Lead Supervisor (Director of Studies):
Dr Emma Sheehan
Second Supervisor: Professor David Sims
Third Supervisor: Dr Peter Miller
Applications are invited for a 3.5-year PhD studentship with Marine Research Plymouth – a collaborative partnership between the University of Plymouth, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Marine Biological Association. The studentship is due to start on 1 October 2024.
This project is one of four topics available for the studentship. We anticipate supporting one position, which will be allocated to the best combination of candidate and project as they emerge from interviews across the pool of available topics.
Browse all available topics.
Plymouth has been at the forefront of global marine research for more than a century, and today it is home to the largest concentration of marine researchers in the UK. Come and join our vibrant community of marine PhD students.
Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) play a key role in maintaining ecosystem structure and function, building ocean-human connections through tourism, and underpin valuable recreational and commercial fisheries. Globally, elasmobranchs are threatened with extinction, attributed mainly to overfishing and incidental bycatch, and population recovery is limited due to being slow to mature and reproduce. Insufficient monitoring and management have allowed the proportion of threatened elasmobranchs to increase in recent years. Elasmobranchs are a critical marine resource that requires a dramatic improvement to management.
By combining acoustic telemetry (tagging and tracking), video surveys and Earth observation systems, this PhD will build a better understanding of elasmobranch movement and distribution around Plymouth Sound and surrounding waters. The student will use and build upon the University of Plymouth’s telemetry array to investigate movement ecology of key elasmobranchs and their prey. Small scale distribution and habitat use over time will be investigated using an extensive collection of video survey data gathered around the Southwest. Combining these techniques with remote sensing data, the student will develop modelling approaches to identify environmental drivers of elasmobranch distribution and residence such as marine heatwaves, frontal zones and extreme climate events. Collaborative working with recreational anglers, local organisations and authorities, combined with historical datasets, will provide insight into the effect of current management measures such as MPA’s on elasmobranchs and facilitate the development of improved management plans and conservation measures.
The student will receive training in tagging techniques including a Home Office personal licence, followed by practical experience assisting the experienced UoP team. They will plan and conduct fieldwork including tagging, receiver downloads and maintenance. They will gain training and experience in processing large datasets using advanced statistical analysis and visualisation techniques. Aspirational components of the PhD may include advanced monitoring technology such as EK80 echo sounder surveys.