Using GIS to create a habitat suitability model for pine marten (Martes martes) in Northern Ireland

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Pine marten (Martes martes) are a native species within Ireland which experienced significant declines through habitat loss and control programmes (O’Sullivan, 1983). Despite such losses, populations have experienced an increase following legal protection and reforestation schemes (Sheehy and Lawton, 2014).

Pine marten favour woodland habitats though recent research has identified that hedgerows (Pereboom et al., 2008), riparian zones (Balestrieri et al., 2015), ancient woodlands (Storch et al., 1990) and lowland agricultural landscapes (Remonti et al., 2022) can be used by pine marten. Studies also suggest that landscape structure is important, especially based on pine marten range which can extend to 5 km2 (Zalewski and Jędrzejewski, 2006) though larger ranges have been reported in Ireland (O’Mahony et al., 2006).

Recent research has suggested that pine marten can act as a biological control agent against invasive grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and consequently enhance red squirrel population (Slade et al., 2023; Twining et al., 2022). With effective control of grey squirrel populations there is a clear opportunity to promote the dispersal of both red squirrel and pine marten across Ireland.

This project will integrate a range of spatial data within a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create a habitat suitability model for Northern Ireland. The model will be used to identify locations that have both strong and weak associations with pine marten and red squirrel.

Specific objectives are to:

  1. Map population density using using spatio-temporal datasets;
  2. Map land cover change using remotely sensed data and quantify change using landscape metrics;
  3. Develop a site-suitability model based on Analytical-Hierarchy Procedure (AHP) and Multi Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) in a GIS;

It is anticipated that the final output will be a peer-reviewed publication.

This application does not require a project proposal.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

Recommended reading

Balestrieri, A., Remonti, L., Ruiz-González, A., Zenato, A., Vergara, M., Dettori, E.E., Sanio, N., Capelli, E., Gomez-Moliner, B.J., Guidali, F and Prigioni, C. (2015) Distribution and habitat use by pine marten Martes martes in a riparian corridor crossing intensively cultivated lowlands. Ecological Research, 30, 153–162.

O'Sullivan, P.J. (1983), The distribution of the Pine marten (Martes tnartes) in the Republic of Ireland. Mammal Review, 13: 39-44.

Pereboom, V., Mergey, M., Villerette, N., Helder, R., Gerard, J.F. and Lode, T. (2008) Movement patterns, habitat selection, and corridor use of a typical woodland-dweller species, the European pine marten (Martes martes), in a fragmented landscape. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 86(9), pp.983-991.

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 16 June 2023

Interview Date
week commencing 26 June 2023

Preferred student start date
18 September 2023


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Contact supervisor

Dr Paul McKenzie