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Building Resilience to Respond to Future Environmental Change Across Scottish Catchments

   Hydro Nation

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  Dr D Oliver, Prof R Quilliam  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Studentship hosted in Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling - Supervised by Dr David Oliver, Dr Richard Quilliam & Dr Nils Bunnefeld.

By 2050 there are predicted to be shortages in the global supply of essential minerals used in synthetic fertilisers, and consequently, fertiliser prices have risen progressively over the last 25 years. This has been coupled with patterns of agricultural intensification whereby increased fertiliser use is driven in part by growing pressure from concerns over food security, rising world food prices and a changing climate. With storm frequency predicted to increase as a result of climate change there is an elevated risk of nutrient mobilisation and transfer (and thus economic loss) from land to aquatic systems, which threatens further the sustainability of valuable ecosystem services provided by clean and safe water. Further pressures on water resources are likely to emerge with topical debates over food and energy security and the social, environmental and economic viability of, for example, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) signalling other significant uncertainties in our understanding of environmental resilience to resource management in catchment systems. Now, more than ever, there is a need for integrated research to build capacity in the socio-ecological resilience of managed catchment systems and to recognise wider ecosystem benefits and trade-offs that may arise from environmental decision-making associated with sustainable water, energy and food resource management. The aim of this studentship is to quantify and optimise the multiple benefits that catchments can provide in terms of their ability to support food, water and energy security whilst at the same time evaluating how our attempts to manage these catchment goods and services in light of future environmental change might impact on water pollution, biodiversity and livelihoods of catchment dwellers.

Potential conflicts surrounding management of the water-food-energy nexus in catchment systems are intensified by the uncertainties that accompany the predicted impacts of environmental change. There is uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of land management strategies to protect water quality, uncertainties in predicted climate change impacts, and debates across stakeholder communities about how, when and where we prioritise management efforts of ecosystem services for different end-users. This studentship will combine desk-based dataset interrogation with ecosystem services modelling and participatory methods to translate a wealth of existing datasets into a decision-making framework (DMF). This tool will inform on adaptive management of Scottish catchments in order to maximise multiple benefits and minimise unintended consequences of environmental decision-making that cut across land, water and energy sectors.

Key Research Objectives:

1. Develop a conceptual model of catchment systems and their connectivity across different ecosystem services, with rankings and weightings elicited from experts and stakeholders to help consolidate the importance of different system components
2. Determine individual and group responses to a best-worst scaling (BWS) experiment linked to land-based management options for improving water quality and identify how they might impact (positively or negatively) on other ecosystem services
3. Develop a socio-ecological framework for decision making to optimise landscape scale ecosystem services delivery in catchments under environmental uncertainty and change
4. Devise a strategy to promote collaboration as opposed to conflict in managing catchment resources linked to the water-energy-food nexus

This studentship will provide a platform to build an interdisciplinary research career in the field of integrated catchment management. The successful candidate will develop broad expertise in both the social & natural sciences and will benefit from extensive training in ecosystem modelling to inform environmental decision-making and policy development. The studentship will broaden the scope of the applicant’s skills base by providing specialist training in novel participatory approaches to data collection such as choice-based experiments, elicitation of fuzzy expert datasets and the running of a stakeholder jury.

Funding Notes

CREW is a Scottish Government funded partnership between the James Hutton Institute and all Scottish Higher Education Institutes. Funding for this four year scholarship will be in line with the Research Councils UK doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. The PhD will be registered with University of Stirling.

Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Hydro Nation Scholarships are awarded on competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in March 2015.


Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr David Oliver (david.oliver@stir.ac.uk; 01786 467846)
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