CDTS317: Establishing drivers of accelerating estuary siltation to help co-design adaptation and mitigation measures

   The School of Biological and Marine Sciences

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

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr William Blake, Dr Claire Kelly  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The changing dynamics of siltation in ria-type estuaries is both an ecological and socio-economic concern. At the interface between land and sea, estuaries are complex systems responding to drivers from catchment and coastal processes and perturbations linked to management decisions that rarely take a holistic catchment to coast systemwide approach. With increased pressure on natural resources, land management and climate change, there is a pressing need to take a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to better understand the dynamics of estuarine siltation for informed adaptation and mitigation strategies. This PhD project seeks to fill that gap.

Aims and objectives 

As an exemplar case of estuarine siltation, this PhD programme aims to understand sources and sinks for sedimentation in the Exe, evaluate sediment transport and identify where management intervention could be targeted. The work programme will be based around three interlinked objectives: (1) Elucidating local environmental knowledge from stakeholders and integrating with natural science evidence; (2) Evaluating sedimentary archives of sedimentation (silt) source, rates and quality in key habitats under pressure (mussel beds, seagrass beds and saltmarsh); (3) Modelling patterns of sediment transfers (sand and silt) at the catchment-coast interface.


Training will be provided in qualitative methods for stakeholder engagement and evaluating local environmental knowledge, sediment coring techniques, gamma spectrometry and geochronology, sediment quality assessment, remote sensing, modelling and environmental management planning. Noting the challenges for transdisciplinary working at a PhD studentship scale (i.e. the central role of the student at the intersection of disciplines and sectors compared to a larger project with multiple researchers), the student will also be mentored in interdisciplinary research and transdisciplinary working drawing on the rich experience of the supervisory team.

Structured around the objectives, the project will blend evidence bases for social and natural sciences to support stakeholder vision for future management interventions and co-design pathways to implementation.

Supervisory team

The project will be supervised by Professor Will Blake (University of Plymouth), Mrs Stephanie Harper-Chung (Exe Estuary Management Partnership, Devon County Council), Dr Claire Kelly (University of Plymouth), Dr Barend Van Maarnen (University of Exeter), and Dr Ross Brown (University of Exeter), Professor Rolf Alto, (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).

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) Geography (17)

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.
Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.