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Future proofing English Shellfish exports: ecology, catchability and sustainability of the common whelk fishery

School of Life Sciences

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Dr T Cameron , Dr P Hollyman , Dr M Taylor No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Scientific Background
The commercial whelk fishery in the southern North Sea has expanded significantly over the last decade and is of significant economic importance to the region. While there is interest in maintaining or expanding the fishery sustainably, there is a lack of information regarding the organism’s life-history, population connectivity and key fishery and stock data, making informed management and recovery difficult. This project will look to address these data gaps and propose sustainable shellfish fishery management.

Research Methodology
The overall aim of the PhD is to characterise the variation in maturation, catch rates and catchability, stock size and the habitat use of the common whelk within the southern North Sea. Life history and catch data will be used to examine population dynamics, fishery effort and harvest rates [1,2]. You will investigate current proxies for population structure looking at diet, temperature and habitat effects on growth using stable isotope analysis of shells and trace element analysis of statoliths [2,3], comparing this to emerging results in our lab on population genetic structure [4]. You will investigate the effects of whelk behaviour across different habitats using underwater video on pots and from fisheries independent trials to understand catchability. You will explore the use of innovative technology in providing catch and return data to develop better stock models with a range of government stakeholders [1]. This project provides ample fieldwork opportunities at sea with CASE partner Kent & Essex Inshore Fishing & Conservation Authority as well as opportunities to work with fisheries stakeholders in the industry and government to feed into policy [e.g. 5].

This project provides an outstanding opportunity for anyone interested in applied marine science with training and research experience from the supervisor team and their wider networks in animal physiology, population ecology and applied fisheries science leading to high employability benefits in a growing fisheries sector.

Person Specification
Candidates should have a background in biology, ecology, or marine policy. Experience working in the fisheries sector and working with stakeholders would be desirable. Candidates with experience or developing expertise in fieldwork, working on boats, with quantitative biology skills and ability to drive in the UK is desirable but not essential.

How to apply
Please apply by sending a CV (including contact details of two academic referees) and a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the PhD to Emma Revill [Email Address Removed]. If you have any questions please feel free to contact any member of the supervisory team. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria are awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020-21) and research funding. International applicants (EU/non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded studentships. ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or costs associated with relocation to the UK.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries/ applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Please visit


1. Lown, A., Dyer, R., Hepburn, L., Cameron, T.C. (2020) From individual vital rates to population dynamics: an integral projection model for European native oysters in a marine protected area, Aquatic Conservation (accepted an in press)
2. Hollyman, P.R., Chenery, S.R.N., Leng, M.J., Laptikhovsky, V.V., Colvin, C. N. & Richardson, C.A. Age and growth rate estimations of the commercially fished gastropod Buccinum undatum. ICES journal of marine science, 75(6), 2129-2144.
3. Hollyman, P.R., Leng M.J., Chenery, S.R.N., Laptikhovsky, V.V. & Richardson, C.A (2018) Statoliths of the whelk Buccinum undatum: a novel age determination tool. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 598, 261-272. doi: 10.3354/meps12119.
4. Morrissey, D.A. J.Goodall, R. Castilho, T. Cameron, and M.L. Taylor (*in collaboration with KEIFCA) ddRAD reveals no population structure in a commercially exploited marine gastropod, Evolutionary Applications, in review
5. Allison, S., Hardy, M., Hayward, K., Cameron, TC. and Underwood, GJC., (2020). Strongholds of Ostrea edulis populations in estuaries in Essex, SE England and their association with traditional oyster aquaculture: evidence to support a MPA designation. The Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 100 (1), 27-36
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