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  Tensions and synergies between rewilding and farming in the UK

   School of Geographical Sciences

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  Dr Lauren Blake  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD background/description

Conservation and society are intimately linked; conservation cannot work without the support of societies, and societies can’t function without biodiverse ecosystems. Rewilding (the restoration of degraded ecosystems through the reintroduction of missing species) has both grabbed and polarised the public, with research suggesting a suite of potential benefits, including increasing biodiversity and stimulating local economies. Thus, with careful planning of where and how rewilding is carried out, both biodiversity and deprived rural areas stand to benefit. However, to achieve this requires tensions between local stakeholders (e.g. farmers) and conservation proponents (e.g. rewilding charities) to be resolved.

This project consists of two linked PhD scholarships: one in ecology (School of Biological Sciences) and the one detailed here in social sciences/human geography (School of Geographical Sciences). The two PhD’s will run in parallel and feed results into one another, combining ecological habitat suitability modelling and a social survey, along with qualitative research, to identify areas of the UK where, and how, rewilding is both societally supported and ecologically possible. Doing so will:

• Identify what areas of the UK provide the best initial sites for rewilding

• Identify the best species to reintroduce to restore missing functions

• Identify which areas have the greatest potential social and economic impact from rewilding

• Understand the challenges and opportunities of rewilding, particularly the tensions and trade-offs with agriculture

Human Geography Studentship

Aims and Methods:

Studentship Two (Human Geography) will focus on the socio-cultural, political, and economic challenges and opportunities of rewilding in the UK. This project will explore the tensions and synergies between rewilding and food production/agriculture, including considering its viability, acceptability and trade-offs. Policy analysis may also be relevant, as well as current trends towards regenerative and agroecological farming. The research will require primarily qualitative approaches (possibly including participatory/creative methods), but some quantitative methods will also be expected (e.g. survey data). As well as empirical, the project should have strong theoretical grounding. The research will require integrating results from studentship 1 (ecology) to give a holistic understanding of rewilding’s environmental and social potential and feasibility in the UK. The student is expected to cultivate their autonomy over the project and heavily shape both the focus and methodology accordingly. Applicants’ experience and ideas for the potential of the research should be outlined in the application proposal.


The successful applicant will have a strong interest in food, farming, conservation and biodiversity, a background in human geography or cognate discipline, experience with mixed research methods including qualitative methods and analysis, and a motivation for self-learning. Applicants must hold/achieve by the start date of the project a minimum of a master’s degree in geography or related subject (e.g. sociology, anthropology), and a minimum of a 2:1 at undergraduate level.

We especially welcome and encourage student applications from under-represented groups.

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level: Profile E (see)

Useful links:

Is rewilding a feasible land management strategy for the UK.pdf (

Scholarship Details:

The University of Bristol Strategic Fund Scholarships include home or overseas fees and a tax-free maintenance grant in line with UKRI fee and stipend rates for four years (full-time) or eight years (part-time), subject to eligibility, confirmation of award and satisfactory progress. The UKRI stipend is currently £17,668 per annum. Each student will also receive a £2,000 per annum research training and support grant for associated project costs. Fully funded stipends for international students do not cover additional costs like student visa fees, NHS sur-charges or family requirements. These will each have to be covered individually.

Eligibility: Home/UK and international students

How to apply:

Use the following link to apply:

You should apply to the programme: Geographical Sciences (Human Geography) (PhD)

Please ensure you upload all supporting documents as per the admissions statement link on the webpage: PhD Geographical Sciences (Human Geography) | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol

Clearly indicate the supervisor name and project title "Tensions and synergies between rewilding and farming in the UK" in the relevant section of the application form.

Applicants must submit the following as part of their application: any relevant academic transcripts; an up-to-date CV; and arrange for two letters of reference (at least one must be an academic reference). A personal statement is also required, of up to 1,000 words, outlining your motivation for applying to the project, the School, your suitability for postgraduate research, and any relevant experience, skills and personal attributes you want to highlight. Applicants should also submit a research statement (proposal) of no more than 1,300 words (excluding bibliography) outlining how you would apply your particular interest, knowledge and skills to the project on rewilding and farming in the UK. The statement should include reflection on key debates on the topic, potential theoretical and methodological approaches, specific geographies of expertise or interest, possible relevant policy, and both specific training and future ambition with respect to the project. 

Agriculture (1) Anthropology (2) Geography (17) Sociology (32)

Where will I study?

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 About the Project