Project proposal details

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Project title
Designing and implementing an analytical database for understanding insect declines
Contact name
Andy Purvis
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Imperial contact email
Project description
A growing literature points to sharp, possibly widespread, declines in insect biodiversity. However, the best-known claims of 'insect Armageddon' ( are overblown ( - and current understanding is hampered by fragmentary evidence and limited data linking insect diversity to the anthropogenic threats that drive change. A large new collaboration is aiming to synthesise many lines of published evidence into a threat-response model that will characterise how each taxonomic and ecological group of insects responds to each anthropogenic threat (using the IUCN's classification:

This project, which requires a high degree of computational skill, will design and prototype a database to (a) hold these diverse lines of evidence, and (b) automate the statistical estimation of parameters in the threat-response model from the information in this database and in the PREDICTS database (a global compilation of how ecological communities respond to land use and related threats: It would provide the opportunity to work with researchers around the UK, and could lead to multiple publications.

The lab holds weekly meetings, fortnightly journal club and a series of workshops on transferable research skills (e.g., reading the literature, thesis writing, giving presentations), in addition to weekly supervisor meetings.
Additional requirements
This project would require good coding/software design skills
Available support
All the money the host lab gets for the project will be made available to help with travel costs to NHM, where the project is based, and perhaps to visit project partners elsewhere in the UK or attend a conference to present the database.
Selection and eligibility
If interested, please email Andy Purvis (, with a CV if you have one, to fix up a meeting to discuss the project.
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.

Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
5 months, 9 months
Suitable for
Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MSc), Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MRes)