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Acoustics to Monitor Fish on Man-Made Marine Structures

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, June 04, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

An exciting PhD opportunity to work with leading academics at the National Decommissioning Centre (NDC) and Chevron Corporation to address some of the major questions around the environmental implications of decommissioning energy assets at a number of global locations and provide guidance for optimal decommissioning.

Chevron Corporation has recently entered into an Anchor partnership with the NDC to fund a portfolio of projects that will focus on techniques for monitoring fish stocks around installations and pipelines as man-made marine habitats, the bioavailability of potential decommissioning-related substances, and modelling the longevity and eventual fate of offshore infrastructure left in situation. You can read about the partnership from the press release (

The student will be part of a multidisciplinary team based in the NDC’s Centre for Doctoral Training (, working alongside PhD students, researchers, academics and Chevron colleagues. The student will also benefit from undertaking courses that are part of the MSc in Decommissioning on a non-credit bearing basis.

This fully funded PhD studentship is available to carry out a research project on the advancement and deployment of acoustic methods to monitor fish at man-made marine structures (MMS). The selected candidate will carry out field work in either Angola, Thailand, Australia, or another suitable international location, using acoustic and visual survey techniques with the end result to determine the appropriateness of such methods for determining the abundance and distribution of fish at various spatial scales in relation to MMS.

Many marine species benefit from complex and permanent 3D hard substrates such as reefs which provide a wider range of available resources (secure attachment, shelter, and food) and offer more ecological niches (Loke et al., 2015). Although reefs are often exemplified by corals, they also include MMS such as oil and gas installations and pipelines. The aggregation of fish directly at MMS is an established phenomenon (e.g. Fujii, 2015); however, our ability to monitor the spatial extent of abundance, diversity and aggregations using traditional techniques only (photography etc.) is limited.

This project aims to improve methods to study fish abundance and diversity in the vicinity of MMS, the so-called near-field area of influence (Stanley and Wilson, 1997). Specifically, the aim is to develop better techniques and technology to monitor the area around MMS at various spatial scales. Many studies have been based on examination of readily available ROV footage, which does not extend beyond the realm of the MMS; others have used nets, which have only extended to several hundred metres, at best, from the platform (Løkkeborg et al., 2002). Hydroacoustic techniques have been used to measure fish density at several kilometres from platform in the central North Sea (Soldal et al., 2002) but have rarely been applied in a systematic way to validate their use in and around structures. In this project, state-of-the-art high-resolution acoustic and video surveying equipment will be used to evaluate the abundance, and potentially, species composition of fish, at various spatial scales.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 level or above (or equivalent). The studentship would suit a numerate biologist/ecologist or a physicist/engineer with an interest in biology/ecology.

The work will involve going out to sea, so the candidate needs to be comfortable spending long periods (several weeks) at sea on survey vessels and/or supply vessels. Analyses will be conducted with user friendly software for signal processing, but some programming experience in Matlab and/or R would be desirable.

Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology
• State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor AND the project title.

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:
[1] Personal Statement
[2] All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc- officially translated into English where necessary)
[3] Copy of your English language proficiency certificate (if relevant)
[4] 2 Academic References
[5] Detailed CV

The start date of the project will be as soon as possible. Should this studentship be awarded while the UK is still under emergency measures and it is not possible to bring the PhD student to the NDC, there is the option to start the studentship via distance learning if necessary.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is funded by Chevron. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. This includes Tuition Fees at UK/EU rates with a monthly stipend of £15,009 (2019/2020) paid monthly in arrears.

*Overseas/international candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £15,560 per annum) for the duration of study (i.e. 3.5 years).


Fujii, T., 2015. Temporal variation in environmental conditions and the structure of fish assemblages around an offshore oil platform in the North Sea. Mar. Environ. Res. 108, 69–82.

Halpern, B.S., Lester, S.E., Kellner, J.B., 2009. Spillover from marine reserves and the replenishment of fished stocks. Environ. Conserv. 36, 268–276.

Loke, L.H.L., Ladle, R.J., Bouma, T.J., Todd, P.A., 2015. Creating complex habitats for restoration and reconciliation. Ecol. Eng. 77, 307–313.

Løkkeborg, S., Humborstad, O.-B., Jørgensen, T., Soldal, A.V., 2002. Spatio-temporal variations in gillnet catch rates in the vicinity of North Sea oil platforms. ICES J. Mar. Sci. J. Cons. 59, S294–S299.

Soldal, A.V., Svellingen, I., Jørgensen, T., Løkkeborg, S., 2002. Rigs-to-reefs in the North Sea: hydroacoustic quantification of fish in the vicinity of a “semi-cold” platform. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 59, S281–S287.

Stanley, D.R., Wilson, C.A., 1997. Seasonal and spatial variation in the abundance and size distribution of fishes associated with a petroleum platform in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 54, 1166–1176.

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