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Developing meaningful marine biodiversity indicators to support conservation

   The School of Biological and Marine Sciences

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  Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Dr A Atkinson, Dr Clare Ostle, Dr Sian Rees  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

At the base of marine foodwebs, changes in plankton communities affect ecosystem services, including climate change mitigation and fisheries yield. A suite of plankton indicators, developed in collaboration with policy-makers, are used to assess aspects of plankton diversity, functioning, and productivity for UK/EU biodiversity policy. There is now an urgent need to address key questions on what the observed changes in these indicators mean for natural capital and ecosystem services and how the indicators respond to climate change, including extreme events. Answering these questions is urgently required to provide robust scientific information to inform decision-making.


The student will apply statistical modelling approaches to data from the world’s most extensive plankton network to 1) develop policy-relevant plankton indicators for climate change (including ocean acidification); 2) analyse relationships between plankton indicators, determining which are most robust for inclusion in policy assessments; 3) investigate links between plankton indicators and existing foodweb indicators to understand how these relationships change spatio-temporally, and 4) explore what changes in these indicators mean for natural capital and ecosystem services. This work will be in collaboration with policy working groups and Defra to ensure relevance of outputs to UK/EU marine biodiversity and natural capital policy frameworks.

Training The student will receive training in spatial-temporal analysis of large datasets, statistical techniques, natural capital, and application of science to policy through participation in UK and international science-policy workshops, expanding the student’s personal network through working with scientists and key policy stakeholders involved in the UK/EU marine biodiversity conservation community.


We are looking for a numerate (e.g. R) candidate with an interest in conservation/policy. Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant Masters qualification.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Abigail McQuatters-Gollop ([Email Address Removed]) for an informal chat.

For further information on research studentships at the University of Plymouth and to apply for this position please visit: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/your-studies/research-degrees/postgraduate-research-studentships and select the studentship you would like to apply for. Please clearly state the name of the DoS and the studentship title that you are applying for on your personal statement.

Please see here for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please contact [Email Address Removed].

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 20 May 2022. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on 7 June 2022. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home tuition fees plus a stipend of £16,062 per annum (2022/23 rate). The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover International fees will have to cover the difference between the Home and the International tuition fee rates (approximately £12,697 per annum).
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