Fully Funded NERC RENEW PhD Studentship at the University of Exeter

Fully Funded NERC RENEW PhD Studentship at the University of Exeter

Fully Funded NERC RENEW PhD Studentship at the University of Exeter in Predicting species distributions for biodiversity renewal decisions is available for UK Students, EU Students, and International Students to apply.

Application closes: 18th May 2022

The ‘Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach’ (RENEW) project will work with landowners, businesses, and communities to restore woodlands, wetlands, and farmland across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The project will put people at the centre of the action on biodiversity renewal and build expertise across different sectors and communities to address the environment and climate crises.

The RENEW project is inherently interdisciplinary and encompasses biosciences, social sciences, politics, humanities, environmental intelligence, biodiversity economics, and conservation and is being managed in collaboration with the National Trust. Additionally, the project collaborates with 33 project partners to deliver its aims.

A principal goal of the RENEW Studentships programme is to create a new generation of interdisciplinary, solutions-focussed researchers who have experienced a rich culture, including fundamental research and engagement with key partners.

The RENEW programme has nine fully-funded studentships available for January 2023 entry.

Benefits of the Fully Funded NERC RENEW PhD Studentship at the University of Exeter

The fully funded RENEW studentship will cover;

  • A stipend for 4 years (currently £16,062 for 2022-23 entry) in line with the UK Research and Innovation rates
  • Payment of the university tuition fees
  • Research and Training costs

The project below is one of a number available under the RENEW programme.

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PhD Project description: Predicting species distributions for biodiversity renewal decisions

We are in a biodiversity crisis, and ecologists’ challenge is to devise strategies for effectively targeting conservation efforts. Where should new habitats be created, and how should they be managed? Typically, ecologists have used habitat suitability models to predict how species respond to changes in land use. Still, species occurrence is affected not only by the suitability of habitat at that location but also by the spatial configuration of habitats. Species are more likely to survive in bigger, better, and more connected habitats.

For this reason, meta-population models are often used to assess how regional persistence is maintained by a balance between local extinctions and colonisations from surrounding habitats. However, such models are data-hungry: one must verify the presence or absence of populations in every habitat patch before predictions can be easily made. Moreover, they cannot account for ongoing incremental changes (positive or negative) in habitat quality. Despite these two approaches’ evident strengths and weaknesses, they have yet to be unified into a single framework.

What we expect

The PhD student recruited in this project will be registered and based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

  1. S/he will work closely with the project team and as part of a vibrant community of researchers and conservation practitioners delivering a large NERC-funded project: “Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach (RENEW)”.
  2. S/he will (i) work with the project team to develop modelling approaches for predicting how species respond to habitat creation and restoration, (ii) test the model rigorously by collecting field data on declining woodland bird species in south-west England, including Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) and Willow Tit (Poecile montanus). Then, by working closely with a range of land managers and conservation stakeholders (farmers, RSPB, Natural England, and The Wildlife Trusts) and under the auspices of the G7 Legacy Project, s/he will use the models to guide targeted biodiversity renewal actions. The G7 Legacy Project is an ambitious nature recovery project aiming to deliver a lasting legacy for nature, climate, and the people of Cornwall. It will restore land and habitats for key species, including woodland birds. The area forms part of an England-wide nature recovery network – a national network of wildlife-rich places that the government has committed to creating in its 25 Year Environment Plan.

Application requirements

Applicants should have a good primary degree (First or Second Class Honours) or MSc. in an appropriate discipline (Ecology, Environmental Science or Mathematics, etc.). Candidates with experience in fieldwork are desirable.

Eligibility Requirement for the Fully Funded NERC RENEW PhD Studentship at the University of Exeter

RENEW studentships are open to the UK and Irish nationals who, if successful in their applications, will receive a full studentship, including payment of university tuition fees at the home fees rate.

A limited number of full studentships are also available to international students, defined as EU (excluding Irish nationals), EEA, Swiss, and all other non-UK nationals.

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge, and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

The conditions for eligibility for home fees status are complex. You will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or the Republic of Ireland) within the past three (3) years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate discipline to the project.

Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

If English is not your first language, you would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the project http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/.

How to apply


Please click on the Apply Here button above to apply for the project.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 18th May 2022, 23:59 GMT. Interviews will be held the week commencing 20th June 2022.

In the application process, you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, e.g., “Smith – CV.pdf,” “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf,” “Smith – Transcript.pdf.”

  1. CV
  2. Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience, and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.
  3. Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim transcript if you are still studying.
  4. If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country, you will need to submit evidence of your current proficiency in English.

Reference Information

You will be asked to name two referees as part of the application process; please ensure that you include this information and upload the reference documents where possible. Your referees should not be from the prospective supervisory team.

• Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references; if you do not upload them when submitting your application, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the application deadline.

• If your named referee would prefer to send us their document directly please ask them to forward the documents to [email protected]

• Your referees should submit references to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts unless it is a scanned document on institutional-headed paper and signed by the referee.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process, please email [email protected].
Project-specific queries should be directed to the primary supervisor.

All application documents and certified translated copies of academic qualifications must be provided and submitted in English.

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