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Social impacts of decision-making processes under wildlife conservation conflicts in Scotland

School of Life Sciences

About the Project

Research Group: Applied Ecology Research Group (AERG), Global Sustainability Institute (GSI)

Proposed supervisory team:
Dr Helen Wheeler () (AERG, Anglia Ruskin University)
Dr Nikoleta Jones ( )(GSI, Anglia Ruskin University)
Dr Rosalind Bryce (Centre for Mountain Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands)

Theme: Wildlife management, conservation conflict

Summary of the research project

Globally rapid environmental change is one of the most substantial planetary risks to wildlife, and human societies. Rapid changes aggravate conflicts over resource use, land use and conservation, and create hard-to-solve decisions for managers and policy-makers. Managers face the challenge of following sustainable development principles and promoting biodiversity conservation, while considering the socio-economic context where decisions are implemented. There are a wide range of approaches, both from ecological and social sciences, that aim to collect and synthesise information in order to be incorporated in decision-making processes for conflict resolution. However, these approaches fail to combine ecological information with an in-depth understanding of the social dimensions of conflicts. The result is poor scientific understanding, poorly designed policies and discontent, disputes with stakeholders and social exclusion.

The proposed PhD will assess how different approaches in gathering information for decision-making affect stakeholders’ attitudes and behaviours towards conflicts and propose ways that approaches can be combined and at the same time be more inclusive. In particular the PhD will explore in the context of existing approaches: a) People’s attitudes toward decision-making and their level of participation; b) Rule breaking behaviour and c) Disputes concerning decisions. The PhD will also explore ways of combining different approaches to collect information to produce an inter-disciplinary decision-making framework that places social equity at its core.

The PhD will use a comparative approach focused on wildlife management activities in northern Scotland. Here, conflicts centre around protection of wild species such as mountain hares and birds of prey, and grazing species such as geese, management for hunting grouse and deer species, mitigating the effect of herbivory on landscapes and agricultural land and Rewilding. Conservation projects in the area generate conflict because of their significant social impacts such as restrictions on hunting, change in the use of agricultural land and forest areas but also because of differences in worldviews between the ethics of different management actions. Local socio-economic challenges, such as low levels of employment and low social mobility, also create additional barriers in managing such conflicts.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge (

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Biology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

Funding Notes

This project is self-funded.
Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website (View Website) as they become available.

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