This PhD project focuses on the three-way relationship between inshore fishing activities, essential seabed habitat and inshore fishery management, aiming to provide understanding and tools to allow managers to optimise the value and sustainability of ecosystem services provided through fishery productivity. Inshore fisheries target diverse fish and, particularly, shellfish species and operate in a busy environment often of high biodiversity value. The value of these fisheries is often very high in terms of supporting traditional ways of life in fragile communities in remote areas. Much effort is currently devoted to demonstrating sustainable exploitation of inshore fishery resources; besides protecting resource productivity and the environment, this is required by many prominent retailers (e.g. Marks & Spencer), adds value to fishery products, and allows local communities to benefit from regionally-branded produce. Safeguarding non-target species, habitats and the structure and function of ecosystems is an important component of overall fishery sustainability. Whilst it is often assumed that inshore fishing methods are relatively benign in this respect, the evidence-base for this is small, and there is very little consideration of the wider ecosystem context. The student will work closely with the inshore fishing industry, monitoring catch composition and determining the total interaction of the fisheries with both target and non-target species. Other activities will include underwater observations and photogrammetry of seabed habitats, and an important output of the project will be an ecological modelling tool to allow projection of fishery-ecosystem structure and function for future environmental and management scenarios. Essential attributes for the student include: direct familiarity with inshore fishing operations in Scottish waters, especially with regards to creel fishing; experience as a fishery observer working on board inshore fishing vessels; experience in both shore-based and at-sea fishery monitoring activities; experience of handling fish and shellfish catch; familiarity with data handling procedures for fishery monitoring; experience of engagement with fishery stakeholders. The student will be based at Heriot-Watt University’s Orkney campus, and will work on case studies of crustacean and whelk fisheries in Orkney, the Dornoch Firth and North Berwickshire (St Abbs Marine Station).
Students who are successful in being awarded this scholarship are expected to be based at our Orkney campus.
Informal enquiries should be directed to the primary supervisor, Dr Mike Bell.
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.
Please complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Environment within the application and include the project reference, title and supervisor on your application. Applicants who do not include these details on their application may not be considered.
Please also provide a written proposal, at least one side of A4, outlining how you would approach the research project. You will also be required to upload a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts and one academic reference. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.
Applicants MUST be available to start the course of study in October 2019.
Scholarships will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £14,999 for the 36 month duration of the project.