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CDT SuMMeR: Mobilising cultural heritage in UK marine fisheries

   School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

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  Prof Ian Baxter  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Description

Maritime cultural heritage is embedded in the practice of small-scale fishing: traditional ecological knowledge, maritime landscapes, historic landing places, traditional vessels, and all their associated skills and material culture. The fishing sector is going through transitions post-Brexit on top of environmental, generational and technological changes that are likely to further diminish the tangible and intangible heritage of fishing. How can we use this cultural legacy to drive greater sustainability within fisheries management before it is too late?

Aims and objectives

The research questions the project will address include:

  • Investigation of the historical and cultural practices and knowledge that continue to exist and be associated with UK fishing communities, as well as practices that no longer take place, but which exist in memory, through associated activities, and embodied in historic artefacts, buildings and landscapes. Approaches will also explore why and how evidence of fishing practices have changed (or remained the same) over time.
  • Assessment of the benefits that were or are gained from these practices at the individual and community levels, including economic, cultural, built environment and provisioning benefits.
  • Exploration of the values and narratives associated with continuing traditions and/or heritage practices within fishing communities, and to what extent these differ across communities.

To answer these research questions, several complementary approaches will be used including historical, archaeological and ethnographical methods. A case study approach will be taken, whereby 2 to 3 geographically and culturally diverse fishing communities will be selected for detailed interrogation. The exact locations will be determined based upon student interest and ability to travel but will include both Scottish and English locations.


This project is impact-oriented and is co-developed with Historic England as a CASE partner. To ensure that the work and outputs are in close alignment with Historic England’s (and other partner) needs, the student will work closely with Dr Antony Firth of Historic England as a co-supervisor on the project. The PhD candidate will initially train in cross-disciplinary approaches (exact training will depend upon their background and existing skill set), including conducting an internship (in person or online) with Historic England to understand the CASE partner’s perspectives, data needs, to generate fishing community contacts and identify existing archival or material sources known to Historic England. Training will also be undertaken as part of the CDT SuMMeR cohort, including access to relevant allied training via Heriot-Watt University (School of Social Science and Lyell Centre) and University of Exeter (Centre for Ecology & Conservation and ExeterMarine) research and doctoral training networks.

Project Structure

The initial stage of the project will refine the focus of the research, undertake literature review work and pilot case study fieldwork, as well as beginning to create a network of engagement partners. This will be followed by a period of fieldwork in a small number of case study locations. These will inform not only a final thesis submission but also practical / impact-focussed outputs of use for Historic England and partner organisations and stakeholders to support fishing heritage and historic environment connectivity and opportunities.


The project will be supervised by Professor Ian Baxter (Professor of Historic Environment Management, Heriot-Watt University), Dr Antony Firth (Head of Coastal & Marine Strategy, Historic England) and Dr Ruth Thurstan (Senior Lecturer in Marine Social-Ecological Systems, University of Exeter).


Applicants should have a first or upper second-class honours degree in an appropriate subject and either a relevant Masters qualification or a wider range of experience in a relevant career path (which is equally as important).

 How to Apply

Full details of how to apply for this project are available at Study with CDT SuMMeR - University of Plymouth. 

You are encouraged to contact the Lead Supervisor (Prof Ian Baxter) prior to the submission of your application to discuss any aspect of the project. This will be informal and will have no impact on any applications that follow, other than showing your interest and enthusiasm. 

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported for 3 years and 8 months. All UKRI-funded PhD students (UK, EU, International) will be eligible for the full award – both the stipend to support living costs (currently £17,668 per annum pro rata at the 2022/23 rate), and fees at the research organisations’ UK rate. CDT SuMMeR’s funding will not cover international fees set by universities, applicants normally required to pay International fees may have to cover the difference between the Home and the International tuition fee rates
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