Project Description

Across low-income countries, rodents contribute significantly to income and food insecurity due to both pre and post-harvest losses. Rodent pests are also reservoirs for rodent-borne infections, a substantial cause of human disease. Effective rodent management strategies, adapted to local circumstances and sustainable for communities, have the potential to improve well-being, food security and health. However, the development of such strategies is a complex social, economic and ecological challenge. This exciting interdisciplinary project, with field-work in Madagascar, will address this challenge.

In terms of ecology, effective management will depend on how rodent populations respond through compensatory processes such as reproduction and movement. However, the approaches to management taken by individual farmers and communities, and policy development by stakeholders, will depend on how impacts and the feasibility of management strategies are perceived.

Little is known about the economic cost of rodents and this is a serious barrier to effective management being implemented. No studies have yet quantified the combined impacts of rodent-driven agricultural losses and health impacts on farmers and communities. Rodents can disperse across landscapes in response to changing densities and resource availability, and management control in one area will have spill-overs or “externalities” for farmers and communities elsewhere. Effective management is further complicated these spatial ecological processes and spatial differences in economic impacts and management control behaviour.

Ecological Based Rodent Management (EBRM) techniques where communities work collectively to target control in specific locations and seasons have proved effective at reducing crop damage in several Asian agroecosystems. These approaches depend on knowledge of rodent population dynamics, but also need to be adapted to local socio-cultural and economic contexts.

This project will work with existing EBRM projects in Madagascar to address questions such as

(i) what are the perceived and real costs of rodent impacts on crop income, food security and health?

(ii) how does the impact depend on rodent abundance at local and landscape scales?

(iii) how do individual farmers balance economic and health considerations when taking management decisions?

(iv) what are the physical, economic and behavioural barriers to the adoption of appropriate management practices?

(v) how do approaches to risk and uncertainty influence/constrain community-level actions?

(vi) how does the cost-effectiveness of different management options compare and how does this depend on spatial ecological processes and spatial differences in management control costs and economic impacts?

The project will work with teams in the field to quantify rodent impacts and assess the costs (direct and indirect) of alternative management strategies. The student will also use experimental economic approaches to investigate attitudes towards risk, uncertainty and community-action, and adapt existing simple agent-based models to capture the spatial ecological and economic interactions.

The project will suit a student with a background in economics, ecology or development studies. The student will receive thorough multidisciplinary training, including in the collection of ecological and economic data, statistical analyses and modelling. The relative importance of the different project components will depend on the interests of the student.

Essential Candidate Background:

  • Candidates should have an honours degree in economics, ecology or a related field AND ideally either have or be close to completion of an MSc in economics, ecology or a related field.


Photo by Svetozar Cenisev on Unsplash


Sandra Telfer

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Sandra Telfer
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences

Secondary Supervisor:

Prof. Verity Watson – University of Aberdeen, Health Economics Research Unit, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
Academic profile:

Additional Supervisor:

Prof. Euan Phimister – University of Aberdeen, Business School

Academic profile:


Thomas Bodey

Additional Supervisor:

Profile: Thomas Bodey
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences


  • Diagne C, Ballesteros-Mejia L, Cuthbert RN, Bodey TW, Fantle-Lepczyk J, Angulo E, Bang A, Dobigny G, Courchamp F. 2023. Economic costs of invasive rodents worldwide: the tip of the iceberg. PeerJ 11:e14935
  • Torgerson PR, Hagan JE, Costa F, Calcagno J, Kane M, Martinez-Silveira MS, Goris MGA, Stein C, Ko AI, Abela-Ridder B. 2015. Global burden of leptospirosis: estimated in terms of disability adjusted life years. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 9:e0004122 DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004122.
  • Constant, N.L., Swanepoel, L.H., Williams, S.T., Soarimalala, V., Goodman, S.M., Massawe, A.T., Mulungu, L.S., Makundi, R.H., Mdangi, M.E., Taylor, P.J., et al. (2020). Comparative assessment on rodent impacts and cultural perceptions of ecologically based rodent management in 3 Afro-Malagasy farming regions. Integr. Zool. DOI: 10.1111/1749-4877.12447


  • biodiversity
  • environmental-management

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