Conservation of ecological microcosms

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Associate Professor Michael Bode
Associate Professor
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

External supervisors

  • Dr Chris Clements, University of Bristol
  • Dr Florian Altermatt, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology


Ecosystem models are important elements of conservation science – we want to save species, and those species interact with other species.

Ecosystem models therefore need to be complex, if they are to incorporate the full suite of species and interactions that make ecology so interesting and ecological management so difficult.

Unfortunately, our ecosystem models have been failing a lot recently. We have trouble predicting the outcomes of our management interventions. Worse, we don't know why they're not working.

Ecological microcosms offer a way around this problem. An ecological microcosm is a tiny ecosystem that lives in a test tube, or a petri dish, or a large bucket.

These vessels contain multiple species who coexist and interact just like animals do in the real conservation world. However, we can observe them, manipulate them and interact with them in a way that's not possible with a real conservation system.

Research activities

The research activities will be two-fold. Part of your time will be spent constructing, maintaining, and manipulating microcosm ecosystems.

This work will be done in collaboration with Dr Chris Clements at the University of Bristol, and Dr Florian Altermatt, at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. These two researchers are experts in ecological microcosms.

The other part of your time will be spent analysing the data created by treating these ecosystems as conservation systems.

We will trial a range of key conservation theories for the first time - systematic conservation planning of national parks, optimal eradication strategies for invasive species, threatened species management guidelines - all using microcosms instead of real conservation ecosystems.


This will be the first time we've been able to determine whether our conservation theories are useful in practice.

Skills and experience

We expect you to have some mathematical training and some experience with chemistry or biology (both up to a second year level).


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.