Understanding the roles of pollinators and herbivores in sustainable urban agroecosystems

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jill Edmondson, Animal and Plant Sciences
Co-supervisor(s): Dr Stuart Campbell, Animal and Plant Sciences; Prof James Hitchmough, Department of Landscape

Deadline: Monday 26th March 2018

Project Description
The human population will rise to 9 billion by 2050, posing a severe challenge to global food production.  This challenge will be exacerbated by the rapid pace of urbanisation. Worldwide, 25-30% of the urban population participates in food production, and urban agriculture is recognised as an increasingly important contributor to food security. It is therefore critical to understand the biotic and abiotic factors that limit or sustain urban agriculture.

Two of the primary factors influencing fruit and vegetable yield are herbivory and pollination – however we know relatively little about how these interact in agroecosystems. Plant species diversity in urban greenspaces may be important for supporting insect diversity, but our understanding of the relative importance of pollinators and herbivores in urban food production remains poor. This studentship will explore how pollinators and herbivores influence urban agricultural productivity, and what factors underlie variation in herbivory and pollination in these systems.

This project will focus on allotment growers, as allotments are the primary areas of own-grown food production in urban Europe. Measure Your Harvest (MYHarvest: https://myharvest.org.uk) is a citizen science project at the University of Sheffield which is analysing own-grown fruit and vegetable production across the UK. The extensive MYHarvest dataset will include plot level crop diversity, soil quality, and management techniques.  This studentship will use the MYHarvest network to address three fundamental questions that are at the core of understanding the biotic factors that sustain urban agricultural productivity:

This studentship will combine observational field studies and experimental manipulations. This project will require extensive fieldwork across the UK.  The student will gain a diverse skillset in agricultural and sustainability science, plant ecology, entomology, community ecology, landscape ecology and GIS. Public engagement and knowledge exchange will be integral to this research The studentship will contribute original research into processes underlying productivity in urban agriculture with the potential to deliver impact in the UK and beyond.

The student will work in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of leading researchers in sustainable development, plant-insect interactions and landscape management.

Keywords: Urban agriculture, herbivory, pollination, food security, ecosystem services, horticulture
Subject areas: Agriculture sciences, botany/plant science, ecology and conservation

Funding notes
This four-year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,627 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year.  Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,336.  Applications should be received and complete by Monday 26th March 2018.

What to include in the application
Your application for this studentship should be accompanied by a CV and a 200 word supporting statement. Your statement should outline your aspirations and motivation for studying in the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. You should also outline any relevant experience and interests that you have in sustainability issues.

Please select ‘Standard PhD’ and the department of this project’s lead supervisor. Fill in the title of your desired project and the name(s) of the supervisors. The starting date of the PhD will be the start of the next academic year – 1 Oct 2018. The ‘Funding stage’ on the form will be ‘project studentship’.