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An interdisciplinary assessment of innovative coastal management: the Bacton-Walcott Sandscaping Scheme (TOLHURSTUENV20ARIES)

Project Description


Rising sea levels and other effects of climate change are exacerbating coastal change internationally. Recognition of the benefits of coastal defences that work with natural processes has resulted in a shift towards ‘soft’ coastal protection. An innovative large-scale beach nourishment (sand addition) is being implemented in 2019 to reduce coastal erosion at the Norfolk Bacton Gas Terminal. Inspired by the Dutch ZandMotor, this ‘Sandscaping’ Scheme will be the first of its kind in the UK (

Geomorphological monitoring and modelling of coastal responses are currently underway, however the benefits, impacts and implications for society require investigation. The Dutch experience revealed unforeseen effects and responses, raising important questions about societal and governance responses to the Sandscaping Scheme.


1. Baseline analysis of existing and emerging work on coastal management and the ZandMotor to identify key elements for study, e.g. perceptions of the Scheme, governance.

2. Repeat survey work with stakeholders, residents and visitors, to understand how the Scheme and related coastal changes are perceived and understood by groups and communities managing, living at and using the coast.

3. Creation of future scenarios, using ecological and geomorphological monitoring and modelling data, to investigate via focus groups how different futures could alter perceptions, governance, longer-term impacts and costs/benefits of the Scheme.

4. Exploration of the Scheme in relation to understandings of climate change among different groups, and how this may affect communication and knowledge translation at different temporal and spatial scales.

The project thus provides the first longitudinal study of social opportunities and challenges of Sandscaping as a technical innovation for adaptive governance and management of coasts.


You will complete DTP training (e.g. summer schools), and specialised research training including: principles of research design; surveying/interviewing; capabilities and ethics of data collection; understanding the significance of alternative epistemological positions; mixed methods research designs; secure data storage, cataloguing and disposal; interdisciplinary working; scenario building; networking with stakeholders and policy actors.


You should have a strong interest in multidisciplinary approaches to understanding societal responses to innovation and emerging governance issues.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Partner: North Norfolk District Council
Eligibility requirements: First degree in Environmental Science, Geography, Psychology or Sociology

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website


Spalding, M.D., McIvor, A.L., Beck, M.W, Koch, E.W., Möller, I., Reed, D.J., Rubinoff, P., Spencer, T., Tolhurst, T.J., Wamsley, T.V., van Wesenbeeck, B.K., Wolanski, E. and Woodroffe, C.D. (2014) Coastal ecosystems: a critical element of risk reduction. Conservation Letters, 7(3): 293-301.

Howarth, C. & Painter, J. (2016) The IPCC and local decision making on climate change: a robust science-policy interface? Palgrave Communications, 2:16058, doi: 10.1057/palcomms.2016.58

Clarke, D., Murphy, C. and Lorenzoni, I. (2018) Place attachment, disruption and transformative adaptation, Journal of Environmental Psychology. 55: 81–89

Tolhurst, T.J., Lorenzoni, I. and Day, S. (2017) Blue Opportunities from the future: knowledge and tools to inform sustainable growth for an integrated terrestrial, coastal and marine zone economy. Impact, 11(3): 59-61.

Vikolainen, V., Flikweert, J., Bressers, H. and Lulofs, K. (2017) Governance context for coastal innovations in England: The case of Sandscaping in North Norfolk. Ocean and Coastal Management, 145:82-93.

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