Fully Funded EPSRC and SWTRA PhD Scholarships in Life Sciences – UK

Scholarship Description: This scholarship is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the South Wales Trunk Road Agent (SWTRA). Start date: October 2021 Supervisor: Supervisor 1: Dr. Kevin Arbuckle Supervisor 2: Dr. Patricia Xavier Amphibians are in decline worldwide and are considered the most endangered group of vertebrates. One of the main reasons for this population decline is the change in the environment caused by humans, which can kill amphibians either indirectly (by reducing the quality of their habitat) or directly. In the UK, roadside gulch pots (or “gullies”) used for drainage are a direct contributor to amphibian deaths as they have been linked to population decline and extinction. Small animals fall through the gates of ravines and become trapped in them, resulting in death by drowning or starvation if not rescued. The animals caught are mainly toads, Bufo bufo (80-90% of the captured amphibians), but also a smaller number of other amphibians and small mammals. Given the vast extent of the UK’s road network, the problem of gullies has a significant impact on wildlife welfare and protection. Previous attempts to solve this problem have mainly been based on newly developed products such as “amphibious ladders” or geotextiles, both of which are inserted into existing ravines to allow animals to escape. However, annual gully maintenance can quickly degrade these products, resulting in a short effective life. Alternative solutions have been suggested, such as relocating the canyons farther from the edges, which reduces amphibian trapping, but greatly reduces the canyon’s drainage efficiency, resulting in more water on the roads and additional pressure on water drainage infrastructure. A better solution would be to redesign the gutters themselves so that the trapped animals can escape but the necessary drainage function of the pots is not impaired. Since the frequency and intensity of precipitation is expected to increase with climate change, the efficiency of gutters is critical in controlling the expected higher rainfall in the coming decades.

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