Ada’s experience on applying for an FSBI studentship

Hi, I’m Ada, a first-year PhD student funded by the FSBI Studentship program.

My path to a PhD place started in 2018 when I decided to apply for a research-focused masters  in freshwater and fish ecology in the UK.

The first decision was to contact Prof Anne Magurran, at the University of St Andrews, after reading some of her exciting work, and ask whether there would be any opportunities to do a project with her group.

Right after my first email, I received a very nice and positive response. With Anne’s help, I was accepted to do a project studying temporal diversity change in freshwater fish communities on the Caribbean island of Trinidad!

The great experience I received through this masters made me confident that I would enjoy embarking on a longer PhD project.


Take time to find out whether you enjoy the day-to-day aspects of your research


Firstly, find out if you enjoy the academic research lifestyle. There is no point doing a PhD if the way the academic world works frustrates you.

If you are unsure of what academia is like, then I would advise undertaking an internship or masters by research.


Start planning you PhD studentship proposal well in advance


Secondly, start writing your proposal as soon as you get a PhD idea that you are excited about. It takes longer than you think!

Start by writing a brief outline, making your objectives and hypotheses clear.

Then, take it to your supervisor or contact your desired future supervisor and pitch it to them! They can help you develop your proposal and give you the direction needed.

In my case, having great guidance from my supervisors and the help & encouragement of all the members of the research team was very important. I doubt I would have achieved anything had I not been in this environment.

Furthermore, attending conferences and symposiums is a great way to get your name and ideas out there to relevant and proactive supervisors, just like Joe Perkins did!

The FSBI PhD studentship is a wonderful opportunity!


Without the opportunity offered by the FSBI this project would have not been possible.

Fish are incredibly interesting and an essential resource for humans. It is fantastic that there is an organisation dedicated to research on all aspects of their biology.







PhD Studentships: Ada F. Eslava

PhD Student Ada Eslava (2020-2023)

(Supervisor(s): Anne Magurran (University of St Andrews), Amy Deacon (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine) and Indar Ramnarine (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine))

Biodiversity Change in Fish Communities: Integrating Taxonomic, Phylogenetic and Functional Diversity


Freshwater fish are among the most vulnerable organisms on the planet due to the ecological impacts of the multiple anthropogenic pressures that modify freshwater habitats. Despite the concern over the current state of the world’s freshwater fish faunas, little is known about how multiple facets of their diversity are changing over time.

In the tropics, the situation is particularly unclear because, historically, fewer temporal community data have been collected than in temperate locations. The tropical  island of Trinidad in the Caribbean is an exception, as stream fish communities there have been monitored at different time points during the last half-century.

In my project, I will ask two main questions. First, how has the regional freshwater fish diversity in Trinidad changed since the 1950s? Second, are the spatio-temporal patterns found in this tropical island observed in other locations of the world?

In order to answer my first question, I will extend time-series surveys by re-visiting fieldwork sites throughout the geography of Trinidad and use the records from the past to establish comparisons. To tackle the second, I will use open-access, temporal data of freshwater fish communities available in repositories such as BioTIME (

Since biodiversity is a multi-faceted concept, I will adopt a multi-dimensional  approach in my analyses. First, I will quantify two biodiversity components: the local diversity of communities and compositional change relative to a temporal baseline (also named alpha and temporal beta diversity). Second, I will use recently developed methodologies that integrate the information contained in species traits and phylogenies to measure the functional and phylogenetic dimensions of diversity alongside their taxonomic counterpart.

I’ll carry out this research at the University of St Andrews and the fieldwork at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad.