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Postdoctoral Research Associate / Fellow in Ecology and Wildlife Management

Date posted: 17/10/2018

Application closing date: 31/10/2018

Location: Penryn, Cornwall

Salary:    Postdoctoral Research Associate, salary from £29,515 up to £34,189 on Grade (E)  Postdoctoral Research Fellow, salary from £35,211 up to £43,267on Grade (F).

We are looking to appoint either a Postdoctoral Research Associate or a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. This is a full time post available immediately until 31st December 2019 and is part of a project involving the University of Exeter, in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, within the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) on the Penryn Campus. It is funded through the European Regional Development Fund and forms part of the European Strategic investment framework for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

We are seeking a research ecologist to lead development of innovative solutions to mitigating the impacts of starlings on the farmed environment, specifically dairy farms. The successful applicant will lead a project gauging the impact of starlings on farms, and will work with partners in the USA to evaluate sonic deterrents to reduce their impact.

Dairy farming is a major part of the Cornish economy. Although cattle usually graze outdoors, they tend to be housed in large barns/sheds over winter. At this time their environment can be severely affected by flocks of tens of thousands of starlings that fly into the barns/sheds to take cattle feed. The starlings can severely deplete cattle feed supplies, defecate in the barn and cause a nuisance for farm workers.

About you

Experience in avian ecology is essential and a track-record of wildlife management research is desirable, alongside the ability to identify ways in which this research can deliver business impact within the region’s agritech sector.

The post is offered with a salary range to reflect prospective applicant’s skills and experience. Please clearly state the grade of post to which you are applying.

To view the Job Description and Person Specification document please click here.


PhD Studentship: Sustainable vertebrate pest management on farms

Application closing date: 03/12/2018

Image result for brown rat

Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus. Photo: Sonja Pauen

Location: Penryn, Cornwall

The award:  There are over 30 (including up to 5 CASE studentships) fully-funded 4 year studentships (tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £14,777 per year for 2018-19) available to start in September 2019 across a wide range of biosicence academic disciplines.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).  Up to 6 fully-funded studentships are being offered to start in September 2019 at the University of Exeter.

The project:

Rodents are a major problem on farms and present a threat to food security as well as human and animal health and welfare. Rats alone cost the UK about £200M a year by consuming and contaminating growing and stored crops. The problem is primarily managed, with varying degrees of success, by using anticoagulant rodenticides.

However, these chemicals are economically, ethically and environmentally problematic because they are markedly inhumane, resistance is a growing problem and their usage leads to widespread exposure of non-target wildlife, including threatened species of birds and mammals. In Britain, studies show that most polecats, barn owls and red kites are now exposed to rodenticides, with implications for their conservation. Guidance is available for the improved usage of rodenticides on farms, but we know relatively little about how this guidance works in practice and what improvements remain still to be made. The use of innovative and, in some cases, non-lethal Integrated Pest Management techniques, holds potential for increasing efficacy while reducing the multiple problems of established practices for rodent control, including the risks rodenticides pose to wildlife.

This CASE studentship will provide training in the science underpinning sustainable agriculture and food security by working towards more effective, economic and humane management of wildlife in the farm environment. The student will undertake evaluations of variation in rodent control practices and outcomes, conduct experiments on current and innovative approaches to rodent management and model approaches and outcomes to enhance best practice. They will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to research on wild animal populations and behaviour and on farmers and contractors and their practices and will work in the field and laboratory. The student will join a large group of interdisciplinary, applied researchers ( in Professor Robbie McDonald’s research group at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus and will work alongside Professor Richard Shore at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology ( and Alexandra Tomlinson and Ruth Layton at our CASE partners sankalpa (

Entry requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.5 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable, please see

Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship.  Any further queries in relation to residency must be directed to the institution that you are applying to.

For more details about the project and funding process please click here.




PhD StudentshipDormouse conservation and woodland management

Application closing date: 07/01/2019


Hazel dormouse conservation is a top priority for UK woodlands (Photo by Danielle Schwarz CC BY-SA 3.0)

Location: Penryn, Cornwall

The award:  This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).  The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five Research Organisation partners:  British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.  The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

  • An index-linked stipend for 3.5 years (currently £14,777 p.a. for 2018/19);
  • Payment of university tuition fees;
  • A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
  • A training budget of £4,000 for specialist training courses and expenses.

Up to 30 fully-funded studentships will be available across the partnership.

The project: 
Despite their strict protection and major conservation efforts, populations of hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius in England and Wales continue to decline. Recent analyses by the University of Exeter (Goodwin et al 2017) identified a 72% decline in dormouse populations from 1993 to 2014 and suggested that the species could be categorized as Endangered in the UK. Our recent work (Goodwin et al 2018a, b) has also highlighted the importance of improving woodland management to enhance the conservation status of the species in the UK. This collaborative CASE project will involve fieldwork on dormice and forestry practice. The student will work alongside key conservation organisations to build on recent work on dormouse ecology and to evaluate and improve woodland management practices in order to reverse the fortunes of this most endearing British mammal.

The overall aim of this project is to understand variation in dormouse conservation status, evaluate woodland management and provide evidence for improved practices to support dormouse recovery in the UK. This will be achieved by extensive analysis of dormouse populations and of woodland characteristics, using remotely sensed data, accompanied by intensive surveys of dormice and habitats in a sample of commercial and non-commercial, broadleaf and coniferous woodlands. The student will survey woodland managers to understand practice in relation to conservation regulation and commercial and other management objectives. The student will also have the opportunity to employ molecular genetic techniques to understand dormouse population processes and to develop population models to understand how variation in practice might affect populations in the long term. The student will work at public and private forests across England and Wales, sampling sites at which dormice are thriving and sites where they are in decline. The project will require extended periods of fieldwork away from Cornwall, and periods in the laboratory in Cardiff and at Forest Research.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.   Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Master’s degree.  Applicants with a minimum of Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

The project will suit a student interested in a career in animal ecology, conservation science and wildlife management. The work will require a high degree of analytical ability and a willingness to work in the field conducting ecological studies of wildlife and practitioner surveys, in the laboratory and at the computer conducting statistical and analytical work.

All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the  project

For more details about the project and funding process please click here.


Prospective Research Fellows & PhD Students

Professor McDonald is interested in supporting PhD students and collaborating with fellows in any of our key research areas:

  • Wildlife management and conservation
  • Conflicts and disputes about animals and their management
  • Ecology and management of domestic animals in the environment
  • Animal social networks and their implications for ecology and diseases
  • Ecology and management of introduced and invasive species

“Most of my work is conducted on mammals and birds in the UK, and this will continue to be the priority. Right now, I am especially keen to undertake further work on dormice and woodland management, predators, predation and shooting interests, badgers and bTB, cats, dogs and other domestic animals in the environment and other gnarly problems with wildlife.

I am especially keen on supervising students in collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines, across campus and beyond. Most of my PhD projects on badgers and TB are undertaken in this way. PhD supervision is also undertaken in collaboration with a number of my colleagues at partner organisations, including Professor Richard Shore at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Professor Dez Delahay at National Wildlife Management Centre, Dr Henry Schofield and Dr Jenny Macpherson at The Vincent Wildlife Trust, Dr Robin Gill at Forest Research, Dr Ruth Cromie at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Dr Menna Jones at the University of Tasmania. I also co-supervise students across the GW4+ network with Dr Sarah Perkins and Dr Liz Chadwick at Cardiff University.

For all PhD students, funding is hard to come by and all scholarships for which I have secured funding will be advertised here and on

I am always keen to hear from UK resident graduates, with excellent academic credentials with a view to applying for Doctoral Training Partnership and other highly competitive scholarships. If you fit this bill and are keen to develop a project in the areas above, or related areas, get in touch at any time.”

The next entry date for PhD students is September 2019, with applications between now and then.