Project Description

A full project description can be found on Find a PhD. Please see below for additional information about this project:

This project is suitable, with modification, to address a wide range of research questions about the evolutionary predictability of major niche transitions, across both fundamental and applied contexts. Students bringing their own relevant research interests are encouraged to apply. Pre-application inquiries to are strongly encouraged but not required.

Essential skills

  • The student must be enthusiastic and self-motivated, and bring their own research interests to the project.
  • Previous experience with statistical analysis and writing of scientific reports (e.g., a previous Honours or Masters thesis) is essential.

Desirable skills

  • Previous experience with the statistical and modelling platform R is desirable.

Photos (clockwise from the top) by Егор Камелев, Erik KaritsGouthaman Raveendran, and Andrew Claypool


Lesley Lancaster

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Lesley Lancaster
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Greta Bocedi

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Greta Bocedi
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Isabella Capellini

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Isabella Capellini
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Additional Supervisor:

Dr Laura Kelly
Research Leader
Dept. of Natural Capital and Plant Health, Kew Gardens


  • Pironon et al. (2019) Potential adaptive strategies for 29 sub-Saharan crops under future climate change. Nature Climate Change 9, 758-763
  • Bebber et al. (2013) Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world. Nature Climate Change 3, 985-988.
  • Lancaster (2020) Host use diversification during range shifts shapes global variation in Lepidopteran dietary breadth. Nature Ecology and Evolution 4, 963-969.


This project will provide novel data and approaches for anticipating emerging pests. Thus the findings will have significant applied importance. In addition, the work will reveal fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes relevant to range shifting species and species’ niche transitions. The data and outputs of this project will be widely disseminated to our contacts in government ( and the public, whereby it can inform policy and management, including import and monitoring guidelines, of emerging pest species.

Proposed Timetable

Year 1
Literature review, collate data, training in analytical and modelling approaches, approaches to data synthesis, and principles of experimental design. Agreement on project direction and objectives, conduct research towards chapter 1.

Year 2
Completion of chapter 1, development of new research questions based on literature review, networking, and preliminary analyses. Student takes the lead on project direction. Internship in Kew.

Year 3
Completion of chapter 2, work towards final chapters. Additional fieldwork or genetic data generation to improve models and validate predictions. Dissemination of findings at conferences.

Year 4
Analysis, writing, and completion of final chapters. Dissemination of findings at conferences. Communication with stakeholders via workshops and reports.


  • biodiversity
  • environmental-management


This project is in partnership with Kew Gardens

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