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Environmentally sensitive behaviour? Mitigating adverse impacts on capercaillie populations in the Cairngorms National Park.

   Faculty of Social Sciences

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  Dr M Satsangi, Dr N Bunnefeld  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Funded by the ESRC Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA)

Summary: This research examines the level of awareness amongst residents and visitors of the impact of their leisure and travel behaviour on capercaillie populations in the Cairngorms National Park area; whether perceptions of conservation value match natural heritage evidence; the extent to which are people willing to modify their recreation behaviour and choices in response to information about capercaillie conservation and the most effective techniques in community engagement, environmental education and visitor management in stimulating changes in recreation behaviour and choices to mitigate impacts on capercaillie populations.

The capercaillie is an iconic Scottish bird species and it is protected by the Birds Directive. Large areas within the Cairngorms National Park are designated as Special Protection Areas. Outdoor recreation is known to impact on capercaillie distribution and may be impacting productivity, but how far this is recognised by participants is not known, leaving a poor basis for encouraging changes in behaviour to mitigate adverse impacts.

Numerous studies have measured environmental and conservation attitudes and how these vary by socio-economic characteristics. Actual behaviour is affected, inter alia, by social norms and people's ability to change their actions. Previous studies have not examined behaviour that impacts on fragile species such as capercaillie. It is crucial to understand the drivers of actual behaviour and to monitor indicators of change in behaviour that threaten capercaillie habitats. Indirect questioning techniques can estimate the prevalence of such activity whilst protecting the anonymity of the respondent. These will be used alongside critical analysis of key documents and interviews with key stakeholders.

This research should use real-time monitoring of the effectiveness of mitigation measures being developed and help guide adaptive management. The research proposed will have outcomes in providing evidence on behavioural change to promote the conservation of a fragile species, identified as a gap in the literature. The research will provide information and analysis that can be used by the CNPA in working with its partners to manage the conservation of capercaillie.

Applications should comprise a covering letter, CV, two references (at least one of which should be an academic reference and a research proposal of up to 1,000 words showing how the applicant will define the research questions and the methods anticipated for investigation. The applicant should also outline his/her approach to working with the CNPA.

Applications should be submitted by email by Monday, July 20, 2015 to Mrs Linda Campbell, Research Administrator, School of Applied Social Science ([Email Address Removed]).

Interviews are expected to be held in the week beginning August 17 at the University of Stirling.


This is a three-year “+3” research award commencing in October 2015. The award covers payment of tuition fees, an annual tax-free living allowance (stipend) at the ESRC rate (currently £13863 per year), and an annual Research Training Support Grant to allow participation in training events and conferences.

The ESRC expects that applicants embarking on a +3 programme would have achieved a level of research training that would allow them to proceed directly to PhD; this is usually through the attainment of a previous Master’s qualification in the social sciences. Related disciplines include (but are not limited to) social policy, sociology, applied social research, economics, management, or social statistics. The ESRC also has residential criteria for awards. More detail on the eligibility criteria can be found at http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding-and-guidance/guidance/postgraduates/prospective-students/eligibility/index.aspx

The full ESRC PG Funding Guide is online at: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/_images/ESRC-Postgraduate-Funding-Guide-DTCs_tcm8-28310.pdf
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