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Governing effective marine protected areas: Backing the blue belt through governance structures

About This PhD Project

Project Description

This competition is open to UK and EU nationals only, subject to certain conditions.

Apply to the University of Essex for a place to study by Monday 20 January 2020.
Apply for SeNSS studentship funding by 12.00pm on Monday 2 March 2020.

We seek candidates with a Bachelor’s degree and interest in or across Public or Environmental Policy, Marine or Conservation Biology, International Development, Political Science, Economics, or Data Sciences. If you have a passion for research in the natural world and effective conservation policy, this project could be for you!

Project and research team

Environmental sustainability is an important current issue. Marine conservation is key to sustaining our natural and environmental resources. The conservation of marine species such as porpoises and flame shells, or marine features such as seagrass and chalk reefs, often takes place through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Some MPAs perform quite well in preserving and sustaining resources, but others perform much worse. Why is that?

This studentship will assess MPA governance structures to determine how and whether they condition MPA conservation performance.

Decades of research have explored how best to manage and preserve collective resources. If you would like to be part of developing a solution for marine conservation through rigorous research, please apply!

You will be based at the University of Essex ( (the 2019 University of the Year), with supervisors in the Government Department ( (the highest ranked politics department in the UK), and the School of Life Sciences (

Training and research skills

Along with outstanding Social Science training as part of the SeNSS and ARIES DTP programs, you will receive genuinely interdisciplinary training in policy analysis, political economy, marine social sciences, and marine and environmental policy. Your doctoral education will include interview methods, machine learning, computerised text mining, and discourse analysis, and you will be able to meet policy makers and practitioners in regional, national, and international fieldwork locations, facilitated by co-supervision under the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) ( You may undertake an internship at a UK government or NGO organisation.

Studentship structure

This studentship is available on a 3.5 or 4-year basis, depending on training needs. It is also available part-time or full-time.

How to apply for this studentship

First, apply for a place to study at Essex by 20 January 2020. Please go to for more information. Next, make a separate application to SeNSS for studentship funding by 12.00pm on Monday 2 March 2020. Please email for access to the SeNSS application form.

Starting date

On or about 1 October 2020.

For further enquiries

For queries relating to the application process, please email the Essex Postgraduate Research and Education Team (). For queries relating to the application process, please email Dr Felicity Szesnat (). For queries related to the project itself, please email Dr Yannitell Reinhardt.

Funding Notes

This studentship is jointly funded by SeNSS ( (an Economics and Social Research Council ( Doctoral Training Partnership) and ARIES ( (a Natural Environment Research Council ( Doctoral Training Partnership). The student’s tuition fees will be paid and, if eligible, they will receive tax free living costs of approximately £1,250 per month throughout the studentship. For eligibility rules, see They can also apply for up to £5,000 additional funding to support their research. Other opportunities include competitions for funding for spending time at academic institutions overseas, and for spending time on a placement or internship.


Reinhardt, G.Y., (2019). The intersectionality of disasters’ effects on trust in public officials. Social Science Quarterly.

Reinhardt, G.Y. and Chatsiou, K., (2019). Using community education interventions to build resilience and avert crises: how accidental dwelling fires decreased in Essex County, UK. Local Government Studies, pp.1-19.

Lown, A.E., Hepburn, L.J., Heywood, J.L., Cameron, T.C., (In Press) - Density and seasonally dependent associations of biodiversity with the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis): evidence for marine planning. Journal of Applied Ecology.

Caveen, A.J., Sweeting, C. et al., (2014). Diverging strategies to planning an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the North Sea: the roles of advocacy, evidence and pragmatism in the face of uncertainty. Advances in Marine Biology, 69: 325-370.

Reinhardt, G.Y., (2017). Imagining worse than reality: comparing beliefs and intentions between disaster evacuees and survey respondents. Journal of Risk Research, 20(2): 169-194. DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2015.1017827

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