Despite Scotland being a “water rich” nation, research points to an increase in the frequency and duration of drought and water scarcity events combined with increasing flood risk. Increasing extreme weather risks overwhelming systems – see for example the effects of Storm Babet in 2023. The ‘see-saw’ succession between dry and wet (drought to flood) conditions or multiple years of successively low rainfall are expected to result in significant socio-economic impacts for Scotland, either directly or through dealing with compounding and cascading effects. The cumulative impacts of these can potentially increase vulnerability of individuals, institutions and infrastructure, thereby challenging long-term resilience.
There have been limited studies relating to the interconnected challenges of drought and flood in the Scottish context. However, addressing these challenges together is increasingly recognised to require inclusive and innovative approaches to working with nature – nature-based solutions (NbS). Scotland is at the forefront of implementing NbS for Natural Flood Management, but broadening this to embrace a more joined-up, interconnected ‘multi-hazard’ approach including drought is urgently required. Such a transformational change requires place-based approaches to find societally acceptable and sustainable innovations that support a Just Transition.
This interdisciplinary PhD, funded through the Hydro Nation Scholarship Programme and hosted at the University of Strathclyde, will tackle this challenge. It will examine how targeted support and action research linked to a community of place in rural Scotland can facilitate inclusive NbS that tackles the multiple water-related risks. The Hydro Nation Scholar will work collaboratively to develop innovative, nature-based solutions to address the interconnected water resilience challenges of flood and drought. They will also engage with stakeholders across Scotland’s rural water sector, to help embed their insights into future decision-making.
This PhD project will take an interdisciplinary approach. The detailed workplan will be developed by the student, based on stakeholder engagement and previous research, literature and current practices relating to water management and resilience in Scotland’s rural places. Relevant bodies of work include resilience studies, water governance, systems thinking, and (policy) integration. A provisional workplan is to create ‘living labs’ where the student will work with one or more rural communities situated in ‘hotspots’ of both flooding and water scarcity. Locations will be refined through a gap analysis, review and consultation. The scholar will then pilot a framework that develops innovative NbS approaches to water resilience, to be tested and up-scaled in partnership with these rural communities, enabling effective ‘ground truthing’ of the proposed NbS innovations and technologies at all stages of development and evaluation. Later phases of work will explore the applicability of the insights beyond Scotland.
To tackle this exciting PhD challenge, we are seeking a talented individual with the skills and desire to work in an interdisciplinary area of research of growing importance. They will be a practical, self-motivated person who will lead the development and direction of their project. Applicants should have a strong background in one or more relevant fields related to NbS, which can range from water resilience and management, environmental science or engineering, hydrology, through to rural geography. Some programming experience in analytical languages such as MATLAB, Python or R would be beneficial. Applicants with prior research and/or work experience at the community-level will be strongly prioritised. UK and international applicants are welcome to apply. Applicants must identify how their expertise fits this PhD; successful scholars will also have opportunity to access skills development in a range of subjects.
The successful Scholar will be lead-supervised by Dr Christopher White at the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with Dr Kerry Waylen at The James Hutton Institute and Professor Lindsay Beevers at the University of Edinburgh.
To apply, applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form together with their curriculum vitae and a covering letter (including details of their experience and motivation for applying) to Dr Christopher White email@example.com by the final submission deadline of 10th January 2024. Early applications are, however, strongly encouraged as the supervisors will be reviewing submissions throughout the application period. The supervisors will then select their preferred candidate who will then be put forward to the formal panel interviews in February. If you have any questions, please contact Dr Christopher White firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr Kerry Waylen email@example.com or Prof Lindsay Beevers L.Beevers@ed.ac.uk.