Attributing biodiversity change to global change drivers

(Supervised by Dr Isla Myers-Smith, Dr Maria Dornelas and Dr Anne Bjorkman)


My PhD research aims to quantify the effects of land use change on global and local patterns of species richness, abundance and composition, and develop an innovative computational framework to facilitate answering fundamental questions in ecology using big data and global synthesis of long-term observations.

The specific research questions I am addressing are:

1. How can we statistically attribute biodiversity change to global change drivers using big data in ecology?


2. Do species traits and/or global change drivers explain population trends of vertebrate species globally?


3. How is land use change influencing biodiversity change?


4. How are land intensification and land abandonment influencing biodiversity change?


Tundra vegetation change

(Team Shrub collaborative research projects)


As part of my previous job as a lab and data manager for Team Shrub and now as a PhD student in the lab, I’m involved with some of Team Shrub’s collaborative research projects, including research on active layer depth changes on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island and how detection of vegetation attributes differs across scales, from field observations to drone imagery.

Does rarity influence vertebrate population change?

(with Dr Isla Myers-Smith and John Godlee)

Species’ attributes such as rarity, conservation status, distribution and taxa are often widely assumed to predict extinction risk. However, there are very few empirical tests of the influence of rarity and conservation status on population change across taxa and biomes. We combined open source data from the Living Planet Index, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the IUCN to 1) determine whether global biodiversity trends differ across biomes, taxa and species’ conservation status, and 2) establish the relationship between UK vertebrate population trends and rarity metrics.

This research project started at a tutorial discussion group part of the Critical Thinking in Ecology honours course at the University of Edinburgh. You can read more about how we designed our project, as well as some of our key findings on the Critical Thinking blog.

Daskalova, G.N. Godlee, J.L. & Myers-Smith, I.H.  Rarity and commonness do not influence population change of vertebrate species in the UK, despite global variation in population trends. (in prep for Ecology Letters)

Population responses of five bird species to 12 years of agri-environment schemes in Northeastern Scotland

(Supervised by Dr Ally Phillimore and Dr Allan Perkins)


The decline of farmland birds in the UK is one of the most well-documented cases of biodiversity loss globally, and despite land stewardship supported by funding from agri-environment schemes (AES), the negative trends have not yet been reversed. To investigate AES contribution towards farmland conservation, we compared the rates of population change of five priority farmland bird species across 53 farms in Northeastern Scotland. Integrating landscape complexity into scheme design and providing farmers with expert advice on land stewardship in their particular locality may improve AES cost-effectiveness and conservation merit.

Daskalova, G. N., Phillimore, A. B., Bell, M., Maggs, H., & Perkins. A. J. Population responses of five bird species to 12 years of agri-environment schemes in Northeastern Scotland. (submitted)