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Securing health and biodiversity co-benefits from environmental interventions in rural-urban systems

   Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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  Dr K Murray  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Global Burden of Disease study suggests that around one quarter of all death, disability and loss of quality of life is attributable to environmental factors, such as pollution and infectious diseases. At the same time, many environmental threats to health also threaten natural resources, including biodiversity and the provision of essential ecosystem services, which may further undermine health and present barriers for sustainable development. Strategic environmental management is thus uniquely placed to deliver co-benefits across these multiple sectors.

Efficiency gains offered by co-benefit harvesting could include more rapid deployment, reduced economic costs, or increased efficacy of actions designed to progress towards agreed global targets in each of these domains, as compared to pursuing domain-specific goals in isolation. However, a key challenge is that known and potential co-benefits have rarely been systematically mapped or quantified in ways that are convincing to decision and policy makers, so there is likely to be under-investment in trying to secure them.

The aim of this project is to begin to decompose this co-benefit landscape, with a particular initial focus on infectious disease risks and biodiversity loss in developing rural-urban systems in Asia experiencing rapid global environmental and social change. Results from the study will identify a subset of available environmental interventions with the greatest potential to deliver co-benefits to health and biodiversity in the region. The project will be set in the context of international policy relating to the protection of health (eg. WHO targets) and biodiversity (eg. Aichi targets) and in the broader contexts of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

Key questions of interest include: 1) what are the potential benefits of available interventions to individual domains, 2) how can co-benefits be quantified in a transferrable currency and maximised across more than one domain, 3) what is the potential contribution and costs (trade-offs) for cobenefit harvesting in the context of meeting agreed targets across multiple domains and at differing temporal scales, 4) are there winner/loser power dynamic problems in individual domains that are ameliorated by a multi-domain approach, 5) how can the provision of co-benefits be communicated to facilitate negotiation, prioritisation, decision-making and policy development on environmental interventions, and 6) what implications emerge for (modes of) policy implementation?

The project will involve a combination of evidence mapping, quantitative modelling and policy analysis, and would suit a candidate with experience and/or strong interests in dynamic socioecological systems and skills in literature analysis (systematic review and/or meta-analysis), quantitative modelling (e.g., network analysis, complex systems, economics) and/or quantitative social sciences (e.g., decision analysis). A background and/or strong interest in biodiversity and/or health management is essential.

The project is jointly supported by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London. The candidate will be expected to spend time at both institutions to undertake the project but will be primarily based in London.

Dr Kris Murray
Lecturer Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College London

Additional project support will be provided by Alyssa Gilbert, Head of Policy and Translation at the Grantham Institute.


The successful candidate will be integrated within the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership (SSCP DTP), based out of the Grantham Institute. You will be part of an interdisciplinary cohort of 30 students whose work spans all aspects of environmental research at Imperial College London. This is a unique and prestigious programme that provides bespoke training courses, special seminars and opportunities to engage with the wider climate and environment community through funded secondments.

Entry Criteria

We welcome applications from those with a good first degree (minimum 2.1, or international equivalent) and have obtained, or be working towards, a Master's degree at Distinction level or international equivalent, in a relevant field. The project will involve a combination of evidence mapping, quantitative modelling and policy analysis. Candidates from a range of backgrounds will be considered but applicants with experience or strong interests in understanding dynamic socioecological systems (particularly health or biodiversity management) and quantitative skills in literature analysis (systematic review, meta-analysis), modelling (eg. statistics, network analysis, complex systems, economics) and/or social sciences (eg. decision analysis) are especially encouraged to apply.

Candidates will be assessed on four main criteria: academic ability, research potential, written & verbal communication skills and interest in environmental research and related societal issues. You will also need to satisfy the College’s English language entry requirements. How to apply Applicants should fill in an online application form available here: Please include a copy of your CV and a one page personal statement. Further details can be found about the application process can be found at:

The deadline for applications is Monday 11 July 2016

 Enquiries regarding the project can be directed to Dr Kris Murray [Email Address Removed]
 For details about the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP or the Grantham Institute, please contact Sophie Smith [Email Address Removed]

This is a jointly funded project between CSIRO and the Grantham Institute The candidate will be expected to spend time at both institutions to undertake the project but will be primarily based in London.

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will receive a fully funded Grantham Institute studentship. This covers tuition fees for the 3.5 year duration of the studentship and an annual tax-free stipend of £16,056. The studentship will begin on 1st October 2016.