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Evaluating and maximising the environmental benefits of seaweed farming (mariculture). PhD funded studentship in Biosciences.


Project Description

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (CEFAS), and The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust, is inviting applications for a fully-funded 4 year PhD studentship to commence as soon as possible. The studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, plus an annual tax-free stipend of £15,009 (with annual increases in line with UK Research and Innovation stipend rates) over 4 years full-time (or pro rata for part-time study). The student will be based in Biosciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter, but will work with partners at the MBA (for a period of 12 months) and also undertake work placements at University of Exeter’s Penryn campus and at the CEFAS Weymouth Laboratory.

Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee.

The collaborations with project partners are subject to contract. Please note full details of the project partner contributions and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations. Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

Project Description

With expanding global markets for seaweed products, there is a growing need for seaweed farming to reduce pressure on wild harvested stocks. Although seaweed farming is categorised as a licensable activity under the UK’s Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009), there is currently no specific regulatory process or guidance for establishing new seaweed farms in the UK. This is in part because there is a fundamental lack of understanding of potential environmental impacts versus benefits of seaweed farming, for informing planning decisions. In particular, there is no consensus as to whether seaweed farms adversely impact or benefit adjoining marine protected areas (MPAs), which are also expanding around the UK coastline. Some evidence suggests that seaweed farms may serve as nursery grounds or refugia for local fish and macroinvertebrate populations, and enhance local marine biodiversity. Conversely, seaweed farms may negatively impact on local populations by acting as barriers to movements or altering the physico-chemical environment.

This PhD studentship will undertake a series of field studies at two coastal study sites in Southwest England, in order to evaluate the environmental impacts/benefits of seaweed aquaculture.

The project will build on existing observational data for each study site and three EU funded projects addressing challenges faced in engineering installations for seaweed culture and the potential use of farmed seaweeds in integrated multi-species/trophic aquaculture.

The specific aims of this PhD project are to:
1) Quantify the effects of selected seaweed farm(s) on local marine biodiversity and recruitment and dispersal of fish and macroinvertebrate species of conservation and commercial importance.
2) Quantify the influence of seaweed farms on local physical conditions, including current speed, suspended sediment loads, light penetration and wave energy.
3) Quantify dissolved nutrient chemistry and dynamics in and around the seaweed farms.
In this exciting project the student will develop and apply a wide range of skills and techniques, including video recordings and diver surveys, macro and microscopic imaging, cytometry, physical/chemical oceanography, molecular biology, and computational modelling. They will integrate into large well-funded research teams that will bring associated benefits in terms of additional support and networking.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, plus an annual tax-free stipend of £15,009 (with annual increases in line with UK Research and Innovation stipend rates) over 4 years full-time (or pro rata for part-time study).

Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee.

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