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The Asian date mussel: understanding a new and severe threat to Europe’s benthic habitats and blue economies

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G J Watson
    Dr P Stebbing
    Dr S Mitchell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

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 Gordon Watson, Dr Paul Stebbing (Programme Manager for Aquatic Non-native Species Research, CEFAS) and Dr Steve Mitchell.

The work on this project will:
-Aim is to produce an A. senhousia Invasion Species Management Strategy for UK and European policy makers
-Use survey techniques to assess the current extent of on the UK Channel coasts
-Undertake population dynamics assessments to calculate invasion stage
-Assess impacts on the function of benthic habitats and commercial species
-Assess invasion potential using hydrodynamic modelling for larval dispersal
-Perform a GB Non-native Risk Assessment and generate management strategy


Project description

Non-native species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity globally and cost the UK economy billions of pounds per year in damage and control as well as having ecosystem-changing effects on protected habitats and species. Our globally connected world continues to deliver new species into UK waters with the most recent being the Asian date mussel (Arcuatula senhousia) in the Solent in 2017.

A. senhousia is a highly successful invasive species having colonised intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats in America, Australia and the Mediterranean. In regions previously invaded this fast growing and highly fecund species forms mats of >1500 mussels m-2. The impacts on the colonised benthic habitats are extremely significant with dramatic declines in commercially important bivalves and benthic community abundance reported. It also inhibits eelgrass (Zostera spp.) rhizome growth especially in recovering populations with low plant density. A. senhousia grows on artificial structures such as rope and concrete pilings. The threat to UK and European shellfish aquaculture, therefore, cannot be understated. The UK is now at a time-critical moment when understanding the potential spread and impacts of this species is essential to assess the risks to UK benthic habitats and the blue economy. This project will provide the essential baseline information to generate full risk assessment and management assessments for the species and ultimately a management strategy for policy makers.

The successful candidate will have opportunities to acquire a diverse set of skills including macrofaunal sampling and identification, hydrodynamic modelling, GIS mapping and assessments of benthic functional traits. You’ll also work closely with other relevant agencies including the Solent Forum, Natural England and The Southern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Agency and be part of the vibrant invasive species and genome science Groups within the University. In addition, you’ll have access to the Graduate School Development Programme and Department Postgraduate Researcher Training. Expected career opportunities would be academic research as well as conservation and marine resource management for government agencies, NGOs and environmental consultancies in the UK and beyond.



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 Gordon Watson ([Email Address Removed]) 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 BIOL4780219 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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