The core intellectual aim of BIOSEC is to explore whether concerns about biodiversity protection and global security are becoming integrated, and if so, in what ways. It will do so via building new theoretical approaches for political ecology. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP recently stated ‘the scale and role of wildlife and forest crime in threat finance calls for much wider policy attention’. The argument that wildlife trafficking constitutes a significant source of ‘threat finance’ takes two forms: first as a lucrative business for organised crime networks in Europe and Asia, and second as a source of finance for militias and terrorist networks, most notably Al Shabaab, Lord’s Resistance Army and Janjaweed. BIOSEC is a four year project designed to lead debates on these emerging challenges. It will build pioneering theoretical approaches and generate new empirical data. BIOSEC takes a fully integrated approach: it will produce a better conceptual understanding of the role of illegal wildlife trade in generating threat finance; it will examine the links between source and end user countries for wildlife products; and it will investigate and analyse the emerging responses of NGOs, government agencies and international organisations to these challenges. BIOSEC goes beyond the ‘state-of-the art’ because biodiversity protection and global security currently inhabit distinctive intellectual ‘silos’; however, they need to be analysed via an interdisciplinary research agenda that cuts across human geography, politics and international relations, criminology and conservation biology. This research is timely because in the last two years, the idea that the illegal wildlife trade constitutes a major security threat has become more prevalent in academic and policy circles, yet it is an area that is under researched and poorly understood. These recent shifts demand urgent conceptual and empirical interrogation.
A digital twin is an optimal combination of models and data used to create a virtual duplicate of a real system. The aim of this project is to develop more advanced vibration testing techniques - for example for testing automotive vehicles, or wind turbines using a digital twin which can model and predict the vibration behaviour. This will do two things: (1) improve efficiency of operation, and (2) increase the longevity of the asset, thereby improving cost effectiveness over its lifetime. The project is sponsored by Siemens Digital Industries Software, a company that has been at the cutting edge of engineering testing and analysis for several decades, and consequently are ideally placed to support the student in partnership with the academic team from Sheffield. The physics-based models will use FEA software. The data-based models will be based on machine learning techniques.
Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.
This interdisciplinary project seeks to understand the risks posed by soil contamination by anthropogenic activities above- and below-ground in urban ecosystems. This is crucial as soils in urban ecosystems experience high levels of contamination from heavy industry, transport and human management (e.g. pesticides and herbicides at unregulated rates) and the impact of these on the structure and function of urban soil ecosystems are unknown. Our supervisory team is uniquely placed to deliver this project with expertise in urban ecosystems, plant-soil-microbe interactions and the impact of pesticides in the environment on wildlife. Currently, nothing is known about how heavy metal and chemical contaminants impact soil microbial and fungal community structure and function in urban ecosystems, and how this impacts on the associated wildlife in above- and below-ground ecosystems. This project will provide key insights into these processes producing a new framework for assessment of environmental risk of soil contaminants. The student appointed to this project will develop a range of skills in soil, plant and microbial sciences, including analytical chemistry, metabolomics, isotope tracing and metagenomics. In addition, the student will undertake fieldwork and develop associated skills in citizen science, working with local authorities and the general public.
The origin of species diversity has challenged biologists for over two centuries. Charles Darwin recognised that allopatry, species divergence resulting from geographical isolation, is a driving force in speciation, but he also thought that populations could diverge into separate species in the absence of geographical isolation, a mechanism now called sympatric speciation. During the last decade, mathematical models have shown that sympatric speciation is theoretically possible, but extremely few examples have been documented in nature. Early this year, Savolainen and colleagues (some of the applicants of this proposal) provided complete evidence for sympatric speciation in a case study of two species of palm, Howea forsteriana and H. belmoreana, endemic of the remote Lord Howe Island (LHI) ('sympatric speciation in palms on an oceanic island', Nature 441: 210-213, 2006). Here we propose to take our research to a much deeper level. Our goal is to document the genomic architecture and genetic basis for species divergence in our case study of palms, thus bringing new types of data to test alternatives to divergence in sympatry and disentangle the mechanisms of ecological speciation that must have operated in this unique LHI system. LHI is a minute subtropical island of less than 12 km2, situated 580 km off the eastern coast of Australia. Its flora comprises 241 vascular plant species of which 105 are endemic. Geographic isolation is not realistically possible on LHI and thus it is an ideal site on which to test the four criteria for sympatric speciation: 1) species sympatry, 2) sister relationships, 3) reproductive isolation, and 4) that an earlier allopatric phase is highly unlikely. Numerous plant genera, like the palms Howea, are represented by more than one endemic species on the island, which may well be products of sympatric speciation. In our previous experiments of the Howea palms, we found that the genetic signature of species divergence indicated that only four loci differ more strongly between the two species than expected under neutrality and these are those most likely to be linked to genes subject to divergent selection during sympatric speciation. To characterise the genomic and genetic architecture underlying the ecological speciation of Howea in this unique island system, we will conduct six activities: a) Using a more comprehensive AFLP genome scan, identify in Howea the most divergent marker loci and so regions of the genome that may be under selection b) Using these divergent loci as probes on a BAC library, characterise portions of the kentia palm's genome that may contain genes involved in species divergence (testing Gavrilets' prediction of only a few loci being involved in speciation in Howea) c) Using the BACs sequences of the kentia palm as template, identify in the curly palm's genome homologous sequences and open reading frames (ORFs), which may contain the signature of positive selection d) Determine whether the divergent genomic segments are concentrated versus widely distributed in the genomes of the two palm species (testing Felsenstein's classic prediction of speciation being facilitated by low recombination). e) Using coalescence models and multiple loci, evaluate whether gene flow has been interrupted / and estimate the extent of disruption / during species divergence in Howea. f) In comparison with an EST library for the oil palm, provide possible functions for any ORFs found under selection.