Aerial insect abundance across Switzerland – insect monitoring by radar

    From spring to autumn, every day and every night a huge amount of insects fly hundreds of meters above ground, yet we know very little on it. At the same time, a recent study suggests that insect abundances have declined drastically over the last 30 years. Automated radar systems have been established for a continuous detection of animal densities and movements. Since recently, they are able to differentiate between records of birds and insects up to 600 meters above ground.

    The aim of this master thesis is to quantify for the first time seasonal and spatial abundances of aerial insects in Switzerland, and to relate the found pattern to different biotic and abiotic factors. Furthermore, the aim is to link the results to patterns of insect abundances from ground based methods, like traps. Already collected radar and field data will be complemented with new data and analysed.

    The results will advance our understanding of the occurrence, dispersal and migration of insects high up in the air, and provide important information for the development of monitoring schemes of insects. The thesis is aimed to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The candidate should have a pronounced interest in insect ecology and good computer skills, including programming in R.

    For application or additional information, please contact PD Dr. Eva Knop (Agroscope Reckenholz / University of Zürich) or Dr. Felix Liechti (Schweizerische Vogelwarte, Sempach). Ideal starting date in 2020, earlier begin possible.