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Restoring degraded ecosystem: artificial reefs as carbon sink and habitat builders in leisure marinas


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.

The PhD will be based in the School of Biological Sciences and will be supervised by Dr Federica Ragazzola, Dr Gianluca Tozzi and Dr Chiara Lombardi (ENEA, Italy).

The work on this project will:
-utilise the shell waste to create biodegradable artificial structures for habitat restoration purposes (in leisure marinas) in line with the blue growth strategy
-design different forms and texture of habitat structures mimicking the major bioconstructors of the targeted areas
-carry out settlement test to determine the most successful bioconstruction
-deploy the successful artificial bioconstruction as a pilot study in a leisure marina


Project description

The core of this proposed project is to offer innovative solutions using aquaculture waste to contribute in turning leisure marinas (grey infrastructures) in infrastructures built around the Ecosystem restoration concept (blue and green infrastructure) creating tools for climate change mitigation.

As coasts become more urbanised, due to commercial, industrial and recreational activities, coastal environments are gradually being built over1. Natural habitats that support complex assemblages of native flora and fauna are being lost at a rapid rate. The loss of biodiversity is strictly link with the loss of ecosystem services (air, water purification, waste disposal, food source) and it is among the top reasons for ecosystem restoration. Artificial structures are often used in ecosystem restoration and they can be designed and deployed to accomplish multiple functions, in particular to provide hard substrate for invertebrate colonization and provide refugia for fish and invertebrates.

The innovative side of this project is to use biodegradable polymers (with different dissolution rates, both created by us and already made one) mixed with eco-friendly material to create 3D artificial proto-types resembling the structure of the bioconstructors of the native environment. The final goal is to have this artificial structure colonized by calcifying organisms which will take over the dissolving biopolymer resulting in a transformation from artificial habitat to natural habitat made by native bioconstructors.


General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class
or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area . In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Federica Ragazzola () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Biological Sciences’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BIOL4790219 when applying.

Funding Notes

The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19) for three years.

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