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ENV East Doctoral Training Partnership


Applications to the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership are now closed.

Below you can browse some of the PhD projects we have previously funded; if you would like to be informed when applications open, or if you have any questions about EnvEast and our application process, please email us.

Projects previously funded by EnvEast


Predation, Competition and Harvesting: The roles of species interactions and traditional harvesting for the sustainability of the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) fishery and its international conservation status (CAMERON_EBS15EE)

Project description

Scientific background/rationale and significance

The Blackwater estuary, Essex, is a productive mosaic of habitats which has protections at European level (SPA, SAC, SSSI) and nationally as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ; 2013) for the historical, social and economic importance of the native oyster (Ostrea edulis). This PhD will examine historical and current conditions of the habitats and community ecology of this commercially important resource to enable construction and evaluation of evidence based management activities.

The first part of this project will work in collaboration with the CASE partner, Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA, Dr Jane Heywood). Extensive habitat mapping of the estuary will be undertaken to ascertain location and extent of Special Area of Conservation (SAC) features that coincide with existing oyster populations. The second part of the project will work closely with Essex Wildlife Trust in partnership with The Blackwater Oystermen association to test the roles of species interactions on the re-establishment and success of oyster beds.

Research methodology

The research will be carried out at different scales including at sea using state of the art, high resolution mapping, as well as traditional ship surveys. Species interactions will be examined using enclosure/exclosure and behavioural experiments. Specifically the successful candidate will assess the role that invasive species, e.g. slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata), and American tingle (Urosalpinx cinerea) play in competition and attraction of native predators that effects oysters. A key objective will be to determine which life stages/cohort ages are most at risk from species interactions


Training in marine surveying and GIS mapping will be provided by the CASE partners (IFCA). The ecological dynamics of oyster beds and experimental methods will be undertaken in close collaboration with Essex Wildlife Trust and the oyster fishermen. The candidate can expect to graduate with significant experience of fieldwork, quantitative ecology including experimental design, and analysis using R.

Person specification

Enthusiastic candidates with a good undergraduate or Master’s degree in marine biology, ecology or environmental sciences, and an interest in field based and applied policy-relevant ecological research should apply.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview day on either Thursday 12 or Friday 13 February 2015.

Contact the project supervisors for queries about the project.


This project has been shortlisted for funding from the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

The stipend for 2014/15 was £13,863 p.a.


We recommend you read our 'How to Apply' pages before starting your application.


Dr Leanne Appleby Hepburn, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Jane Heywood, Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CASE partner)

  • Start date September 2015
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study Full-time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years