Project Description

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

Although this project is mostly on mammals the successful candidate does not only need to have a passion for mammals and the associated field work. The successful completion of the project requires a candidate to be very interested in the theoretical foundations of the outlined work but at the same time the candidate should have a strong interest to learn more about computer programming, how to maintain databases, and carry out complex statistical analyses.

Essential skills

Full Driving license, Willingness to travel, Good knowledge of R

Desirable skills

Good writing and communication skills

Photo by Tolga Ahmetler on Unsplash.


Hansjoerg Kunc

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Hansjoerg Kunc
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Xavier Lambin

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Xavier Lambin
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Neil Reid

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Neil Reid
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Additional Supervisor:

Dr Kathy Bell (Ulster Wildlife Trust)

Dr Annika Clements (Ulster Wildlife Trust)

Dr David Tosh (National Museums NI)


Smith et al. 2017. Fear of the human “super predator” reduces feeding time in large carnivores.” Proc. Roy. Soc. B: 284: 20170433.
Suraci et al 2016. Fear of large carnivores causes a trophic cascade.” Nat. Com. 7: 1-7.

Research Methods

The aim of the project is to quantify how changes in the landscape of fear triggered by anthropogenic noise affect individuals and trophic interactions. We will use systematic reviews and field experiments to quantify how the presence of human affects species on different tropic level. The work will include: (1) two phylogenetically controlled meta-analyses one to assess the relationship between changes in the landscape of fear and ecosystem interactions, and another to quantify the effects of anthropogenic noise on predator-prey interactions. (2) the designing and carrying out of field experiments, simulating the absence/presence of humans to establish how the presence of a super predator affects species on different trophic levels, i.e. red squirrels, grey squirrels, pine marten, and fox. (3) work with our CASE partner, the Ulster Wildlife Trust, to monitor animal populations, and to translate the findings into evidence-based policy communications.

Expected Training Provision

The successful candidate will be trained in state-of-the-art statistical analysis (e.g., the modelling of predation and spatial dynamics, phylogenetically controlled meta-analysis) in the programming language R, experimental design, learn a variety of different monitoring techniques, database management, managing a project in a conservation organisation (Ulster Wildlife Trust), and how to communicate the results through stakeholder engagement.


In addition to a wide range of academic beneficiaries, including ecologists, behavioural ecologist, animal behaviourists, sensory ecologists, scientists working on the effects of anthropogenic noise, conservationists, the outlined research will benefit other stakeholders beyond academia. The two components of the outlined work aims to synthesise the available literature on how the landscape of fear affect ecosystem functioning and one to quantify the effects of anthropogenic noise on predator-prey interactions. These state of the art synthesis are not only welcomed by the academic community, but also legislative bodies, NGO’s, as well as the general public. A recent paper by Kunc & Schmidt 2019 received worldwide coverage in in both print and media, which also is reflected in a high Altmetric score (384). Moreover, the work with our case partner will ensure that the questions and issues of conservation organisations are directly addressed in these two analyses.

Proposed Timetable

10/2022-02/2023. Background reading, creating search criteria for synthesis 1, start developing experimental protocols, designing of databases; work a few month with the CASE partner.
03/2023-07/2023. Field season 1 in Northern Ireland and Scotland, including monitoring of populations and testing experimental protocols.
08/2023-02/2024. Maintaining databases for field data, synthesis data, and monitoring data while working with the CASE partner.
03/2024-07/2024 Field season 2 in NI and Scotland, carrying out of field experiments.
08/2024-02/2025 Data analysis and writing up of field experiment(s); completing analysis for synthesis and writing up chapter, working with the CASE partner.
03/2026-07/2025 Field season 3. Carrying out field experiments.
08/2025-02/2026 Analysing the field experiments and completing the experimental chapters, finishing work with CASE partner.
03/2026-05/2026 Field season 4. Only if needed otherwise finish outstanding analyses and writing up remaining chapters.
06/2026-10/2026 Writing up remaining chapters and submission of thesis.



  • biodiversity
  • environmental-management


This is a CASE sponsored project in partnership with Ulster Wildlife Trust. Dr Kathy Bell & Dr Annika Clements from Ulster Wildlife Trust will also contribute to the supervisory team.

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