As an organisation, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have always valued scientific research and evidence-led conservation work. So when the opportunity came up to work with the University of East Anglia (UEA) we leapt at the chance!
The outcome is a PhD studentship proposal, supervised by Dr Lynn Dicks & Dr Simon Butler at UEA and with Highways England, Costain, and the Trust (Science Manager Dr Richard Comont) as partners, funded through EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. The title will be ‘Road verges for bumblebee conservation: a green infrastructure opportunity or an ecological trap?’ and you have until Monday 8th January 2018. Click here to apply.
The aim of the project will be to examine how good – or bad – road verges can be for bumblebees to nest and feed. We know they could be good for bees, and for pollinators in general: they can provide flowers to feed on, undisturbed areas to nest, and corridors of good-quality habitat to help bees move through the landscape. But they also have potential to be bad: mown too frequently, doused in pollutants from vehicle exhausts, or just suffering from the constant throb of passing heavy traffic – no minor consideration for species which ‘hear’ vibration.
The successful candidate will be trained in field ecology, entomology, advanced ecological statistics, GIS, environmental chemistry and conservation science. They will work with the Trust on a 3-month traineeship on a current road verge restoration project, and there will be placement opportunities with Costain, focused on environmental management or sustainability in infrastructure engineering. During the PhD the student will critically examine the role of road verges in bumblebee conservation, using the following methods:
- Ecological sampling of flowers, wild bee visits and nesting bees on newly established (A14) and long established large trunk road verges, comparing different management approaches;
- Large-scale spatial mapping of nectar and pollen provision from road verges;
- Modelling impacts of resource provision from road verges on pollination services at regional and national levels;
- Analysis of pollutants (heavy metals and other toxins) in nectar and pollen sampled from road verges; laboratory experiments with bumblebee colonies to test the toxicity and responses to vibration.
We know that pollinator conservation is a global environmental priority, because bumblebees and other pollinators have declined hugely over the past century. Many UK species have declined massively in recent years, and two have become extinct in the UK since 1940.
Road verges are often proposed as key habitat elements for bumblebee conservation. They have potential to provide substantial foraging and nesting resources to wild bees, and to link up areas of natural habitat in ecological networks. But we need to know for sure that the good outweighs the bad – or we could be luring bumblebee queens into an ecological trap that could help seal their fate.
If you think you’re the person to help us find out, click here to apply before Monday 8th January 2018.