-level phylogenetically informed conservation prioritisations (such as EDGE Lists and other related metrics) for marine species of conservation concern, including various clades of marine fish, invertebrates and plants. The PhD will utilise various global datasets (e.g. Marine Protected Area network, Marine Human Footprint, Climate change/sea level projections) to produce ground-breaking spatial prioritisations of the world's marine phylogenetic diversity in the face of climate change and human pressure, incorporating numerous marine taxonomic groups (e.g. ray-finned fish, sharks and rays, corals, seagrass and mangroves, marine birds, mammals and reptiles).
We expect the initial stages of the PhD to focus on analysis of existing species-level and spatial metrics in a novel marine context. Later stages of the PhD can be more flexible with the student pursuing their own ideas for new metrics or for overcoming the expected data deficiencies in expanding the scope of the project. Overall this PhD will aim to identify regions-in space and across the tree of life-that are both rich in PD and are at particular risk from the major threats to global marine life. The outcomes have a high chance of being adopted in applied conservation efforts by ZSL who will be a CASE partner.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007415/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2027
2451356 Studentship NE/S007415/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Ceri Webster