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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


The effects of wading birds on intertidal mudflats: sediment dynamics, biogeochemical properties and ecosystem services. (TOLHURST_UENV15EE)

Project description

This project will investigate how wading birds mediate processes on intertidal mudflats to deliver ecosystem services; specifically effects on sediment stability, nutrient flux and productivity.

Scientific background

Intertidal mudflats provide numerous ecosystem services, support a diverse biota and are one of the planets most imperilled ecosystems, disappearing faster than tropical rainforest. Previous studies have highlighted how wading birds alter processes such as biostabilisation of sediments, but our understanding remains poor. Improving our knowledge of how birds mediate processes is vital for predicting and mitigating the effects of climate change on these important habitats.

Research methodology

Field studies provide the best information for understanding mudflat processes. You will design manipulative field experiments to alter the numbers and species diversity of wading birds in plots on intertidal sediments. You will monitor these plots using non-invasive techniques and take sediment samples for analysis of biogeochemical properties in the laboratory. You will analyse these data to determine the effects of wading birds on ecosystem services.


Training will be provided in multidisciplinary science, experimental design, multivariate analysis, statistics and techniques including: PAM fluorometry, erosion devices (FloWave, Cohesive Strength Meter), cryogenic sediment coring (contact core) and biogeochemical analysis (grain size, organic matter, pigments, nutrients). You will spend part of the year working with Professor Graham Underwood, Essex University, training in nutrient flux measurements, exopolymer analysis and microalgal productivity. A yearly placement with the National Trust (Blakeney Nature Reserve), will provide experience in coastal management.

Person specification

This highly multidisciplinary project requires a background in one or more of: sedimentology, ecology, marine biology, biogeochemistry, environmental science. You need good laboratory based analysis skills. Ability to identify benthic macrofauna would be advantageous. Work will be done in challenging muddy coastal environments, so you must be able to demonstrate excellent field skills.

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


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' page before starting your application.


Dr Richard Davies, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia

Prof Graham Underwood, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

  • Start date October 2015
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study Full-time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years
Entry requirements
  • Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Honours degree, or overseas equivalent