CDT SuMMeR: PhD opportunities with Plymouth Marine Laboratory

PhD projects and studentships

Applications for cohort 1 of the CDT SuMMeR are now closed, for this year's PhD studentships commencing from 1 October 2022.
If you wish to informally discuss any of our projects further, please contact the lead supervisor. Details on how to apply and eligibility are listed on the Study with CDT SuMMeR page. If you require more information on the admissions process please contact
Plymouth Marine Laboratory is a host institution for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (CDT SuMMeR). To view the full range of opportunities available through the CDT visit the Study with CDT SuMMeR page.

CDTS111: Building evidence for action: Novel assessment of ocean acidification impacts around the UK

PhD Project Reference: CDTS111
Awarding institution: University of Plymouth
Lead Supervisor: Dr Helen Findlay
2nd Academic Supervisor: Professor Martin Attrill
Associate Partner: DEFRA

<p>Ocean acidification</p>
The impact of ocean acidification (OA) on UK marine species, habitats and ecosystem services is still not well understood. There is a growing need to understand stakeholders’ vulnerability, and what adaptation strategies may be most impactful to allow sustainable management of marine resources and minimise impacts on ecosystem services. Lack of sufficient evidence prevents OA from presently being included in policy in any meaningful way. This project addresses these gaps in knowledge and links to stakeholders by developing a novel spatially-resolved assessment of OA impacts to UK species, habitats and ecosystem services, building evidence that can inform action relating to OA impacts and adaptation.
The project will primarily be based at PML in Plymouth, with opportunities to spend time at the University of Plymouth and at DEFRA. 
Aims and objectives
The research focuses on three objectives: 
  • Review the status of the UK marine environment in relation to OA and assess the vulnerability of key biota; 
  • Make projections of future risk to ecosystems and ecosystem services; 
  • Understand stakeholder vulnerabilities, potential adaptation strategies and barriers to action, and assess the potential impact of action on reducing the risk of OA. 
This information will directly feed into the Climate Evidence team at DEFRA. 

This PhD includes training in interdisciplinary research, scientific data analysis, stakeholder engagement, ecosystem and economic modelling. The student will receive key skills training, and will be embedded in the SuMMeR CDT, the PML community, and benefit from collaboration with the University of Plymouth and DEFRA.
Image description: Example of available data that can be used to assess current status of UK shelf seas with respect to ocean acidification, and risk to UK species, habitats and ecosystem services.


</p><p class="wysiwyg-text-align-center">Example
of available data that can be used to assess current status of UK shelf seas
with respect to ocean acidification, and risk to UK species, habitats and
ecosystem services: (a) model hindcast trends in surface water pH (OSPAR
QSR2023); (b) data records for mussels (OBIS).</p><p></p>

(a) model hindcast trends in surface water pH (OSPAR QSR2023); (b) data records for mussels (OBIS).

CDTS117: Butt Out: A transdisciplinary approach in understanding and addressing the risks of littered cigarette butts

PhD Project Reference: CDTS117
Awarding institution: University of Plymouth
Lead Supervisor: Dr Matthew Cole
2nd Academic Supervisor: Dr Kayleigh Wyles
Associate Partner: Marine Conservation Society (MCS)

<p>Cigarette butt in the sand</p>
Project description
Globally, cigarette butts are one of the predominant types of litter identified on coastlines. Such litter is an eyesore that can impact beach goers’ experience. Further, cigarette butts may pose harm to marine life, as each filter can release vast amounts of microscopic fibres contaminated with harmful chemicals that can be ingested by animals. 
In this PhD, you will undertake pioneering transdisciplinary research to explore the extent to which cigarette butts contaminate beaches, better understand the harm cigarette fibres can have on marine life and elucidate the behaviours resulting in beach littering, with a view to identifying and optimising suitable interventions to littering.
The student will work with an interdisciplinary supervisory team, comprising marine ecologists, ecotoxicologists and environmental psychologists, alongside associate partners at the Marine Conservation Society and Ash Wales, to co-develop methodologies that help address the following research questions:  
  • What is the extent of the problem? Opportunity to undertake field sampling and analysis to characterise cellulose acetate fibres in environmental settings, and couple with analysis of existing datasets.  
  • What are the ecological risks? Employ ecotoxicological testing of cellulose acetate fibres and leachates on ecologically important marine invertebrates (e.g. copepods, polychaetes, bivalve shellfish).
  • What are the drivers of littering behaviour? To draw on the vast literature in psychology to understand why people litter their cigarette butts. 
  • How can findings drive forward an effective intervention? Incorporating social and natural science research methods to test the effectiveness of an intervention on reducing the littering of cigarette butts.    
This PhD will provide a future research leader with an exciting, dynamic and challenging transdisciplinary project. The student will have access to excellent training opportunities in a wide range of employable skills (e.g. writing, communication, time management) and scientific practice (e.g. transdisciplinary working, experimental design, data management, statistics, disciplinary-specific expertise). 
The project would suit a candidate with a passion for transdisciplinary research and a First or Upper Second class degree or equivalent within the theme of environmental science.