CDTS312: Trade-offs or win-wins? Perception and reality in saltmarsh conservation for biodiversity and sustainable environmental management

   The School of Biological and Marine Sciences

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  Dr Gillian Glegg, Dr Mike Perring  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Saltmarshes are valuable habitats which may provide a biodiverse habitat, coastal protection and a sink for nutrient pollution and carbon. However, their biodiversity and structural integrity are vulnerable to many human activities including nutrient pollution which results largely from farming and urban wastewaters. Conservation of such habitats requires not only strong Government policies but also scientific understanding of the problem and the commitment of stakeholders to the solutions. 

Aims and objectives 

The aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of nutrient pollution dynamics and implications for saltmarshes and to determine if this understanding can support improved stakeholder engagement in their conservation. You will be finding out whether there is context dependency in the response of saltmarshes to nutrient pollution, and whether evidence you collect can inform stakeholder opinions as to the benefits provided by saltmarshes. 

Working with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Natural England, saltmarsh case study sites with differing characteristics (such as urban or rural; polluted or not; muddy or sandy) will be identified. At these sites, in-situ observations and experiments will be carried out to determine saltmarsh biodiversity dynamics and nutrient behaviour in relation to nutrient pollution. Simultaneously, the perceptions of stakeholders in relation to the benefits of saltmarsh habitats and the impacts of their activities will be assessed using questionnaires. The findings from the natural science will then be presented to the stakeholders in focus groups to explore how this knowledge may change their willingness to engage in conservation measures in the long term. The key outcomes from this project will inform the work of Natural England and other agencies, and support long term conservation measures. 


Ecological field studies to test underlying theory; laboratory analytical techniques for nutrient analyses; social scientific methods for characterising opinion of stakeholder groups; data analysis and interpretation techniques; scientific writing.

Project structure

The student will be based at University of Plymouth but the work will involve several field surveys in years 1-3, and the opportunity to be located in Bangor, North Wales for extended periods, if desired. The project will be supervised by Dr Gillian Glegg (UoP), Dr Mike Perring (UKCEH) and Dr. Louise Denning (Natural England), all of whom will support fieldwork. In addition, you will be able to capitalise on the skills and knowledge of an Advisory Group of marine coastal specialists from across these and other organisations. 



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).

Each applicant may apply for a studentship on up to three CDT SuMMeR projects. Where more than one project is applied for, the supervisors of all those projects will be made aware that other applications have been made.

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 (£18,622 per academic year at full time equivalent at the 2023/24 rate), and fees at the research organisation’s UK rate. International students are eligible for UKRI-funded postgraduate studentships but UKRI will limit the proportion of international students appointed each year through individual doctoral training programmes to 30% of the intake per cohort. 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 (approximately £12,697 per annum). Please enquire with the lead supervisor on the situation regarding international fees for the project you are interested in. CDT SuMMeR’s funding will not cover costs associated with visa application or health surcharges, or additional costs associated with entry to, and living in, the UK. For EU and international eligibility for UKRI studentships, see UKRI’s guidance.

In case of uncertainty, applicants should contact the planned university of registration for eligibility advice, or the CDT SuMMeR Programme Office: [Email Address Removed]

Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

CDT SuMMeR studentships are partially funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which applies the eligibility criteria laid down by its parent body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and co-funded by the respective Hosting Partner institutes. UKRI provides details on its training grants in its Terms and Conditions for Training Funding document, including its Training Grant Guide, which can be found on the UKRI website.
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