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Name of scholarship/program

The ecology of mesophotic coral ecosystems

Important description
Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are communities of light-dependent corals and associates found at depths of 30-160m. They are poorly studied yet may have a linear extent as great as shallow-water coral reefs globally. More importantly MCEs may act as refugia for shallow-water coral reefs and their associated biota and therefore increase their resilience to natural and anthropogenic disturbance. This is known as the Deep-Reef Refugia Hypothesis (DRRH). For MCEs to act as refugia they must share species with shallow-water reefs, be at least partially protected from disturbances that impact shallow-water reefs and there must be connectivity amongst populations of corals and associates across the depth gradient.

This studentship will address the DRRH through investigation of the distribution of coral and fish species along the depth gradient at a location where MCEs are known to occur, Utila in Honduras. This is a prime location for research on Caribbean coral reef ecosystems but also has the unique feature of having a dive school that regularly trains and is equipped for Technical Diving. This form of diving is now regularly attaining depths >50m through the use of closed-circuit advanced trimix rebreather systems. The studentship will use this unique facility to develop a project in liason with Operation Wallacea in liason with the Coral View Beach Diving Centre to obtain stereo video survey data and samples for the investigation.

The studentship will focus on either fish or corals. Surveys will be undertaken using a depth-stratified design and an assessment made of changes in abundance, diversity and species composition of communities with depth. Physical parameters will be measured (temperature, light, turbidity) to examine the drivers of distribution along the depth gradient. Opportunities may also arise for direct assessment of connectivity using population genetic methods and also work on changes in coral physiology with increasing depth.

To apply please use the online application system at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply/ . Please remember to quote the studentship reference code DTG13. Any queries regarding the application procedure please contact graduate.office@zoo.ox.ac.uk. The closing date is 18th January 2013. Please note that as this is a studentship project, no research proposal is required, please submit a statement of purpose/personal statement in its place. The University of Oxford is an Equal Opportunities employer.

Eligibility and other criteria
European/UK Students Only:
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Application deadline
*18 January 2013

Additional information, and important URL

The full award, including a stipend from NERC (currently £13,590pa) is available only to residents of the UK, or those satisfying the NERC eligibility criteria ( http://www.nerc.ac.uk ). Please see NERC website for full terms and conditions. EU applicants are eligible for a fees only award. http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply/ application_guide.html#ahow_to_apply

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