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More or less: understanding the trade-offs of increased resolution and complexity in environmentally-extended trade models.

Department of Mathematics

About the Project

Global trade is complex, as are the ecological systems underpinning human activities. Increasing environmental pressures, and international pledges and commitments to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function, create urgent need for quantitative methods effectively linking consumption and ecological impacts.

This studentship needs a candidate with strong quantitative skills and passion for understanding and working synergistically with the natural world. Exploring interactions between temporal, spatial and sectoral heterogeneity, scale and complexity within mathematical trade models, you will describe how this complexity filters through to model predictions, and affects output utility, confidence and robustness.

You will:
- comprehensively survey individual elements of different approaches, models and metrics;
- assess how these can be rigorously combined;
- inform practical outcomes, e.g. land use change and biodiversity indicators, methods for capturing and representing supply chains and commodity flows, and effective knowledge exchange.

This research will clarify the relative trade-offs across these processes, illuminating where the biggest biodiversity gains can be achieved, and helping ensure efforts and outputs are accurate, usable and actionable.

You will utilise computational and mathematical techniques to interact with a suite of datasets, methods and tools, implementing and running scenarios, and comparing and analysing datasets, indicators and metrics across scales and resolutions. You will collate information and data, convert these into real-world contexts and consider policy-relevant frameworks and settings.

You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB), supervised by Simon Croft (mathematical and computational experience in trade models) and Jon Pitchford (interdisciplinary expert in understanding complexity and uncertainty). You will join a thriving research community with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and support with additional training as required.

An opportunity is also available to submit your own proposal for a fully funded studentship with LCAB.

Funding Notes

This studentship covers UK fees for 4 years and a tax-free stipend to match the UKRI’s minimum rate for 2021/22 (estimated £15 860 per year) for 3.5 years. Non-UK citizens are welcome to apply but must pay the difference between the international and the UK fee rate themselves. To qualify for UK (home) fee status, students must be from the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) or Islands (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the past three years.


S.A. Croft, C.D. West, J.M.H. Green
Capturing the heterogeneity of sub-national production in global trade flows
J. Clean. Prod., 203 (2018), pp. 1106-1118, 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.08.267

J.M.H. Green, S.A. Croft, A.P. Durán, A.P. Balmford, N.D. Burgess, S. Fick, T.A. Gardner, J. Godar, C. Suavet, M. Virah-Sawmy, L.E. Young, C.D. West
Linking global drivers of agricultural trade to on-the-ground impacts on biodiversity
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 116 (46) (2019), pp. 23202-23208, 10.1073/pnas.1905618116

A. Owen, K. Steen-Olsen, J. Barrett, T. Wiedmann, M. Lenzen
A structural decomposition approach to comparing MRIO databases
Economic Systems Research, 26:3 (2014) pp. 262-283, 10.1080/09535314.2014.935299

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