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Interactions between pollinators and people: the effects of garden management and social drivers on urban pollinator communities (Advert reference: RDF20/EE/GES/BALDOCK)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Urban expansion is a major threat to global biodiversity, with 70% of the global human population predicted to be urban residents by 2050. Some pollinator groups, particularly bees, can do well in urban areas, although negative impacts of urbanisation have been reported for other insect taxa (Baldock et al. 2015).

Gardens and allotments are hotspots for pollinators in cities and collectively comprise approximately 30% of the area of urban landscapes (Baldock et al. 2019). However, the quality and connectivity of gardens for pollinators is highly variable due to differences in garden management practices. Garden management is influenced by a range of social factors, and ecologists have described a “luxury effect” whereby biodiversity is positively related to socio-economic status in cities, but there is a lack of research on pollinators and on the underlying mechanisms.

The aim of this project is to identify gardening practices that benefit insect pollinators and to examine the effects of socio-economic factors on pollinator communities in order to develop management recommendations for pollinator conservation. The project will sample residential gardens and allotment sites in north-east England, building on existing partnerships with gardening and allotment organisations and collecting data on pollinator communities and garden management practices along socio-economic gradients. Plant-pollinator interactions will be quantified using a plant-pollinator network approach. Experiments will test the impact of different gardening practices on pollinator communities, and social surveys (e.g. questionnaires, interviews) will assess underlying motivations driving garden management decisions.

This multi-disciplinary study will address the following questions and knowledge gaps:

1) How do gardening practices affect the value of gardens and allotments for pollinating insects?
2) Does the “luxury effect” hold for pollinators in residential gardens and what are the implications for environmental justice?
3) How can garden management be improved to benefit pollinator communities and pollination services in urban landscapes?

The principal supervisor for this project is Dr Katherine Baldock. The second and third supervisors will be Professor Alister Scott and Dr Mark Goddard.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/EE/GES/BALDOCK) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020

Start Date: 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU/ Worldwide students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Baldock, K. C. R., Goddard, M. A. et al. (2019). A systems approach reveals urban pollinator hotspots and conservation opportunities. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3: 363-373.

Baldock, K. C. R., Goddard, M. A. et al. (2015). Where is the UK's pollinator biodiversity? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 282: 20142849.

Goddard, K. A., Dougill, A J. & Benton, T. G. (2013) Why garden for wildlife? Social and ecological drivers, motivations and barriers for biodiversity management in residential landscapes Ecological Economics 6: 258-273

Kuras, E., Warren, P., Zinda, J., Aronson, M.F.J., Cilliers, S., Goddard, M.A., Nilon, C. & Winkler, R. Urban socioeconomic inequality and biodiversity often converge but not always: a global meta-analysis. Under revision at Landscape and Urban Planning.

Scott AJ, Dean A, Barry, R., and Kotter, R. (2018) Places of urban disorder? Exposing the hidden nature and values of an English private urban allotment landscape Landscape and Urban Planning 169: 185-198.

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