Shoal of small fish swimming together over seafloor with seagrass, Atlantic ocean.

In the wake of COP26, the South West is to play a lead role in a major new initiative aimed at sustainably managing the UK’s coasts and seas.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (SuMMeR CDT) aims to deliver the next generation of researchers, solution providers and practitioners who will sustainably manage our marine resources.

Supported by £2.2million in funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, the Centre will train almost 50 interdisciplinary PhD students over the next seven years.

The SuMMeR CDT is being coordinated by some of the UK’s foremost marine science organisations. Led by the University of Plymouth, its core hosting partners include the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Marine Biological Association as well as the universities of Bangor in Wales, and Heriot-Watt in Scotland.

They will in turn work with collaborative partners – at the Zoological Society of London, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), and the universities of Portsmouth and the West of England – on subjects ranging from marine and social sciences to law, health, education and economics.

Together they will cover existing and emerging topics of local, national and global importance, from enabling biodiversity gains and delivering Net Zero, to enhancing coastal protection and supporting coastal communities, and from pioneering marine technology to fostering a sustainable marine economy.

The initiative is also being supported by more than 45 associate partners from research, industry, government and third sectors, giving students the opportunity to understand current marine resource management issues from multiple perspectives.

The first cohort of 16 students aligned to the SuMMeR CDT will start their courses in the autumn of 2022.

Melanie Austen, Professor of Ocean Society at the University of Plymouth and Director of the SuMMeR CDT, said:

“As global populations continue to rise, a huge range of increasing demands are being placed on our coasts and seas. People are turning more to the ocean as a potential source of food and energy, and to support human health and wellbeing. However, there is a delicate balance to be struck so that we harness the power of the ocean without affecting its contribution to the health of societies and the planet as a whole. That can only be achieved by looking at the issues from all angles, and the students and collaborations involved in the SuMMeR CDT will play a crucial role in driving that approach forward.”

Professor Mel Austen
Professor Melanie Austen

Professor Michel Kaiser, Chief Scientist at Heriot-Watt University and the SuMMeR CDT’s Deputy Director, added:

“The strength of our partnership is our close collaboration with industry, Government and non-governmental partners. Students emerging from this PhD programme will have an innate understanding and appreciation of the importance of seeing global challenges from a trans-disciplinary perspective. They are the next generation of global problem solvers, we will prepare them to be societal champions of the future.”

Professor Willie Wilson, Director of the Marine Biological Association, said:

"We are delighted to be hosting students from the SuMMeR CDT. It is imperative that we ignite the spirit of discovery in the next generation of researchers. Having a breadth of hosting partners will allow the students a truly broad perspective of the current pressures on our ocean environment and help drive change in the sustainable management of UK's coast and seas."

Professor Steve Widdicombe, Director of Science at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) said:

“The sustainable management of our marine resources is critical to ensuring the long-term health, prosperity and security of our societies and economies. One of the biggest challenges - at local, regional and global scale - is balancing the often conflicting range of stakeholder interests and activities that take place in the ocean. As a pioneer of innovative approaches to responsible ocean stewardship, Plymouth Marine Laboratory is delighted to play our part in the new CDT, and we look forward to welcoming the next generation of researchers and practitioners.”

Professor Brendan Godley, who leads the Exeter Marine research group, said:

"We are delighted to bring the University of Exeter's interdisciplinary marine expertise to bear on this bid, along with an excellent consortium of partners across the UK. It is likely that this centre for doctoral training will have significant impact on the UK's coastal seas."

ocean waves
THE Impact Rankings SDG14 Life Below Water 2021 Top 10 large

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We are ranked the number one university globally for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 14: life below water.

The award recognises the quality of our marine research and teaching as well as our efforts to reduce the impact of campus activities on the marine environment. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Learn more about our rankings

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021: life below water

The activity highlighted here is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more.

NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.