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Possible Masters Projects

Community Ecology
Master Thesis in Community Ecology

Food webs, foraging behaviour, and allometric scaling
Food webs, foraging behaviour, and allometric scaling are coming together to create a new and exciting frontier of research in ecology. This frontier aims to help understand the forces that structure ecological communities, and to provide an empirically evidenced theoretical foundation for predicting effects of environmental change on ecological communities. Relevant environmental changes include extinctions, invasions, temperature fluctuations, and habitat loss. The project will involve researching any of several new ideas in this field, and will suit students with a strong interest in coupling empirical data with theoretical models, and students that have the ability to think broadly and imaginatively while still focusing on a specific research question. Interested students could start by reading an article in Functional Ecology (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2009.01673.x/full)

What determines how fast I eat? Biotic and abiotic influences on feeding rates of aquatic organisms
Understanding how fast organisms eat is key for understanding the dynamics of predator-prey interactions. All sorts of factors can affect feeding rate, and during this project you will conceive, design, perform, and analyse experiments with small predators in lab-based communities. These predators are, despite their small size, quite impressive and voracious consumers! Which factors are investigated, such as prey identity, temperature, and disease, will be decided in collaboration with Owen. Depending on your interests, the project could include modelling of the dynamic consequences of your findings. For an example of the kinds of results and conclusions that a similar study found, take a look at this paper (http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657040).

Body size and extinction riskā€¦ is there a general pattern?
There seems to be lots of evidence that species with large bodied individuals experience greater risk of extinction than ones with small individuals. There are many reasons why one would expect this to be the case. But there are also many examples of no relationship between size and extinction risk. This project will compile data about relationships between body size, extinction risk, and other pertinent variables. This data will come from previously published studies. New analyses of the compiled data will be used to discover how general is the relationship between size and extinction risk, and to, where possible, to disentangle mechanisms by which body size influences extinction risk.