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Fronds to forests: Individual-based and whole-forest models of kelp

Project Description

This fully-funded 3.5 year studentship will remain open only until filled, but the preferred interview time is in middle March. So we recommend applying immediately.

In this project you will develop mathematical models of kelp forest dynamics appropriate to Scottish waters that can then be used to explore the consequences of natural variability and harvesting on forest biomass and regeneration1,2. You will approach the problem from two directions – using models of whole-forest biomass and properties, and individual-based models of interacting plants. The few models of kelp dynamics that exist in the literature3.4 generally model the development (growth and survival ) of individual plants, and then assume that this is synonymous with forest development. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Extensive training in mathematical modelling will be provided, and these will give the student a solid foundation for a wide variety of future careers that rely on quantitative and mathematical skills, not just in marine science.

You will mainly work within the Marine Population Modelling group Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde ( You will also be co-supervised by Professor Michael Burrows and Dr Thomas Adams at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)/University of the Highlands and Islands, near Oban. Staff from Scottish Natural Heritage may also be involved. Through these connections, there is the option of including field work to gather data to support the modelling as part of the project5.

The project is funded through the NERC funded Scottish Universities Partnership for Environmental Research Doctoral Training Partnership (SUPER;, and you will be fully integrated into training and enrichment opportunities provided by the scheme.


Applicants should have or expect to obtain a good honours degree (1, 2.1, or equivalent) in applied mathematics, statistics, quantitative ecology, or a highly numerate science. Experience of writing code in R and C would be highly beneficial.

Background reading

1Capuzzo, E. and McKie, T. (2016). Seaweed in the UK and abroad – status, products, limitations, gaps and Cefas role. Cefas contract report FC002I. 78pp.

2Burrows et al. (2018) Wild Seaweed Harvesting as a Diversification Opportunity for Fishermen. A report by SRSL for HIE, pp. 171

3Aldridge, J., van de Molen, J. and Forster, R. (2012). Wider ecological implications of Macroalgae cultivation. The Crown Estate, 95 pp.

4Broch, O.J. and Slagstad, D. (2012). Modelling seasonal growth and composition o fthe kelp Saccharina latissimi. J. Appl. Phycol. 24, 759-776.

5Johnston, C.S., Jones, R.G. and Hunt, R.D. (1977). A seasonal carbon budget for a laminarian population in a Scottish sea-loch. Helgolander Wiss. Meeresunters 30, 527-545.

How to Apply

Informal enquiries can be made to the lead supervisor, Prof Michael Heath, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, at .

Formal application is via the University of Strathclyde postgraduate research application process at

making sure that you clearly state your interest in this project with the named supervisors.

The preferred starting date is 30 September 2019.

We value diversity and welcome applications from all sections of the community.
The University currently holds a Bronze Athena SWAN award, recognising our commitment to advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in academia.

Funding Notes

This fully funded studentship is available for UK and EU students meeting RCUK eligibility criteria. They will be enrolled in the SUPER Graduate School and the SUPER PGCert in Researcher Professional Development. To be eligible for a full award, a student must:
a. Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on their stay.
b. Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the grant.
c. Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals.)

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