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The media portrayal of human-wildlife conflict

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, August 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Fully funded PhD position at University College Dublin on the media portrayal of human-wildlife conflict

Human-wildlife conflict poses a huge problem for animal conservation. People affected by the conflict tend to develop agonistic feelings towards the species involved (to the extent of pushing for culls, or actively persecuting animals). Such animosity often outlasts the existence of the conflict, suggesting that these attitudes become a part of social and cultural perceptions. Furthermore, human-wildlife conflict is often compounded by underlying human-human tensions which complicate the chances of a resolution e.g. between hunters and conservationists, authorities and locals etc.

The media play a significant role in shaping public attitudes. The way conflict is framed influences how we perceive risk, how we view stakeholders and what we think is an appropriate response. Consider for example media anthropomorphism of different species, the militaristic metaphors used to describe invasive species or the common description of pigeons as ‘rats with wings’. Through repetition, these messages become cultural norms, making it very hard for a species to shake a bad reputation even long after the initial cause of conflict has been resolved. By contrast, positive framings can help minimise tension between parties with opposing viewpoints e.g. in the case of wildlife reintroductions.

During this PhD you will investigate how the media portray human-wildlife conflict for a number of case studies which we will develop together. You will look for trends in how the media frames conflict over time, identify who are acknowledged as the stakeholders, and consider the differences between local and national coverage. The overarching aim of this work is to identify and inform best practice in communicating human-wildlife conflict.

You will be supervised by Dr Adam Kane (School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin) and based in UCD. If you have any queries about the project you are welcome to email

Requirements:
• You should have a strong BSc degree (at least a 2.1 or equivalent) in a relevant biological field (zoology, ecology, conservation biology etc.). Applicants from humanities backgrounds are welcome but you will need to provide evidence of your expertise in biology.
• You will need to have an excellent command of the English language.
• Experience working with qualitative and quantitative data.

Desirable:
• An MSc in a related field.
• Experience with the programming language R.
• Experience working with topic modelling.
• Experience working in conservation or on human-wildlife conflict.

To apply: please send your cover letter (max 2 pages) describing your interest in the project, your CV and the contact details of two referees to

Closing date: 30th August 2019

Further Reading:
Dickman, A. J. (2010). Complexities of conflict: the importance of considering social factors for effectively resolving human–wildlife conflict. Animal conservation, 13(5), 458-466.
Killion, A. K., Melvin, T., Lindquist, E., & Carter, N. H. (2019). Tracking a half century of media reporting on gray wolves. Conservation Biology, 33(3), 645-654.

Funding Notes

Funding Notes: A tax-free stipend of €16,000 per annum (plus EU fees) for up to a maximum of 4 years. Consumables and training/conference travel budget is also included. Please note that while we are happy to accept applicants from anywhere in the world, this project will only cover the fees up to the EU rate, therefore a successful non-EU applicant would have to fund the difference themselves. As part of this scholarship the successful applicant will be expected to demonstrate for a minimum of six hours per week for the academic session. Details & rates here; View Website

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