Impact of livestock and tourism on African savannah herbivores: long-term patterns and their causes


The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith or religious belief, pregnancy or maternity, parental or caring responsibilities or career pathway to date. We understand that a student’s potential can be shown in many ways and we strive to recruit students from all backgrounds, and support them on their scientific journey.

We have designed our application systems to identify candidates who are likely to be successful in research regardless of what opportunities may have been available to them prior to their application.

Various support and guidance on applying for an ACCE DTP studentship, including how to apply; what we’re looking for (including our assessment rubric); details of financial support, training, and placement opportunities available; and details of our recruitment process, can be found at, in the ‘prospective applicants’ tab.

Project overview


Human activities in wilderness areas are changing the structure and function of ecological communities worldwide. Such ecosystem changes are often first detected when the anthropogenic activities lead to conspicuous population declines. However, the impact on population sizes is frequently mediated by more subtle effects on behaviour, which can serve as important early warning signs.

Throughout African savannah systems, livestock grazing is intensifying with profound, but poorly understood effects on wild herbivores and their predators. On the most wildlife-rich savannahs, tourism is another major alteration in the environment, the effect of which is likely to differ drastically between species.

Focusing on Kenya’s world-renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve, you will analyse long-term datasets on the spatial distribution of wildlife species as a function of changes in the presence of livestock and tourism in order to detect anthropogenic impacts on numbers and ranging behaviour. For selected representative species (including the critically endangered black rhino), you will furthermore seek to identify the mechanisms underlying the observed changes through playback experiments in the wild.


Obj.1: Establish spatiotemporal trends in wild herbivore distributions in the Mara ecosystem and the extent to which these may be attributed to impacts from tourism and livestock presence.

Obj.2: Use playback experiments to identify the specific components of tourist activity and livestock presence that elicit wildlife responses causing the patterns detected under Obj.1.

Obj.3: Make recommendations for natural resource management based on these findings.

Essential and desirable criteria


  • BSc degree in a relevant field


  • Experience of fieldwork in African savannah systems, especially from the proposed study area
  • Understanding of community conservation, especially in an African context


How to apply

Notes and details of how to apply are available here:

All applicants to ACCE must complete the ACCE personal statement proforma. This is instead of a personal/supporting statement or cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not. Candidates should also submit a CV and the contact details of 2 referees.

Part-time study options

All ACCE PhDs are available as part time or full time, with part time being a minimum of 50% of full time. Please discuss potential part time arrangements with the primary supervisor before applying to the programme.

Project CASE status

This project is a CASE project. Your project will be co-supervised by the non-academic partner organisation, and you will spend 3-6 months on a placement with your CASE partner in their workplace. You will experience training, facilities and expertise not available in an academic setting, and will build business and research collaborations. Your CASE partner will also contribute an additional £1000 per year to your Research and Training Support Grant.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

NERC ACCE DTP programme starts from October 2024.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:

  • Stipend (2023/24 UKRI rate £18,622)
  • Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2023/24 rate £4,712)
  • Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK (Home) fees. The DTP partners have various schemes which allow international students to join the DTP but only be required to pay home fees. Home fees are already covered in the UKRI funding, meaning that successful international candidates do not need to find any additional funding for fees.



1.D’AMMANDO G, Bro-Jørgensen J (2023) Proximity to human settlements can reduce vigilance but increase alarm call responses in African ungulates. Animal Behaviour 199:151-159

2.Meise K, Franks DF, Bro-Jørgensen J (2020) Alarm communication networks as a driver of community structure in African savannah herbivores. Ecology Letters 23:293-304

3.PAYNE BL, Bro-Jørgensen J (2020) Conserving African ungulates under climate change: do communal and private conservancies fill gaps in the protected area network effectively? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8:160 (9 pages)

4.Veldhuis MP, Ritchie ME, Ogutu, JO, Morrison TA, Beale CM et al (2019) Cross-boundary human impacts compromise the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Science 363:1424–1428