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  1. Study at the OU
  2. Research degrees
  3. Research areas
  4. Ecosystems and Biodiversity
  5. Biodiversity and conservation

Biodiversity and conservation

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Floodplain meadow; fritillaries

In response to the current crisis of species extinctions across the globe, research within this theme focuses on the evolution and maintenance of biodiversity with particular emphasis on molecular evolution and conservation biology. Various questions in evolutionary biology and population dynamics are addressed, through specialisms in behavioural ecology, environmental physiology, population genetics, and terrestrial microbial ecology. Emphasis is placed on the interpretation of long-term experiments. A key area of this theme is understanding how land management impacts upon biodiversity in the environment, and on the development of more effective management options to conserve the diversity of plant species. The Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems hosts the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, which specialises in the management, promotion and restoration of floodplain meadows in England and Wales. The ecology/conservation of a diverse range of plant and animal species is currently being studied, including butterflies in Puerto Rico, dung flies in Cambridgeshire and grassland ecology in South Africa. The techniques used range from measurements in the field to population genetics. There is a strong focus on citizen science approaches via the Evolution Megalab and iSpot.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) or an appropriate first degree and postgraduate qualification

Potential research projects

We encourage enquiries from prospective students on any aspect of biodiversity and conservation ecology. Lists of postgraduate research projects likely to be available for a 2014 start will become available towards the end of 2013.

Please also see further opportunities.

Current / recent research projects

  • Ecological and evolutionary studies in the Park Grass Experiment
  • Nutrient availability in floodplain habitats
  • Response of grassland communities to water and nutrient availability
  • Sensitivity of plants to soil moisture status
  • Water use by floodplain vegetation
  • Tropical butterfly communities
  • Environmental impacts of volcanoes

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Astrid Peterkin, Research Coordinator
+44 (0)1908 659845

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under ‘Your questions’ on the right of the page.