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Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

  AHRC PhD studentship - Temporal Ecologies: Supporting wider awareness of, and engagement with, phenology using design and environmental humanities approaches


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 Friday, June 03, 2022
 Funded PhD Programme (Students Worldwide)

About the Programme

The University of Edinburgh in partnership with AHRC, SGSAH, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE), the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar (WTNC) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded PhD Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) from September 2022.


Climate change and ecological threats are deeply intertwined. Warmer weather has been changing the timing of plants’ and animals’ annual cycles resulting in earlier springs and threats of mismatches between species. These changes and threats have been identified via the field of phenology – the scientific study of annual life cycle events such as nesting, leafing out or fruiting. Phenology has long roots, with records kept by the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar dating back to 1736 (2.9 million records currently) and RBGE to the 1850s. Since the early 2000s phenological recording has gained new prominence, with the IPCC identifying it as one of the simplest ways to track the effects of climate change on ecosystems. In the UK, the JNCC uses data from WTNC to produce the Spring Index, a key UK Biodiversity Indicator.

All three organisations’ current strategies seek to increase public engagement and understanding of this work, including identifying ways of recruiting and retaining the citizen scientists who gather phenological records. Phenology volunteers, or ‘citizen scientists’, record seasonal changes in their local environments, and do so ideally over many years to minimise recorder bias. Finding volunteers with this high level of sustained commitment in the midst of busy lives and an economy that fuels constant uptake of new activities is a key challenge for institutes. 

The Project

Key questions for the project include: How can design methods support renewed efforts to recruit and retain phenology recorders? How can design processes, objects or interventions use available phenological datasets and research to serve as wider prompts for understanding changing ecological timings? How might citizen scientists' experience of keeping long-term phenological records provide new angles on EH and Design research on supporting awareness of local environments?

Working with the RBGE, WTNC and JNCC, we anticipate that these and related questions will be addressed through (a) a qualitative study of phenology recorders’ values and practices, (b) engagement with phenology data to create engaging design interventions, (c) the co-development and iteration of a range of design prototypes to support wider participation, and (d) deployment and evaluation of prototypes in context. These are indicative methods. The successful applicant will be expected to tailor the methodology to their research questions and skillset.


This PhD will be based in Edinburgh and is open to both home and international applicants. Funding will cover tuition fees, plus £16,062 stipend (pro-rata for part-time). The duration of the PhD is 3 years and 6 months full time or 7 years part-time.

Find out more

For more information on this PhD and how to apply, please visit our website.


Closing date for applications: Friday 3 June 2022

Interviews are provisionally scheduled: Wednesday 15 June 2022 (date/time to be confirmed)

Start date: September 2022

Funding Notes

Some or all of the PhD opportunities in this programme have funding attached. Applications for this programme are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full programme details for further information.

Where will I study?

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