MPhil studentship in Wildlife Conservation

Investing in excellence: studentship opportunities

The University of Derby has an opportunity for a full-time postgraduate research studentship in Zero Carbon areas of research in the College of Science and Engineering 

Qualification type: Location: Funding amount: Hours: Closes: Interview: Start date:
MPhil Derby, UK £19,237 stipend pa + UK home tuition fees (£4,786) full time Monday 17th June at 5pm. Monday 1st July 2024 to Tuesday 2nd July 2024 September 2024

The stipend is funded at standard UKRI rates, which is £19,237 pa for 2024/25, with an expectation that STFC will increase the rate with inflation for future years. Similarly the home tuition fee is £4,786 for 2024/25. Studentship funding is for two years.

If your application is successful and you are assessed as Overseas for fess purposes, you will need to pay the difference between the Home fees and the EU/Overseas fees.

Students that have not submitted their final thesis for examination by their Target Submission Date (two years for an MPhil) are classed as Post Target Fee students and continue to pay tuition fees until thesis submission. Full-time students also have their fees changed to the part-time annual rate (pro-rata).

The vacancy details are as follows: 

Purpose/objectives

The overarching objective is to reassess the conservation status of the Critically Endangered western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) in Guinea-Bissau and promote inclusive and participatory conservation approaches to protect both chimpanzees and natural resources.

In particular, the project will address three main objectives:

  1. Estimate population size based on traditional and novel emerging methods and predict the distribution/density of chimpanzees across Guinea-Bissau
  2. Compare the feasibility of different methodologies to inform best practices for chimpanzee monitoring
  3. Deliver inclusive and participatory actions to promote community-led conservation projects

Project description

Best-practice guidelines for surveying and monitoring of great apes are outdated (i.e., Kuehl et al., 2008) and new guidelines are urgently needed that adequately incorporate the latest technological advances that are rapidly transforming wildlife monitoring. Great apes are elusive species, which poses many challenges to their detection, and available methods for monitoring differ in terms of feasibility, outcome, effort, and cost. Line transect nest counts are a standard method, yet time-consuming and expensive. In contrast, passive acoustic monitoring, camera traps and drones are less labor-intensive and thus more cost-effective. Collecting environmental DNA (eDNA), traces of DNA left by individuals in the environment, is a promising tool to target species such as great apes which are elusive, occur at low population sizes, and are endangered. Despite its potential to guide conservation efforts, the feasibility of using eDNA for primate monitoring remains little explored. Community-led conservation activities can play a crucial role in informing about a species’ distribution and conservation status, and Citizen Science approaches have gained traction for involving stakeholders in species monitoring. However, despite their cost-effectiveness and great potential for aiding great ape conservation (McCarthy et al., 2021), citizen science approaches are lacking for most great ape countries. Given the pros and cons of these methodologies, it is important to understand how they complement each other and their applications to countries where great ape surveys are still underrepresented. Since 2003, Guinea-Bissau is a priority area for chimpanzee conservation in the Regional Action Plan, but within-country population trends are still unknown. Thus, this project aims to reassess the conservation status of chimpanzees in Guinea-Bissau and to provide insights into Best Practices (Strategy 1) and eliminate Research and Data Gaps (Strategy 2 in Regional Action Plan 2020-30).

Potential project impact

The project impacts are:

  1. Enhanced Community Engagement: Through workshops and participatory activities, communities will be empowered to contribute to conservation efforts, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility
  2. Capacity Building: Stakeholders will improve knowledge and skills through workshops, enhancing their ability to contribute effectively to conservation initiatives beyond the project's scope
  3. Improved Conservation Strategies: The project will identify short and long-term conservation outcomes through community involvement, ensuring strategies align with local needs and priorities
  4. Innovative Conservation Techniques: Advanced methodologies like Citizen Science, environmental DNA, AI data processing, and drone technology will facilitate efficient data collection and analysis, improving conservation monitoring efforts
  5. Accurate Population Assessment: By employing diverse survey techniques, the project will provide reliable estimates of chimpanzee populations both inside and outside protected areas, informing targeted conservation interventions
  6. Robust Data Analysis: Utilization of detectability modelling and spatial distribution modelling will enhance the accuracy of data interpretation, enabling informed decision-making in conservation planning

Principal accountabilities and responsibilities

The principal accountabilities and responsibilities of the role are to lead on field data collection activities, supported by other members of the research team, which will require extended periods of time in the field in Guinea-Bissau. Specifically, the role requires the successful applicant to:

  1. Facilitate workshops to engage stakeholders, conduct semi-structured interviews and promote and support community-led chimpanzee conservation projects through Citizen Science initiatives
  2. Conduct chimpanzee surveys using diverse techniques including recce surveys, nest counting, passive acoustic monitoring, camera trapping, drone sampling, and eDNA sampling
  3. Perform data analysis to estimate chimpanzee population size, comparing different methodologies
  4. Participate in writing project report(s) and manuscripts for publication in scientific journals

To apply 

Please review our entry requirements before submitting your application and check out the 'Getting Started' section below.

Completed applications should be submitted via our online application system quoting funding reference: EXT_S&E_WildlifeConservsation_2425

Closing dates for applications: Monday 17th June 2024 at 5pm.*

*(Please note, we encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible as we reserve the right to close early, if a high volume of applications is received.)   

Interviews: Monday 1st July 2024 to Tuesday 2nd July 2024

If you have not been invited for an interview by the interview date, please assume your application has been unsuccessful.  

For other enquiries which are subject-specific please contact:

Dr Joana Carvalho (j.carvalho@derby.ac.uk)

Dr Alessia Bani (a.bani@derby.ac.uk)

Find out more about Zero Carbon.

 Apply for this SE studentship post

Getting started

Before you begin your application, make sure you have:

Studentship funding reference code

This is provided on the individual studentship advert and must be specified in your application. 

Personal statement

A 500-word personal statement outlining your suitability for the studentship project. This is a mandatory requirement and you must upload it into your application. You should include your reasons for applying for the studentship, your experience in the field, how you feel you would benefit from studying and relevant information about your previous studies.

Your CV

A CV outlining your academic and professional experience.

Qualifications

Your qualification details including grades and dates taken. You will have the opportunity to upload scanned copies of your qualification certificates and transcripts in the application. If you have no formal qualifications, you can also state this in your application.

Passport/birth certificate

A scanned copy of your passport or full birth certificate. This will help us verify your application to study with us. International applicants can provide a copy of their passport only for visa assessment purposes, and their current visa if residing within the UK.

Academic references

Two signed academic references. This is optional at application stage but highly encouraged. If successful in your application, two academic references will be a mandatory requirement of admission. The references should be in written format, signed and dated from either a supervisor or tutor from your most recent studies.