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Dangerous beauty? Environmental risk perceptions and public policy preferences for ornamental horticulture in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 22, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Wanted - exceptional doctoral candidates to undertake trailblazing, transformative research alongside outstanding early-career researchers.

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship.

This doctoral (PhD) project has been devised and developed by a leading early-career researcher at Coventry University. The Trailblazer Scheme provides doctoral researchers with an innovative and dynamic intellectual space in which to undertake transformative research, whilst fully supported by a team of experienced supervisors.

The studentship will commence in either May or September 2020, depending on availability of the successful applicant.

Details of the PhD project:

Public and private ornamental gardens are important spaces for human wellbeing and can beautify local landscapes. Ornamental horticulture is an important form of cultural expression. Yet it is also a main contributor to the spread of invasive alien plants (IAP) which can threaten food- and water security and local livelihoods, as is, for example, happening in southern Africa. While many countries have introduced laborious, costly and often unsuccessful control and eradication schemes, limited attention is being paid to prevention and reduction of future invasion risks along one of the main pathways of new introductions, i.e. ornamental horticulture. Here, the perceptions, behaviour and policy preferences of the influential public, i.e. of non-professional gardeners and professional horticulturalists, are important but currently poorly understood. This research, conducted in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa will improve our understanding of the role of geographical context, knowledge, aesthetic preferences, and risk perceptions in regards to behavioural practices and public policy preferences for ornamental horticulture, and will make an important contribution to local and global biodiversity protection. The project will use participatory research approaches, e.g. participatory video and mapping, to investigate if community-involved awareness raising initiatives on IAP impacts can influence perceptions, practices, and policy preferences.

The PhD project aims to support the prevention of introduction and spread of invasive alien horticultural plants in southern Africa, and help reduce their negative impacts. Specific objectives are:

• to understand environmental risk perceptions associated with ornamental plants among southern Africa’s professional and private gardeners,
• to understand behavioural practices and public policy preferences and the role public risk perceptions play in shaping these practices and policy preferences,
• to explore the role participatory methods (e.g. video) can play in raising awareness and changing risk perceptions, behavioural practices and policy preferences.

This project aims to increase the relevance of participatory methods within Invasion Science.


Academic Environment - Coventry University has been the UK’s top modern university for seven consecutive years (Guardian University Guide 2013-2019) and holds a number of other prestigious accolades. Established in 2014 through substantial university investment, the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience (CAWR) is rapidly building a global reputation for transdisciplinary research into processes of resilience in social-ecological systems. Among its key lines of research is work focusing on modelling of water and food systems, aided by high performance computing facilities.

Training and Development - The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills. All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Candidate specification:

• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average PLUS the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

For further details see:

Additional items for candidate specification:

• strong interest in interdisciplinary and community-based research
• background in social and/or environmental sciences
• interest in horticulture and in conducting research in Southern Africa

How to apply:

To find out more about the project, please contact Dr Jana Fried ()

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Funding Notes

Full studentship which includes tuition fees and living expenses for a doctoral candidate over 3.5 years.

Stipend rates set by UKRI with an annual projected average increase of 1.25% per year.

Basic research costs (e.g. equipment) are covered by Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience. The successful candidate will receive an additional allowance of £500 per annum for professional expenses.

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