Scaling-up urban nature-based solutions: turning climate challenges into opportunities for humans and nature

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Marine Sciences (and select the entry point of October 2022), then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact

Director of Studies: Dr Louise Firth
2nd Supervisor: Dr Antony Knights  
3rd Supervisor: Dr Fiona Cawkwell, Department of Geography, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork 
Other supervisors: Dr Paul Holloway, Department of Geography, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork 
Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.
Project Description
The global urbanisation of coastlines has led to fragmentation of natural habitats and driving loss of biodiversity, ecological connectivity, functioning and services. In order to keep pace with climate change, cities like Plymouth and Cork need to adapt and upgrade their coastal infrastructure. Currently, such infrastructure is typically designed for human needs only, ignoring the ecological functions that underpin healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. Nature-based Solutions (NbS) such as constructed wetlands and oyster reefs, or greening of grey infrastructure (biodiversity/service enhancement of seawalls) can rehabilitate ecological functions and services. However, we currently lack understanding of how the spatial configuration of NbS across urban seascapes affects connectivity within and between patches of natural and artificial habitat. Ecological connectivity is now recognised as fundamental to healthy ecosystem functioning but is not typically considered in urban planning. 
Four objectives will address these knowledge gaps and identify approaches to achieve and maintain healthy urban land/seascapes: 
  • Quantify ecosystem service provision of natural/artificial components of Cork and Plymouth using satellite imagery, habitat and biodiversity mapping;
  • Scale-up NbS solutions at appropriate scales to assess ecological connectivity between habitat types (seawall-to-seafloor, seawall-to-saltmarsh, urban-to-rural); 
  • Quantify/model connectivity between habitat patches using hydrodynamic models to generate ecological network maps and identify how ecosystems services could be enhanced; 
  • Communicate findings to enable informed decision-making by planners and policy makers. 
We welcome applications from students with a 2.1 or higher in a relevant discipline (marine biology, environmental science, geography). A keen interest in statistical analysis and modelling is desirable. 
Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant Masters qualification.
The successful candidate will be awarded a studentship for 3 years which covers fees, stipend (non-taxable £16,062 per year – increasing in-line with UKRI) and funding to cover research costs (£1,500 per year). A discrete annual travel/collaboration budget between UCC-UoP will also be available.
The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover International fees will have to cover the difference between the Home and the International tuition fee rates.
NB: The studentship is supported for three years of the four-year registration period. The fourth year is a self-funded ‘writing-up’ year.
Applications are welcomed from UK, EU and Non-EU students. Please be advised that there are English language requirements in place which must be adhered to. Please note funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to your place of study.
If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Louise Firth .
The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 3 July 2022. 
Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview before the 15 July. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Our Strategic Research Partnership with University College Cork

Climate change is a global emergency. In the wake of COP26, it is more evident than ever that the world needs to take radical action to tackle this crisis.
To that end, the University of Plymouth and University College Cork have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to join forces in establishing a Post-COP26 Doctoral Training Partnership.
It will aim to address some of the key climate challenges and opportunities of our time, while inspiring and nurturing the next generation of innovative and pioneering researchers.

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