Great Crested Newt occupancy on the Black Isle

w/ Scottish Natural Heritage and Dr. Lottie Hosie

The Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus; GCN) is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species which is protected by both UK and European legislation. Their biphasic lifestyle makes considerable use of terrestrial habitat surrounding their breeding ponds, but we know very little about this aspect of their lives. In contrast there is often extensive data, collected by enthusiastic volunteer surveyors, showing pond occupancy by the species during the breeding season. Combining such field data and modelling approaches can usefully inform management of GCN populations. Indeed, modelling methods have revealed the importance in this population of the surrounding woodland to newts (MirĂ³ et al. 2017) One particularly promising area of research is the use of occupancy modelling methods to investigate relationships between amphibian presence /abundance and variables related to habitats and management practices (e.g. Peterman et al, 2013). Not only can these models allow us to improve our understanding of GCN ecology but they can also be used to provide evidence for beneficial management actions for GCN conservation. Output from occupancy models can also help improve efficiency and accuracy of volunteer GCN surveys and the value of this will be assessed. The project will concentrate on a population of GCN on the Black Isle, Scottish Highlands which, due to their relative isolation, provides an interesting situation to investigate pond-specific preferences and relationships with habitat features. This project will involve fieldwork in the Highlands of Scotland and students should be expected to be based there during the field season. This project would suit a student who is keen to work in the field. It will require good networking skills and the ability to work independently.