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NERC DTP BC204: *Priority CASE Project* Butterflies, behaviour and buffering: investigating the interaction between fine-scale habitat use, temperature and behaviour in UK butterflies

Supervisor: Dr Edgar Turner, Co-supervisor: Dr Andrew Bladon

Project summary:

Working across a network of reserves managed by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (BCNWT), this project will develop existing research to assess the two-way relationship between butterfly behaviour and microhabitat use for thermoregulation. The project will use a large dataset, collected over a ten-year period and including >4,000 records from >30 UK butterfly species, to quantify the relationship between local temperature and butterfly behaviour. Building on this, the project will collect detailed field data on butterfly behaviour, microhabitat use and temperature, to assess how microhabitat and fine-scale temperature choice influences individual behaviour, and how this relates to management on reserves. Fieldwork will be complemented with lab studies to experimentally assess the influence of temperature on butterfly behaviour and mortality.

What the student will be doing:

The project includes three key components. In the first, the student will use long-term data to assess the influence of local temperature, including areas where conservation management has taken place, on butterfly behaviour (e.g. flying, resting, interacting, or nectaring). Working with staff and volunteers from BCNWT, the second component will involve targeted surveys of species and monitoring of temperatures across a range of microhabitat and management conditions on reserves, allowing an assessment of the suitability of different habitats for species, based on their temperature requirements. The student will record specific information on butterfly behaviour and wing position, microhabitat choice and fine-scale temperature of the immediate environment, using a sensitive thermocouple and data-loggers. In the third part of the project, students will carry out laboratory studies to assess experimentally the impacts of temperature variation on butterfly behaviour and mortality, enabling the interacting impacts of temperature and behaviour to be broken down. This part of the project will be targeted to a subset of sensitive species identified in the first two parts of the project.

References:

Bladon A, Lewis M, Bladon E, Buckton S, Corbett S, Ewing S, Hayes M, Hitchcock G, Knock R, Lucas C, McVeigh A, Menendez R, Walker J, Fayle T, Turner EC (In press Journal of Animal Ecology). How butterflies keep their cool: physical and ecological traits influence thermoregulatory ability and population trends. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13319

Hayes MP, Hitchcock GE, Knock RI, Lucas CBH, Turner EC (2019) Temperature and territoriality in the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Hamearis lucina. Journal of Insect Conservation 23, 739-750.

Suggitt, AJ, Wilson RJ, Isaac NJB, Beale CM, Auffret AG, August T, Bennie JJ, Crick HQP, Duffield S, Fox R, Hopkins JJ, Macgregor NA, Morecroft MD, Walker KJ & Maclean IMD (2018). Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering. Nature Climate Change 8, 713–717

Specific qualifications desirable for this particular project:

Experience of carrying out fieldwork and analysing large ecological datasets 

Additional information:

The BCN Wildlife Trust is a CASE partner for this project.

Funding is available for this project via the NERC Cambridge Climate, Life and Earth (C-CLEAR) Doctoral Training Partnership – please refer to their website for more information: https://nercdtp.esc.cam.ac.uk/projects/BC204