The use of eDNA to inform bat conservation in caves and beyond


An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the College of College of Health, Science and Society, UWE Bristol. 

Ref: 2223-APR-CHSS13

The expected start date of this studentship is 01 April 2023.

The closing date for applications is 24 February 2023

Studentship details

While relatively small features on the landscape, caves have a disproportionate effect on the ecosystems where they exist – especially those that support large aggregations of bats. Due to the dispersal ability of bats, the influence and ecological value of a cave can extend far out into the landscape due to the foraging, pollinating and seed-dispersing activity of bats (e.g. Boyles et al. 2011; Medellin et al. 2017). 

Cave ecosystems support an estimated 40% of all threatened bat species (Furey & Racey 2015). While cave-roosting bats benefit from the permanence and stability these structures provide, the reliance of large aggregations of bats to individual sites can make populations extremely vulnerable to rapid and sometimes irreversible decline. 

To address the ongoing loss of cave-roosting habitat for bats there has to be a clear understanding of the specific biodiversity value, threats and opportunities at each site. This information is often difficult to obtain as cave ecosystems can be inaccessible and dangerous for human researchers while visual surveys can be inaccurate and have the potential to disturb roosting or hibernating bats. 

This project will utilise the ability of emerging environmental DNA (eDNA) technologies to provide an accurate representation of bat species diversity and relative abundance within temperate and tropical cave systems. 

Identifying bat species assemblages using eDNA methods provides a valuable new tool for bat conservationists which can provide accurate, rapid and cost-effective estimates of bat biodiversity within caves and other spaces, allowing them to focus conservation efforts on the most important sites. The aim of this project is to develop and test a suite of eDNA survey methodologies which will allow for professional bat researchers and citizen scientists to gather robust data which can directly inform conservation strategies. Fieldwork is planned in UK and Jamaica with laboratory work undertaken at UWE Bristol. 

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Mark Steer at


The studentship is available from 01 April 2023 for a period of three and half years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £17,668 per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (home).


Full field, laboratory and analytical training will be provided.

However, candidates with a background in ecology, biology, genetics, biochemistry, environmental chemistry or a related field are strongly encouraged to apply. Experience in bioinformatics, laboratory and field work are desirable. 

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 2223-APR-CHSS13. 

Supporting documentation: you will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and a recognised English language qualification is required.

References: you will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application.

Closing Date

The closing date for applications is  24 February 2023.

Further Information

It is expected that interviews will take place on the week commencing 27th February.

If you have not heard from us by 6th March, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

You may also be interested in