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Private gardens: an underexploited opportunity for enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem service provision (Advert Reference: RDF20/EE/GES/GODDARD)

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

Project Description

Creating sustainable cities for both people and wildlife requires an understanding of how the planning, design and governance of urban green spaces can maximise biodiversity and ecosystem service provision (Scott et al. 2018). Private gardens are a significant component of urban green infrastructure, typically covering around 25% or more of city area (Goddard et al. 2010). Collectively, gardens provide a range of ecosystem services (e.g. carbon storage, flood regulation, recreation) and support important populations of many species, e.g. pollinating insects (Baldock et al. 2019) and birds (Goddard et al. 2017). However, incentivising ‘wildlife-friendly’ management of gardens poses a considerable governance challenge due to private ownership and the complexity of individual managers, meaning that gardens are often neglected in environmental plans.
This PhD proposal operates at the nexus between ecology and spatial planning by developing strategies and tools to optimise the contribution of private gardens for biodiversity and ecosystem service provision within the English planning system. It uses a mixed methods approach incorporating some or all of the following: ecological surveys, stakeholder interviews, workshops, focus groups and policy analyses. The supervisory team have expertise in garden biodiversity management (Goddard), pollinator ecology and planning (Baldock) and green infrastructure policy and spatial planning (Scott). The project will benefit from existing relationships with planning authorities and build new collaborations with stakeholders including householders, community groups, local and national government, and housing developers.
This transdisciplinary study will address the following questions and knowledge gaps:
1. Can we identify key opportunities and barriers to realising the potential of private gardens for biodiversity and ecosystem service provision within spatial planning policy?

2. How can we incentivise better garden governance across multiple scales and stakeholders to enable coordinated ‘wildlife-friendly’ management at the landscape-scale incorporating other green infrastructure?
This project is supervised by Dr Mark Goddard. The second and third supervisors are Professor Alister Scott and Dr Katherine Baldock.

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/GODDARD) 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.


Goddard MA et al. (2013) Why garden for wildlife? Social and ecological drivers, motivations and barriers for biodiversity management in residential landscapes. Ecological Economics 86: 258-273.

Goddard MA et al. (2010) Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25, 90-98.

Scott, AJ et al. (2018) Mainstreaming ecosystem science in spatial planning practice: exploiting a hybrid opportunity space. Land Use Policy 70 232-246

Scott AJ et al. (2014) Evaluating the cumulative impact problem in spatial planning: a case study of wind turbines in Aberdeenshire, UK. Town Planning Review, 85 (4) 457-486.

Scott, AJ et al. (2013). "Disintegrated development at the rural–urban fringe: Re-connecting spatial planning theory and practice." Progress in Planning 83: 1-52.

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

Baldock, KCR., Goddard, MA 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.

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