NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: Avoidance, competition and predation in nest box breeding communities (BUTLER_UBIO16EE) NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: Avoidance, competition and predation in nest box breeding communities (BUTLER_UBIO16EE)

Primary Supervisor: Dr Simon Butler (

Project Description

Scientific background:

Production intensification across Europe has led to a wide-scale reduction in nest site availability for cavity nesting birds and this has been implicated in recent population declines of many species. Obligate or facultative cavity-nesting species regularly adopt artificial nest sites and their provision is therefore widely used as a conservation tool to release populations from nest site limitation. However, artificial nest boxes often have high levels of non-target occupancy, potentially imposing both direct and indirect costs to individuals of the target species. Effective conservation management requires that the implications of these costs are traded-off against the intended benefits so that, if necessary, appropriate mitigation action can be undertaken but they remain poorly understood.

Research Methodology & Training:

This project will investigate avoidance, competition and predation costs associated with non-target species occupancy within nest box communities. Specifically, it focuses on communities associated nest box schemes provided to support European Roller Coracias garruluspopulations. The Roller is a globally Near Threatened species for which nest boxes have been provided and widely adopted in a number of countries across southern and eastern Europe as part of its conservation management. Using a combination of observational and experimental field work at study sites in France and Latvia and laboratory analyses of feather samples to determine diet-based isotopic signatures at UEA, the student will define the dominance hierarchy within each nest box community, determine its influence on the spatial and temporal structuring of Roller breeding attempts and explore the consequences for subsequent productivity. These results will be translated into recommendations for the design, positioning and management of nest boxes to improve their conservation value accordingly.

Person specification:

Candidates must have a good Honors degree in a relevant subject area (Ecology, Biology or Environmental Sciences). Interested students must have a keen interest in avian conservation ecology and be willing to undertake both computer-based work and fieldwork. Experience of spatial modeling and familiarity with computer packages such as R and GIS software will be an advantage.

Deadline: 23:59 on Wednesday 6 January 2016

Start date: October 2016
Programme: PhD
Mode of Study: Full Time
Entry Requirements: Acceptable First Degree: Ecology, Biology, Environmental Sciences (or similar) 
Minimum Entry Standard: 2:1

For further information and to apply, please visit our website: