At this CDT our focus is on wetland ecosystems: Land that is wet for at least some of the time, or water that is dry for at least some of the time!

Subtidal marine systems, e.g. coral reefs, open ocean are not within scope, intertidal systems, eg, saltmarsh, seagrass, mangrove are in scope. Similarly, rivers/lochs/lakes per se are not within scope, but their associated systems (e.g. floodplain, marsh, ditch, fen, wet woodland, blanket bog etc) are in scope.

During their three year and eight-month PhD students receive world class training in multi-stressor science and wetland ecology in a mix of in-person cohort-building events and online training. The training is enriched through the active involvement of our associated partners, who contribute to the design and delivery of the programme, organise challenge events, and offer secondments and internships. This provides students with valuable real world experience in addressing environmental problems and working in a professional environment.

Meet the Supervisors

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Research Foci

Laboratory exposures, field-to-laboratory experimental designs, modelling approaches to delineate mechanisms driving observed responses.
Field-based monitoring and mesocosm studies in a multi-species context, ecological modelling for effects on communities/biodiversity.
Monitoring strategies, to assess the impacts of multiple stressors on natural and non-natural systems, inform the design and success of mitigation strategies to address biodiversity objectives.
Identifying ecosystem biogeochemistry, hydrology and ecological functioning to understand state and change that alter the value of wetlands and transitional systems to human wellbeing.
Understanding the drivers (e.g. individual/community, institutional, legal) contributing to the presence/intensity of varied stressors and how these drivers affect ongoing sustainable management.

Research Projects

ECOWILD students will work on a challenging research project aligned with one or more of the five priority research areas identified through horizon scanning exercises and in collaboration with our stakeholders. All projects will include consideration of more than one environmental stressor through empirical investigations or from a restoration or governance/management perspective.

Dune slacks are seasonal wetlands found within coastal sand dune systems (Figure 1). They support many rare plant and animal species, but are under threat from multiple factors, including excess nutrients and drying out due to climate change. This project will use a range of techniques to study past dune slack environments, providing a baseline against which to compare current conditions in existing and restored slacks. The findings will inform possible trajectories for restoring dune slacks to good ecological condition.

The project brings together experts on dune ecology and palaeo-environmental reconstruction with those from conservation bodies to establish evidence-based guidance on where and how we implement dune slack restoration. You will gain an understanding in key ecological successional and hydrological processes affecting biological communities in dune slacks. You will learn palaeo-ecological techniques such as diatom analysis to establish pH, salinity and trophic status. Field work will involve planning a survey of dune sites across the UK, taking sediment cores and water sampling. Laboratory skills acquired will include diatom identification, preparation of samples for radiometric dating, analysis of water and soil samples. The data will be used to predict restoration potential under different nutrient and groundwater hydrological regimes. You will have the opportunity to develop your presentation skills at conferences and written skills through publishing scientific papers.
Urban green infrastructure (UGI) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are terms for sustainable solutions to managing urban flood risk that offer substantial co-benefits (i.e. pollution control, public amenity value and ‘eco-wilding’ biodiversity benefits). However, a lack of accepted, standardised testing methodologies for these hybridised solutions makes it difficult to determine the effectiveness of individual GI features or draw comparisons between different systems. Ensuring maximum dual-functionality of soil retention (flood prevention) and water filtration (water quality) benefits will require developing these testing methods both in-field and within a laboratory setting. Further, the ecological stressors (i.e. influence of wildlife, flora and fauna as ecosystem engineers and the influence of plants and roots on water dynamics) should be considered alongside hydrological testing.

This PhD project will address this research gap by collecting, analysing and interpreting field-sampled and -monitored water quantity and quality parameters to determine multi-benefit, holistic system performance, and link this into wider biodiversity assessments of urban wetland systems. This will be combined with citizen science methodologies to underpin hydroclimatic understandings of GI ‘performance’. The successful candidate will develop strong data collection, analysis and interpersonal skills.

Core skills development within this PhD include:

• Development and planning of environmental sensor experiments and biodiversity assessments;
• Environmental field data collection, analysis and interpretation;
• Analytical laboratory expertise (i.e. discrete assessments of soil and water samples, critical evaluation of multiple metrics/parameters);
• Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for spatial analysis and visualisation of urban green infrastructure;
• Communication of scientific findings to diverse audiences, including policymakers, community groups and academic researchers;
• Stakeholder engagement and co-production of knowledge to ensure wider project impact and involvement;
• Project management skills, time management and financial budgeting.
Wet woodlands are valuable and diverse habitats that can play an important role in landscape scale nature recovery, the restoration of hydrological functions, and terrestrial carbon storage. However, wet woodlands are often rare and highly fragmented habitats in the UK due to historic woodland clearance, intensive management, and the drainage of catchments for agricultural or forestry purposes. These habitats are under stress from climate change and chronic nutrient deposition, and thus the unique biodiversity found there could be compromised.

This project will work alongside conservation bodies to understand how we can quantify biodiversity and functioning in these ecosystems, and work at a unique new lagg habitat management project in South Cumbria to develop new tools to manage wet woodlands. The project team is supervised by experienced field ecologists with a track-record in wetland and woodland ecosystem science, as well as the wider team including conservation evidence and practice officers and regional managers. The student will develop skills in field ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, plant and cryptogam ecology, mapping and survey methods including spatial and temporal approaches. They will also learn about manipulations and using on-off and gradient treatments to detect ecosystem response to multiple stressors. The student will also learn about policy and practice in site management, and thus develop skills in wider conservation practice. Statistics and numeracy skills, lab skills and analytical techniques will also be core to the work.
Freshwater systems are amongst the most threatened on Earth and are predicted to lose 80 % of their biodiversity as a result of multiple stressors by 2050. Mini-wetlands – including ponds, pools, wet woodland, marsh – are amongst the most highly threatened globally. These important and unique ecosystems support exceptionally high biodiversity; however, 30-50 % of wetland biota are estimated to be threatened. They are one of the most important habitats for freshwater molluscs which are experiencing severe declines on a global scale due to anthropogenic activity.

The supervisory team comprise expertise across multiple stressor science, ecotoxicology, analytics and water policy. The student will develop skills in the development of theoretical approaches to predict the impacts of multi-stressors in this exciting project. This scientific topic is extremely important for protecting biodiversity and is a dynamic and rapidly advancing area of study. In addition, the student will gain skills in experimental design for setting up multiple stressor exposures, and husbandry for freshwater organisms/laboratory exposures.

There will also be opportunities to be involved with analytical approaches for identification of pollutants and to carry out fieldwork. In addition to the exciting research culture at Heriot-Watt University – where they will primarily be based – the student will have access to the outstanding facilities and training opportunities offered by UKCEH.
This project seeks to harness the potential of recent development in spatial information and earth observation (e.g. drones) to map ponds and to quantify the occurrence of environmental stressors on these mapped ponds. These miniature wetlands are often overlooked but support exceptionally high biodiversity. The project will involve both field work and advanced computer-based analysis of geodata. Led by UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in partnership with Heriot-Watt University, CASE partner Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and Natural England.

The student will be based primarily at UKCEH (lead supervision) and registered with Heriot-Watt (academic supervision). The student will develop (i) strong general data science and numerical skills, and (ii) advanced specialist skills in spatial information, earth observation and drone operation; and (iii) understanding of the distribution of environmental stressors. The student will benefit from access to the full portfolio of training available to UKCEH staff. Relevant training will include advanced coding and data analysis (e.g. R, Python), statistics, machine learning, GIS, remote sensing software, field work practices, first aid. The student will be supported to learn how to pilot drones as far as practical and appropriate for the project (e.g. working towards a GVC certification).
Estuaries are ecologically sensitive sites but essential for many bird species. They are under threat from sea-level rise and water contamination, but also are key to tidal energy, which has enormous potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. This project will model these multiple drivers of change and the impact on internationally important bird species. The project focuses on predicting future changes using a range of modelling techniques.

The supervisory team has a range of expertise, including mathematical modelling, avian ecology, and numerical modelling. You will also work with the RSPB with the opportunity of a placement there. The project requires a diverse skill set and support will be put in place depending on the experience, expertise and skills the applicant brings.

The student will develop skills in mathematical and numerical modelling using state-of-the-art models, such as Thetis (, and machine learning. Development of ecological models will require skills in scripting (Python, R or Matlab). The student will gain expertise on tidal energy, avian ecology and ecological modelling. The student will also gain experience on collecting field data with RSPB. We expect the student to be able to use these skills and expertise in academia or industry following the PhD.

For more information on supervisors see:
Explore the intricate dynamics of riparian ecosystems with a PhD project investigating the impact of Eurasian beaver reintroduction on river health. As beavers engineer new wetlands, potential stressors like temperature, eutrophication, and invasive species intersect with alterations to the processes that shape riparian habitats. This study aims to uncover the most relevant stressors in beaver-created wetlands, evaluating their implications for ecosystem health, particularly on indicator species like pearl mussels and salmonids. By identifying circumstances where beaver activity may conflict with conservation goals, the project guides decisions on licensing and management. Employing cutting-edge eDNA metabarcoding and field methods, this research analyses community diversity, species abundance, and stressor quantification using multi-stressor theory.

The student will have the opportunity to formulate a project on the timely topic of reintroducing a keystone species, exploring their potential to tolerate and alleviate stressors in freshwater ecosystems and contribute to resolving the biodiversity crisis. Engaging in the design of biodiversity surveys and experiments in natural settings, the candidate will untangle the complexities of multiple stressors while gaining valuable fieldwork experience.
Peatlands store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem. In northern peatlands, peat mosses of the genus Sphagnum are key for carbon sequestration and storage. Drought stress is expected to increase with climate change, which poses a threat to Sphagnum moss performance and thus peatland resilience. In Scotland, ~17% of peatlands have been afforested with non-native conifers. These plantations may add nutrients to adjacent peatlands when conifer pollen is dispersed. However, Sphagnum mosses are adapted to wet, nutrient-poor conditions. The project will explore Sphagnum moss responses to the multiple stochastic stressors drought and nutrient input. The supervisory team including Mascha Bischoff (UHI NWH), Angela Hodge (University of York) and Jeanette Hall (NatureScot) combines extensive research experience in chemical ecology, peatlands, nutrient cycling in soils and its implications for ecosystem services, and woodland ecology.

The student will be based at the multidisciplinary Environmental Research Institute in Thurso (UHI NWH). They will take charge to develop all aspects of the project, including experimental design, sampling, data analysis as well as academic writing and communication. They will be trained in peatland science, plant physiology and chemical ecology. Physiological stress responses of Sphagnum mosses to drought and nutrient deposition will be explored in controlled mesocosm experiments and field studies. Field ecology skills will be developed in the peatlands of the Flow Country in northern Scotland. The student will acquire skills in a range of analytical methods including nutrient analyses and volatile organic compound emissions from plant tissues with GC-MS, as well as in the processing and analysis of large ecological and chemical datasets.
The agricultural landscape is a patchwork of different land covers. Fields are often separated by artificial drainage ditches, dug historically to make land more productive. However, as we move to more balanced multi-functional landscapes, with a greater emphasis on ecosystem services, the role these ditches play is crucial at a network and catchment scale. Management and maintenance e.g. vegetation cutting, ditch blocking, can provide flood and water quality control. This project brings together expertise in relevant topics in an experienced and supportive supervisor team to investigate the problems/stressors, hydrological functioning, and management solutions that ditches can provide in agricultural landscapes.

The project will provide opportunity for the student to gain knowledge and skills relating to agricultural and ditch systems. Fieldwork skills will be developed to collect a range of hydrological and chemical related data, including experimental design, fieldwork campaign planning and sensor technology aspects. There is also opportunity for the student to develop numerical modelling skills e.g. hydrological/hydraulic models, to upscale from local ditches to ditch networks and catchment scale impacts. Most importantly, the project will provide the relaxed environment for the student to be creative, show initiative and build confidence in their ability to lead a research project.
Eurasian beavers are semi-aquatic herbivorous rodents. Beaver populations, previously extinct, are beginning to return within some English catchments. A disease surveillance programme has been set up to enable the collection of samples and data from beavers found dead. This work will inform the further development of a terrestrial chemical biomonitoring programme. The PhD will begin to build a holistic understanding of the exposure and impacts of chemical pollutants and disease agents on beavers, to inform future recovery of this species, potential threats to other biota and develop a One Health paradigm.

The project will benefit from supervision by a highly multidisciplinary team including experts in wildlife health, ecology, environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, environmental management and policy. The student will develop expertise in analytical chemistry, the diagnosis of disease, chemical fate and biomonitoring, statistical analyses, policy and regulation – all within the context of a broader ecological understanding of freshwater ecosystems and wildlife health. They will benefit from the opportunity to work with project supervisors at Natural England (expertise in ecotoxicology and mammal ecology), at the Institute of Zoology (Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance; DRAHS) and with several academic partners (biogeochemists/wildlife toxicologists).
This project examines how combinations of abiotic and biotic stressors affect germination and survival of seagrass seeds and seedlings, alongside use of synthetic materials (e.g. polyacrylamide) as a matrix for planting, which may protect against stressors, but may also constitute stressors on benthic infauna. This knowledge will help to understand the dynamic interannual changes in seagrass density and bed extentobserved in nature and will help inform seagrass restoration efforts by allowing targeted planting of seeds in the best available areas. It will involve seed collection, aquarium work, challenge of seedlings with combined stressors, verification of stressor levels in the field and mapping of these to predict in situ germination and survival rates. Work involved will include testing of different approaches for seed planting and sediment mixtures, including enrichment, and possible effects of these approaches on benthic biota.
Globally, waterways and lakes have suffered from excessive nutrient loading arising from wastewater release, both industrial and agricultural. Future climate projections suggest that storm surges will become more common, leading to further and enhanced wastewater release. While riparian wetlands are known to be effective at reducing nitrogen loading, this project looks to enhance the efficacy of riparian wetlands in mitigating these releases by considering different release sources and climate/rainfall scenarios. JNCC, the Redeker, Pattison labs and ERI-UHI have extensive experience in national and international waste management issues, ecosystem function and riparian/wetland ecosystem sampling and analysis.

The student’s field-based UK project will inform work within a pilot study investigating nature-based solutions for nutrient loading from cattle farming in South Africa (and potentially other projects). The student will engage across all aspects of experimental design and creation, wetland sampling, molecular and analytical assays, stakeholder engagement and policy. Specifically, it is likely that the student will develop greenhouse-based experimental designs and combine this with field-based research. Soil and water samples will be taken, with the potential to explore plant tissues. Analyses of nutrient loading in sediments and waters, microbial community composition and function, and plant community will be performed by the student.

Outcomes from the studies will be presented at conferences, with stakeholders, and policy-makers advising on nature-based solutions for nutrient loading from agriculture and urban systems in a changing climate.
Intertidal supra-littoral wetland ecosystems are defined by extremely dynamic and variable environmental conditions driven by tidal, climate, and terrestrial input cycles. They are increasingly exposed to multiple human-induced stressors of global climate change and pollution. In this project, we will use the rockpool copepod Tigriopus brevicornus as a laboratory model to examine the short and long term impacts of such stressors and the ways in which extreme intertidal species might adapt under future climate change scenarios. Tigriopus copepods are adapted to survive in high intertidal pools, which undergo extreme fluctuations in environmental conditions, principally salinity, temperature, oxygen, and pH, over tidal, semilunar (spring/neap) and seasonal cycles. Tigriopus are emerging as an ideal laboratory model to study the mechanistic basis of zooplankton response and adaptation to environmental variation and local pollutants. This project brings together expert supervisors in zooplankton ecology, behaviour, chronobiology, genetics, genomics, and applied conservation to shed light on mechanisms of stress response and long-term implications of transgenerational adaptation to multiple stressors in these extremophiles.

The student will train in field and analytical techniques to monitor environmental conditions and pollution status in wetland habitats. The student will then learn laboratory methods to culture copepods and assay their behaviour, physiology and reproductive fitness, and be supported to undertake and statistically analyse and multigenerational multistressor experiments. The student will additionally learn and develop laboratory, bioinformatic, and statistical approaches to examine stressor responses at the genetic level, focusing on transgenerational adaptation and comparisons across the study populations. The student will benefit in their training from the wide expertise across the supervision team.
This project seeks to determine whether the combined factors of increased frequency of flooding due to climate change and metal contamination pose a risk to the survival of earthworms on floodplains. The project will involve both laboratory and field work and is supervised by world leading ecologists and soil scientists. The JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) is supporting this project as part of their work understanding ecological risks associated with climate change.

The successful candidate will have a unique opportunity to develop a diverse range of skills in the field of soil science and ecology. Field skills you may develop include sample collection of soil and earthworms (including developing species identification skills) and the design of field experiments; laboratory skills include the design and execution of experiments to test hypotheses relating to complex ecological questions, analysis of soils and earthworms for metals, measuring oxygen concentrations in solution and molecular biology skills. You will learn advanced statistical analysis methods for analysing complex datasets, which you will interpret and communicate to a variety of stakeholders through presentations at conferences, writing papers for publication and less formal interaction with non-scientific audiences.
Christmas Island is unique as it is dominated by tropical land crabs which act as keystone species, including in wetland areas which are recognised internationally by the Ramsar Convention. Two of the major threats to these wetland systems and species are pollution and climate change. This project seeks to study the combined impacts of changing climatic conditions (e.g. warming) and presences of metal contaminants on the early life stages of land crabs inhabiting the wetlands of Christmas Island.

The supervisory team comprises expertise in Christmas Island land crab developmental biology, ecophysiology, molecular toxicology, and analytical chemistry as well as applied conservation management (JNCC, Ramsar, and Parks Australia).

The student will be trained in field sampling, developmental biology, ecophysiology and molecular toxicology. The interdisciplinary project will involve techniques of practical environmental challenges on early life stages of crabs in the lab and in the field. Analytical chemistry will establish contaminant profiles in multiple environmental samples. Embryo phenomics will train in analytical embryology and larval development, and molecular and genetic analyses will enable the student to be proficient in multiple biological level analyses. The student will also work closely with policy partners to understand how scientific findings are integrated into conservation policy.
Freshwater wetlands support exceptionally high biodiversity, especially for invertebrates. This diversity is threatened by extreme events, including drought, heatwaves, and chemical spills (e.g., in sewage from storm overflows).

This PhD will quantify how these pulsed multiple stressor events interact over time and space to affect wetland invertebrates using a range of techniques (including field work, mesocosm experiments, and population modelling). You will then use this information to develop a species conservation and recovery programme for some of the most at-risk insects and molluscs in the UK. You will be supervised by Dr Michelle Jackson at the University of Oxford (the host institute), Dr Louise Lactivore (Freshwater Biological Association in the Lake District), and Dr Tim Szewczyk (Scottish Association for Marine Science).

This supervisory team has expertise in multiple stressors, conservation, and quantitative ecology. The student will develop broad field biology, laboratory, experimental, and data analysis skills. There will include invertebrate sampling, chemical testing, mesocosm experiments, demographic modelling, and meta-analyses. They will learn how to apply these skills to real-world conservation plans and gain hands-on experience in both academic and NGO settings.
UK peatlands are vital carbon stores, yet most are in a degraded state. In fact, many peatlands have been lost or altered due to humans using peat as a resource over millennia, especially due to peat cutting for fuel, drainage and fertilisation for agriculture and overgrazing. However, often shallow peat (<40 cm) remains are left, which are periodically wet but have lost key functions for peat formation. This will be the first project to assess such historic peat losses, to develop and trial restoration methods in areas of shallow peat and to predict likely futures considering carbon, water and biodiversity gains.

The supervisors consist of a holistic team including leading experts on UK peatlands, carbon cycling and soil hydrology together with project and CASE partners from the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYM NPA) and the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC: Dr Hannah McGrath), with further support from the British Geological Survey (BGS: Dr Nicole Archer) as project partner.

Currently, peatland restoration focuses on existing deep peat areas, such as filling in ditches and revegetating bare peat as well as encouraging Sphagnum moss to rewet peat areas and enhance peat formation. This project will be the first to consider restoring lost areas of deep peat (i.e., where only shallow layers remain), which will require overcoming very specific ecohydrological limitations (biogeochemical, vegetation, management) and refining restoration methods based on understanding where deep peat once existed and how best to achieve new peat formation. Approaches will consider local circumstances such as climate, slope, historic management, current habitat condition and management alongside pH, soil wetness and nutrient levels.

A key aim will be to identify approaches to enhance wetness resilience and facilitate the establishment of peat-forming Sphagnum moss by targeted vegetation and soil management. Field and mesocosm/laboratory trials will test limiting factors/stressors and associated restoration to overcome those limitations and monitoring options to help with decision-making and monitoring of restoration success.
The Flow Country in northern Scotland is an internationally important peatland supporting an incredibly diverse waterbird community, proposed as the world’s first peatland world heritage site, yet many breeding bird species are declining there. This project investigates the multiple stressors and drivers of change in Flow Country waterbird population trends to identify causes and enable successful conservation management. The supervisory team has a range of international expertise, including wetland, predator and waterbird ecology, and data science.

The student will work with and benefit from the management experience of RSPB as the project partner with a placement opportunity at Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve. The student will be supported to develop their expertise and skills depending on those they bring to the project, emerging with ecological fieldwork skills, experience in avian ecology and ecological modelling, statistics, and machine learning. Analysis of data and development of state-of the art modelling will involve acquiring coding skills, e.g. using R or Python. The supervisory team will ensure the applicant develops communication skills via seminars, peer-reviewed conference/journal contributions and the popular media. We place considerable emphasis on producing a well-rounded student able to combine their skills and expertise to pursue opportunities in academia or conservation management following the PhD.
Wetland environments will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals which can adversely affect the health of wetland species. Impacts on wetlands could alter in the future due to physico-chemical changes resulting from climate change. To protect wetlands from chemical exposure into the future, it is essential to understand how chemicals and climate change will interact to alter chemical risks. This PhD project will explore how climate change will affect the exposure of wetland species to mixtures of chemicals and the implications of this for chemical risk.

The project is supported by a CASE award with Reckitt, an international healthcare and consumer hygiene company. The student will develop an understanding of how climate change will affect the fate, behaviour, uptake and effects of chemical contaminants in wetland environments.

The student will gain hands on experience in environmental analytical chemistry (e.g. LC-MS-MS), environmental fate testing (e.g. sorption and persistence studies), the testing of the uptake of chemicals into species with different traits, modelling approaches for accumulation of chemical contaminants into organisms, and ecotoxicity assessment methods.
This project aims to assess the multiple stressor implications of pollution, climate change and landscape management on floodplain functioning including water hydrology, pollutant and sediment retention, carbon storage, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity. A supervisory team at the forefront of ecosystem research on plants, water and soils, soil fauna, contaminants, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas fluxes will support you.

The studentship will provide you with excellent training and guidance in experimental design, field and mesocosm experiments, greenhouse gas flux and carbon storage measurements, soil fauna approaches, water, soil and vegetation analyses, and opportunity to disseminate experimental results during meetings and conferences. There will also be opportunities to be involved in activities of the stakeholder partner The Rivers Trust. UK floodplains are crucial for healthy riverine ecosystems, but their functionality has been degraded by channel manipulation, agricultural use and pollution. Climate change may additionally affect floodplain performance through changes in flooding dynamics and conditions (e.g. more frequent summer floods), but this is less well studied. As these multiple stressors will occur simultaneously, we also urgently need to know their combined impacts. UK floodplains have been under pressure from human activity and can be hotspots for pollutant input through contaminated sediment deposition. Simultaneously, floodplain functions may also be affected by climate change.

This cutting-edge study will therefore provide critical evidence on how these multiple stressors, single and in combination, will impact pollutant and sediment retention, carbon storage, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity in floodplains to inform management, restoration and climate change mitigation.
Over half the world’s wetlands occur in the tropics, with multitudes of people and species relying on these resources, yet there is little research about how these wetlands can be conserved for biodiversity whilst delivering vital ecosystem services. This collaborative project will build a holistic and comprehensive picture of the multiple stressors affecting the wetlands of the Cambodian Lower Mekong Delta and the socio-economic and policy drivers.

The student will complete fieldwork in Cambodia in collaboration with the WWT Cambodian team, the Cambodian Development Resource Institute and other partners in Cambodia. A mixed-method and multidisciplinary approach, combining qualitative and quantitative methods, will be used to gather and map information. The student will develop expertise and skills in ecological quality analysis, wetland ecology, GIS and modelling environmental change, statistical analysis, sustainable development, social sciences methodologies eg. interviews, content and policy analysis. Dr Julia Newth and WWT colleagues will lead project development and Cambodian fieldwork. At University of York, the student will be supervised by Professor Kathryn Arnold (biodiversity conservation), Dr Richard Friend (water resource management, hydropower, fisheries and local livelihoods in the Mekong region) and at UHI Dr Elizabeth Marsden (spatial analysis).

We welcome applications from suitably qualified Cambodian candidates. Via the ECOWILD CDT, the candidate will also gain experience in the design and implementation of biodiversity monitoring and experiments in natural settings to disentangle multiple biodiversity stressors. Additionally, they will develop valuable and transferable skills in cutting-edge molecular methods like DNA metabarcoding and bioinformatic and statistical analysis. The student will also engage with measurements and modelling of peatland emissions and develop a holistic understanding of the peatland biodiversity and functioning.
Peatlands are wetland habitats crucial for climate and water regulation but largely degraded in western Europe, with climatic trends and increased risk from wildfires further exacerbating their degradation. In Scotland, restoration efforts are improving peatland condition through tree-removal, creating mosaics of natural, degraded, and restored peatlands but wildfires continue to threaten restoration progress. Peat microbiomes determine ecosystem functioning but remain understudied, with basic understanding of the progression of such communities following restoration, wildfires, or both, lacking. Scottish landscapes offer the conditions to disentangle the effects of such stressors, and link microbiome to function.

The supervisory team of this project is comprised by UHI and University of York academics with expertise in atmospheric pollution science, and landscape-scale peatland and eDNA monitoring, in collaboration with private (SSE) and public (Forestry Land Scotland) stakeholders, and is well equipped to support the student’s development and project.

The student will develop a project in a topical subject in the interface between the biodiversity and climate crises, addressing the potential of large-scale restoration as a mitigation tool. The candidate will gain experience in the design and implementation of biodiversity monitoring and experiments in natural settings to disentangle multiple biodiversity stressors. Additionally, they will develop valuable and transferable skills in cutting-edge molecular methods like DNA metabarcoding and bioinformatic and statistical analysis. The student will also engage with measurements and modelling of peatland emissions and develop a holistic understanding of the peatland biodiversity and functioning.
This CASE studentship project focuses on stressors causing wetland loss in the US and UK, compensatory restoration of wetlands, and the cutting edge of practical policies designed to achieve net positive environmental outcomes for wetlands overall. The supervisors at Oxford (Bull, zu Ermgassen) are ecologists, and leading experts in net environmental outcome instruments. The industry stakeholder
(Owen, from AstraZeneca) will link the student into a multi-million dollar global programme of landscape restoration projects. The supervisor at York (Heinemeyer) is a UK peatland expert, with an established network of stakeholders across UK uplands and to policymakers. The US supervisor (Robertson, from Wisconsin-Madison) will provide the same for the USA. The student will combine development of field-based skills and experience in wetland ecology – across the US and the UK – with cutting-edge analytical
research into some of the most important emerging regulatory mechanisms for nature conservation in the world today: net environmental outcome policies. They will consequently need to have or develop skills in fieldwork, statistical analyses, spatial analysis, and restoration ecology.

This PhD is ideal for someone who not only enjoys international ecological research, but wants to make sure their research translates into real nature conservation impact, in this case with businesses and the public sector.

Professional Development

In addition to specialised training, ECOWILD students will attend careers events and established workshops, including for data management, time management, leadership, writing skills and viva preparation, aligning with the Vitae Research Development Framework.