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EASTBIO Integrating social and ecological approaches for sustainable food production and biodiversity management: the case of Orkney farmers and Greylag Goose.

School of Biological Sciences

Dr Ana Payo-Payo , Dr N Bunnefeld Wednesday, January 06, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Dr Ana Payo Payo (University of Aberdeen) /people/profiles/ana.payo-payo

Professor Nils Bunnefeld (University of Stirling)

Under the current scenario of human population increase, reconciling resilient and sustainable food production and biodiversity conservation, two of the pillars of sustainable development, remains a global challenge. On the one hand, increasing food demands involves intensification practices which can lead to biodiversity degradation. On the other hand, biodiversity management involves protection statuses (for species or habitats) to comply with international agreements (EU Habitats and Birds Directives, global Sustainable Development Goals). Such protection figures have impacts in other sympatric species and human activities, such food production. For instance, causing crop damage or increased damage mitigation costs. Because an integrated social-ecological perspective is lacking, we are forced to play expensive and dangerous catch-up games when supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small farmers and promoting biodiversity conservation.

To overcome this problem, in partnership with Nature Scot we will develop a novel social-ecological approach that integrates species dynamics with stakeholder social information while accounting for uncertainty (Reid 2018, Duthie 2018) in a well monitored system: Orkney farmers and Greylag Goose. During the last 30 years, Greylag Goose populations overwintering in Scotland have steadily shifted northward their distribution and increased their numbers, leading to conflicts with local farmers due to crop damage and raising concerns about potential effects on sympatric species (Mitchell 2014). Strategic transboundary management is needed to mitigate food production damage and potential effects in sympatric species whilst maintaining goose populations.

This will be implemented through a multidisciplinary approach, combining state-of-the-art quantitative methods and computational tools from ecology and stakeholder participatory approaches from social sciences. Project objectives are:
• To review existing methods integrating social-ecological information.
• To influence and shape stakeholder participatory processes aiming towards a shared vision for greylag goose population management.
• To expand and inform existing models (e.g. GMSE) by including: stakeholder feedback, transboundary multi agent user model, multi species resource model and/or partially migratory resource model.
• To develop novel ways of communicating integrated social-ecological management complexity to academics, stakeholders, policy makers and general public.

What are we looking for?
We are looking for bright and motivated students enthusiastic about natural and social sciences, interested in acquiring modelling skills and developing participatory approaches that can be used to overcome trade-offs between food production and biodiversity management. We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse and inclusive team. Join us!

What can we offer?
By working within our University of Aberdeen-University of Stirling-Nature Scot partnership you will be joining a world-leading group in the newly emerging field of social-ecological simulation modelling. We anticipate the PhD project leading to publications in international journals and high impact in management practices. Additionally, you will develop skills in science communication through a variety of traditional and emerging media.

Application Procedure:

Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison McLeod at . Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to .

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership View Website. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition (limited funding is available to provide international tuition fees). Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject.


Duthie, […] Bunnefeld (2018) GMSE: An R package for generalised management strategy evaluation. MEE.
Mitchell, et al. (2014). The abundance and distribution of British Greylag Geese in Orkney. A report by the WWT to SNH.

Reid, et al. (2018) Population and evolutionary dynamics in spatially structured seasonally varying environments. Biol. Rev.
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