MEEB Jobs and Postgraduate Studentships

Fully funded MScRes 2024 project available with MEEB

Deadline to apply is 30th June 2024. Please get in touch if you are interested in applying.

From mosquitoes to moose: Revealing vertebrate diversity from bulk insect samples in European forest restoration projects.

Insects are essential for forest ecosystem function, and their diversity can be used to understand forest health. Collecting insects and using molecular tools to identify their diversity (e.g. metabarcoding) has become commonplace in biodiversity monitoring. However, insect metabarcoding might also be able unveil clues about other animal species living in the forests derived from the insect samples. 

Insects interact with vertebrates; they bite them to get blood meals, eat their faeces, feed on their carrion and land on them, and as they do so they collect vertebrate DNA, acting like mini “samplers” of the vertebrate community. The vertebrate DNA from within mosquitoes, carrion flies and leeches has been sequenced to identify their vertebrate hosts (Calvignac-Spencer et al., 2013), thereby creating the field of invertebrate derived DNA (or iDNA); an exciting new way to explore vertebrate diversity indirectly. Recently, Lynggaard et al. (2019) additionally demonstrated that vertebrates can be detected from within much larger mixed arthropod samples. They detected 21 mammalian, 6 bird and 5 amphibian taxa from 265 malaise samples collected in two tropical forest (in Brazil and Tanzania). This introduces the possibility of investigating wider vertebrate diversity from bulk arthropod samples, something this MScRes project will explore within the European forest SUPERB project.

The SUPERB (“Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest-related biodiversity and ecosystem services”) project is an ambitious multi-national forest restoration program funded by the Horizon 2020 Europe Green Deal project. It aims to restore and protect forest ecosystems and investigate evidence-based guidelines for forest restoration best practices. The project involves 36 partners in 16 countries and centres around twelve established forest restoration sites (known as DEMOS) that represent the variety of Europe’s forests, the challenges they face, and different restoration management aims.

Bangor University is working closely with 6 DEMO forest partners as well as with colleagues in Lancaster University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to investigate restoration success through biodiversity analysis. From 2022-2024 at each of the six DEMO sites, aerial arthropod samples were caught using Malaise traps in early spring/summer. From these 1500 samples, the arthropod diversity is being detected using metabarcoding and an arthropod specific (COI) marker. 

This 50% funded MScRes project, hosted within the MEEB group ( will work with Prof. Si Creer, Dr. Amy Ellison, Anna Wood and a technician using the SUPERB malaise samples to develop and deploy a metabarcoding pipeline to investigate the detection of vertebrate diversity from bulk arthropod samples in temperate forests and how vertebrate distribution is related to forest restoration. Historical records and acoustic monitoring could also be used to validate the eDNA vertebrate diversity findings.

Person specification

Candidates should possess or will be on track to complete a BSc degree, grade 2.1 or above, or equivalent qualification in related areas such as (e.g.) biology, zoology, ecology, natural sciences. We are ideally looking for someone with previous molecular biology experience, excellent team working and communication skills, good at problem solving and willing to work collaboratively and independently on a large-scale biodiversity assessment project. The position will commence in October 2024 and informal enquiries should be sent to Prof. Si Creer and Anna Wood.

Closing date for applications: 30th June, 2024 with interviews predicted to take place in the week of 15th July 2024. To apply, please send a CV and covering letter, explaining why you would be a good fit for the project, to, using header MScRes project: From mosquitos to moose. 


CALVIGNAC-SPENCER, S., LEENDERTZ, F. H., GILBERT, M. T. P. & SCHUBERT, G. 2013. An invertebrate stomach's view on vertebrate ecology. BioEssays, 35, 1004-1013.

LYNGGAARD, C., NIELSEN, M., SANTOS-BAY, L., GASTAUER, M., OLIVEIRA, G. & BOHMANN, K. 2019. Vertebrate diversity revealed by metabarcoding of bulk arthropod samples from tropical forests. Environmental DNA, 1, 329-341.