ARC are thrilled to be offer this opportunity for the right person to develop advanced skills in assessing species' status, and shaping the way herpetofaunal data should be analysed.

The PhD will be based at University of Kent, and supervised by Dr John Wilkison  from ARC  in partnership with colleagues from Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), ARG UK.

Project Description

Reliable estimates of biodiversity are constrained by an inability to produce robust estimates of nationwide status, trends and threats for many cryptic taxa. Effective decision-making therefore requires (1) a better balanced assessment of biodiversity; and (2) collation and analysis of ‘messy’ species data that are collected using a variety of protocols and stakeholder groups.

Anecdotal evidence points to declines in many of the UK’s amphibians and reptiles (or herpetofauna), particularly in formerly widespread species such as the adder and common toad. The National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) was designed to provide evidence on trends in UK herpetofauna, but has been unable to deliver substantive insights into drivers of these trends. Fortunately, statistical tools have now emerged that are capable of providing robust trends from unstructured data, including citizen science records.

Research methodology

This project will bring together existing datasets from a range of organisations into a common modelling framework, based on a hierarchical Bayesian occupancy-detection model. These outputs will be used  to:

  1. Reveal national status and trends from disparate data (including NARRS)
  2. Determine the drivers of trends in distribution and abundance
  3. Forecast trends under scenarios of future change
  4. Advise on the design of an integrated monitoring portfolio


The student will receive a comprehensive training experience, covering a broad range of analytical skills including Bayesian statistical techniques for spatio-temporal modelling using citizen science data, as well as transferable skills including stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange.

Person specification

The successful candidate will have at least a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject and be capable of demonstrating good numeracy and an aptitude for modelling. Experience of UK wildlife conservation, especially reptiles and amphibians, would be an advantage. Good interpersonal and communication skills will be required as the project will involve engagement with a diversity of stakeholder groups.

For more information and to apply: