Understanding population characteristics of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) along an urbanisation gradient.

Understanding population characteristics of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) along an urbanisation gradient.

Animal Ecology

Contact Person:

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

House sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations are currently in decline across Europe, particularly in urban environments. Yet, the house sparrow relies on human resource utilisation for survival (i.e. it is a human-commensal or “urban exploiter” species). As such, the population declines recently observed present an interesting paradox. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the trend including competition for food, fewer suitable nesting sites, predation by domestic cats, spread of disease and increased levels of traffic.

Casual observations from our research group suggest there are differences in the number of house sparrows found in Dutch city centres compared to rural, agricultural habitats. We want to quantify these differences in house sparrow population characteristics in urban and rural environments - that’s where you come in.

Project Outline:

This project will combine fieldwork and data analysis techniques to understand the distribution and abundance of Dutch house sparrows along urbanisation gradients. Tasks may include:

  • Walking surveys to count house sparrows along urban-rural transects
  • Exploring historical house sparrow population distribution data
  • Statistical analysis of data you collect
  • Written and verbal presentation of your finding

Depending on the candidate, this project is suitable for an undergraduate or Masters student. There is also scope to develop project ideas, in the context of urban-rural house sparrow comparisons, according to the individual student’s interests.

Requirements for the role:

Candidates should be enthusiastic about biological research and able to adapt to the variable nature of fieldwork. As this project will involve fieldwork in multiple sites across the Netherlands, a driving licence is required. The working language of the group is English so English language proficiency is also necessary, whilst Dutch language skills are not a requirement.