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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Sea turtles' resilience to climate change

Project description

Tropical marine areas represent rich and diverse ecosystems, however the ecological integrity of these systems are of heightening global concern due to increasing anthropogenic impacts (e.g. Halpern et al., 2008). One of the most direct and pervasive threats facing marine ecosystems is the global decline of large marine vertebrates such as sea turtles, due to the important roles these large consumers play in maintaining the structure and functioning of their habitats (e.g. Jackson et al., 2001). World-wide concern over the status of marine populations and ecosystems (Jackson et al., 2001; Halpern et al. 2008) calls for an urgent need for innovative approaches to guide marine conservation efforts.

The complex life cycles of sea turtles are strongly influenced by environmental characteristics such as global temperature, e.g. for sex determination and ocean currents, for long distance migration. Their life history attributes thus renders turtle populations vulnerable to a range of threats at different life stages and notoriously difficult to study/conserve. Whilst a greater understanding of their complex life cycles has been gained through recent developments in the fields of genetics, biotelemetry and oceanography, many gaps still remain.

This PhD dissertation will address some of the major knowledge gaps bridging various disciplines together focusing on sea turtles nesting at the Cape Verde Archipelago:
1 – what are the effects of temperature on sex ratios across space and time? can sea turtle resist effects of climate change?
2 – How do ocean currents shape the distribution of sea turtle globally?
3 – Can we predict the future of turtle population based on previously detected early warning signals?

Our Lab
Our group for Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics is based on the Mile End Campus of Queen Mary University of London. We focus on understanding the maintenance of species’ adaptive potential using laboratory model systems such as the stickleback fish and endangered species such as the loggerhead turtles. For more info visit:
The group is part of the School for Biological and Chemical Sciences. This diverse environment makes it particularly prone to interdisciplinary approach to evolutionary problems.
In addition to the vibrant research environment offered at QMUL, London is an ideal place to study Evolutionary Biology with many organizations around all linked by the Centre for Ecology and Evolution.


To apply, students should have received a MSc in a relevant field (i.e. evolutionary biology, bioinformatics). We will also consider students who are about to finish their MSc.

Further skills required:

  • Motivation
  • Strong background in evolutionary biology and eagerness to learn marine biology.
  • or bioinformatic background and eagerness to learn evolutionary biology.

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our entry requirements page for details.


This project is open to applicants intending to apply for external funding (e.g. China Scholarship Council, CONACYT, Commonwealth Scholarships). Please see our Fees and Funding page for details of Queen Mary's international funding partners.

If you intend to apply for China Scholarship Council funding, the deadline to apply to Queen Mary is 12th January 2020.


Please complete an online application form via the following link:

If your application is successful a conditional offer dependant of obtaining external funding will be made and Dr Eizaguirre will support you with in your application for funding.


  1. Cameron, S.J.K., Baltazar-Soares, M., Stiebens, V.A., Reischig, T., Correia, S.M., Harrod, C., Eizaguirre, C. (2019) Diversity of feeding strategies in loggerhead sea turtles from the Cape Verde archipelago. Marine Biology.
  2. Scott, R., Biastoch, A., Roder, C., Stiebens, V.A., Eizaguirre, C. (2014) Nano-tags for neonates and ocean mediated swimming behaviours linked to rapid dispersal of hatchling sea turtles. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Serie B.
  3. Stiebens, V.A, Merino, S.E., Roder, C., Chain, F.J.J., Lee, P.L.M., Eizaguirre, C. (2013). Living on the edge: how philopatry maintains adaptive potential. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Serie B
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