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Assessing the ecological value and threats to marine protected areas in the Isles of Scilly. PhD in Biosciences (NERC GW4 + DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor
Dr Kristian Metcalfe, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors:
Prof Annette Broderick, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
Mr Tom Hooper, Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
Trudy Russell, Natural England

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

- An stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
- Payment of university tuition fees;
- A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
- A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
- Travel and accommodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events.
- No course fees for courses run by the DTP

We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter


Project Background

Marine protected areas (MPAs) can produce a wide range of ecological, economic, and social benefits, which underpin goods and services critical to the wellbeing of millions of people worldwide; thereby making them a cornerstone of most marine conservation and fisheries management strategies. These benefits, however, can only accrue if MPAs are well designed, and anthropogenic pressures such as fisheries harvest, recreational, and other maritime activities and ocean user-groups are effectively managed[1-3]. Given the limited resources available to many management agencies it is essential that we design and implement cost-effective monitoring strategies that can be used to develop evidence-based recommendations that underpin future conservation and management strategies. This PhD will explore several of these key issues in the Isles of Scilly, UK; providing an opportunity to focus on a small number of MPAs in a limited geographical area in which to investigate how marine populations and communities respond to different levels of anthropogenic pressure, as well as the ecological and governance characteristics of MPAs.

Project Aims and Methods

The specifics of the research will be developed with the student, but will centre around four main aims:

1. Develop a cost-effective long-term monitoring strategy to characterise the spatial distribution of marine biodiversity including habitats and indicator species, through remote sensing, and in-water surveys (e.g. baited remote underwater videos - BRUVs).

2. Map the fine-scale spatiotemporal patterns of activity for ocean user-groups using a combination of vessel monitoring systems for commercial fisheries and shipping, and participatory mapping and GPS trackers for inshore fisheries, tourism and recreational activities[4].

3. Quantify anthropogenic impact and ecological pressures on marine biodiversity and how that varies within and outside marine protected areas through a combination of oceanographic modelling, cumulative impact mapping[5], and fisheries surveys using landings or observer data to map fishing effort (CPUE) and assess the ecological impact of fisheries.

4. Explore the relationship between anthropogenic influence, and ecological and governance characteristics on ecosystem outcomes, both within and outside marine protected areas to identify implications on community composition, biomass, diversity, and abundance.

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2020 entry. For eligible students, the studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20.

References

References / Background reading list

[1] Ban, et al Social and ecological effectiveness of large marine protected areas. Global Environ Chang 2017; 43:82-91. [2] Gill, et al Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally. Nature 2017; 543:665-669. [3] Metcalfe, et al Evaluating conservation and fisheries management strategies by linking spatial prioritisation software and ecosystem and fisheries modelling tools. J Appl Ecol 2015; 52:665-674. [4] Metcalfe, et al Addressing uncertainty in marine resource management; combining community engagement and tracking technology to characterise human behaviour. Conserv Lett 2017; 10:460-469. [5] Maxwell, et al Cumulative human impacts on marine predators. Nat Commun 2013; 4:2688.

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