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Invasive Species in an Artificial World (Prof J. Dick, School of Biological Sciences)

PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Invasive Species in an Artificial World (Prof J. Dick, School of Biological Sciences)

The transport, introduction, establishment, spread and impact of invasive alien species is a major environmental and ecological problem globally. This is highly likely to worsen as man-made vessels (eg boats) and structures (eg wind, wave and tidal devices) provide new opportunities for invasives to gain footholds and proliferate. This project will use state-of-the-art ecological methodology, such as ‘Comparative Functional Responses’ and the ‘Relative Impact Potential’ metric (developed by Prof J. Dick, Biology), to examine invasive species interactions with their environment and native species. This will be done in the context of a variety of artificial engineered surfaces (eg marine turbines) and changing environmental conditions (eg wave patterns), for example, using our bespoke wave tank facility at Queen’s Marine Laboratory, together with ecological transport models (Dr L. Kregting, Engineering). The project will quantify key stages in the impact of invasive species as influenced by engineered structures, for example, (1) determining the impact of invasive species (eg through predation) on native species colonising natural as compared to artificial surfaces, using functional response curves (relationship between resource density and resource uptake rate); (2) determining the strength of these interactions and population consequences under environmental change induced by artificial structures, such as wave height, strength, amplitutde, frequency and energy. This project will integrate ecological experimentation, data analysis and modelling, with fully quantified aspects of the engineered environment, utilising a unique facility at Queen’s Marine Laboratory that houses joint ecological and engineering infrastructure. The project will thus provide a PhD student with truly interdisciplinary training and outputs, leading to an ability to understand and predict the impacts of invasive alien species in an increasingly artificial world.~

Primary supervisor:
Professor Jaimie Thomas Allan Dick (Biological Sciences)
Secondary supervisor:
Dr Louise Kregting (Natural and Built Environment) 
External Partner/Organisation: 
DHI Water and Environment
The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)