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Being good neighbours - Understanding the social dimensions of wildlife-friendly gardening and its impact on urban wildlife.

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Van Der Wal
    Dr L Colucci-Gray
    Dr Gitte Kragh
    Dr Toos van Noordwijk
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

For long, a well-maintained garden has signified being a good neighbour. This has led home owners to manicure their lawns, hedges and flower beds in order to avoid being stigmatised or otherwise attract negative attention from people in their neighbourhood. Yet, widespread concern about the state of the environment has led to the arrival of a strong set of competing narratives portraying ‘good gardening’, with emphasis on ‘hands-off’ approaches (e.g. no pesticides, less mowing, leaving weeds) and ‘creating habitat’ suitable for other species. How such wildlife-friendly behaviour is interpreted ‘neighbourhood-wise’, and what factors may influence which set of narratives is gaining ground, remains un-studied.

There is growing evidence that wildlife friendly gardening can have a positive impact on a wide range of species, from pollinators to hedgehogs and garden birds. However, experimental tests have shown mixed results with scale identified as one of the main drivers of success. The spatial extent of habitat needed to support wildlife populations, even of small species like pollinators, often exceeds the size of a single garden. Therefore it is to be expected that community-scale wildlife gardening will be far more effective than wildlife gardening conducted by individuals alone. This implies a strong link between socio-economic constraints to wildlife gardening and ecological outcomes, but one which remains yet untested.

This PhD project sets out to determine what factors, social and otherwise, may facilitate or hinder community level wildlife-friendly gardening and the impact this has on garden wildlife. It will do so by: 1) capturing and de-constructing the narratives surrounding management of gardens and their relationship with community or neighbourhood dimensions; 2) determining to what extent taking action for wildlife by individual gardeners is governed by knowledge about wildlife and the importance of collective (wildlife gardening) action; 3) uniquely, pseudo-experimentally capturing social appreciation and neighbourhood-formation processes in response to the gradual uptake of a large-scale citizen science initiative (Naturehood); and 4) evaluating the impact of scale on wildlife gardening success (again using Naturehood project data). Collectively, this will allow the identification of barriers to adopting wildlife-friendly gardening as ‘the new normal’, highlight the impact it can have for biodiversity conservation and unfold the social and ecological mechanisms involved.

Application Process
Please apply for admission to the ’Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Science’ to ensure that your application is passed to the correct School for processing.
Please provide a copy of the degree certificate and transcript for each previous degree undertaken, a copy of your English language proficiency certificate (if relevant), and contact details of two referees who can comment on your previous academic performance (at least one should be from your current degree programme). References will be requested if you are selected for interview. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Funding Notes

This studentship is available to UK and other EU nationals and provides funding for tuition fees and stipend, subject to eligibility.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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