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Assessing the impact of small-scale fisheries on sea turtle populations in the Eastern Mediterranean– PhD Biosciences

Project Description

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with the Society for the Protection of Turtles, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, with periods of 2-3 month spent in Cyprus each year.

Cyprus is important both as a breeding area and a foraging site for loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles, with approximately one third of all Mediterranean green turtles nesting in Cyprus. Fisheries are a major threat to marine turtles in the Mediterranean; an estimated 44,000 turtles die as a result of being incidentally caught each year; 5,000 are estimated to be caught in Cyprus. Mitigating bycatch requires an understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of turtles and detailed knowledge of the behaviour of fishers. Staff at the University of Exeter have been working with the North Cyprus Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) since 1992 and there is a wealth of existing data and an exceptional participatory research base developed with the fishing community through this collaborative ongoing research.

Project Aims and Methods
The project aims are:
1. To quantify the bycatch of marine turtles by species and gear type
2. To quantify and map fishing effort in nearshore coastal waters
3. To map inwater presence of marine turtles and their preferred habitats
4. To assess mitigation and management methods to reduce the impact of bycatch.

To understand bycatch, data from stranded turtles, onboard observations and fisher self-monitoring will be analysed. Vessels will be tracked, fisher surveys conducted and participatory mapping used to provide activity/effort data with which to extrapolate according to observed bycatch rates and also to better understand spatial and temporal fishing trends. A combination of boat-based, satellite telemetry, UAV and in water surveys will be conducted to assess species distribution and abundance. Remote sensing, UAV imagery and in-water surveys will be used to identify and assess the quality of foraging habitats and produce habitat suitability models for key species. Data will be used to test the efficacy of the current marine protected areas and propose extensions and additions to policy makers. Under these broad aims there are flexibilities within the project to allow for student involvement in project design or choice of research direction.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3 years of full-time study to commence in January 2020. The collaboration with the named project partner is subject to contract. Please note full details of the project partner’s contribution and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations. Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

Funding Notes

Entry requirements
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree, and have completed a relevant MSc with distinction. Previous experience conducting fieldwork overseas would be beneficial. Experience identifying and handling marine life would be highly valued. The student should be confident on boats.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see View Website).

Related Subjects

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