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Applications are now open for PhD studentships starting in October 2018. 

Please read the recruitment introduction for more information about eligibility, how to apply, and possibilities for further funding.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2018.

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BULL_KDICE18EE - Assessment of the outcomes of biodiversity offset projects under ‘no net loss’ policy (CASE studentship with Balfour Beatty plc)

Project description

Project imageSelected other supervisors:
Professor Richard Griffiths (University of Kent)
Dr Julia Baker (Balfour Beatty)
Professor Niels Strange (University of Copenhagen)

Scientific background
‘Biodiversity offsets’ have been implemented worldwide in response to economic development activities, with the objective of fully compensating for the negative biodiversity impacts associated with development. However, despite their being hugely controversial, there have been almost no empirical assessments concerning the actual nature conservation outcomes of biodiversity offsets on an international scale. The project supervisors have constructed the world’s first global database of implemented biodiversity offsets, which provides an excellent basis for a motivated PhD student to carry out such an empirical study.

Research methodology and travel
The student will combine: (1) biodiversity field surveys of existing offset projects, to provide data that can be analysed using spatial statistics and mapping software; and, (2) structured surveys of individual developers implementing offsets to assess decision-making processes in offsets, and revealed preferences for development in the context of offset policy. The student will draw from empirical research methods in both the natural and social sciences. Alongside fieldwork with the UK CASE partner, we expect the student to spend substantial time abroad, likely within Europe and potentially further afield (examples countries with established offset policies include Australia, Brazil, and China).

The student will necessarily develop (a) truly interdisciplinary research skills, receiving training to do so where necessary. This might include visiting the Supervisory Team Members in Copenhagen for training in survey research methods. The student will also (b) interact with private sector developers including the CASE partner, and so will develop an understanding of the nuances underlying business investment in biodiversity. Finally, the student may (c) have the opportunity to develop or improve language skills for some elements of fieldwork.

Person specification
We seek someone highly motivated to secure robust, evidence-based nature conservation outcomes, who is willing to travel extensively. Candidates must have a quantitative B.Sc. and M.Sc. or equivalent degrees in fields relating to ecology and conservation science or behavioural economics, though we would also consider graduates with degrees in physics or mathematics. Previous experience of interacting with private sector organisations and language skills are highly desirable.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants for this project will be interviewed by the supervisory teams at the University of Kent on Friday 19 January 2018. Successful applicants will then be nominated for the formal EnvEast interviews (12/13 February 2018).

Selected candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. Ordinarily, EnvEast studentships are for 3.5 years, although longer awards may be made to applicants from quantitative disciplines who have limited experience in the environmental sciences, to allow them to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover tuition fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

This PhD studentship is expected to begin in September/October 2018. Both full-time and part-time study are possible (those planning to study part-time may wish to discuss this with the supervisor before applying).

Bull, J.W., Lloyd, S.P., Strange, N. (2017) Implementation gap between the theory and practice of biodiversity offset multipliers. Conservation Letters, DOI: 10.1111/conl.12335 [early version available online].

Bull, J.W., Abatayo, A., Strange, N. (2017) Counterintuitive proposals for trans-boundary ecological compensation under ‘no net loss’ biodiversity policy. Ecological Economics, 142:185-193.

Maron, M., Gordon, A., Mackey, B.G., Possingham, H.P., Watson, J.E.M. (2015) Conservation: Stop misuse of biodiversity offsets. Nature, 523:401-403.

Maron, M., Ives, C., Kujala, H., Bull, J.W., et al. (2016) Taming a wicked problem: resolving controversies in biodiversity offsetting. BioScience, 66(6):489-498.

Lewis, B., Griffiths, R.A., and Wilkinson, J. (2016) Population status of great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) at sites subjected to development mitigation. Herpetological Journal, 27:133-142.