Opportunity

PhD Opportunity: Studying the Environmental Benefits of Seaweed Farming at the University of Exeter

Project Description

With expanding global markets for seaweed products, there is a growing need for seaweed farming to reduce pressure on wild harvested stocks. Although seaweed farming is categorised as a licensable activity under the UK’s Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009), there is currently no specific regulatory process or guidance for establishing new seaweed farms in the UK. This is in part because there is a fundamental lack of understanding of potential environmental impacts versus benefits of seaweed farming, for informing planning decisions. In particular, there is no consensus as to whether seaweed farms adversely impact or benefit adjoining marine protected areas (MPAs), which are also expanding around the UK coastline. Some evidence suggests that seaweed farms may serve as nursery grounds or refugia for local fish and macroinvertebrate populations, and enhance local marine biodiversity. Conversely, seaweed farms may negatively impact on local populations by acting as barriers to movements or altering the physico-chemical environment.

This PhD studentship will undertake a series of field studies at two coastal study sites in Southwest England, in order to evaluate the environmental impacts/benefits of seaweed aquaculture.

The project will build on existing observational data for each study site and three EU funded projects addressing challenges faced in engineering installations for seaweed culture and the potential use of farmed seaweeds in integrated multi-species/trophic aquaculture.

The specific aims of this PhD project are to:

  1. Quantify the effects of selected seaweed farm(s) on local marine biodiversity and recruitment and dispersal of fish and macroinvertebrate species of conservation and commercial importance.
  2. Quantify the influence of seaweed farms on local physical conditions, including current speed, suspended sediment loads, light penetration and wave energy.
  3. Quantify dissolved nutrient chemistry and dynamics in and around the seaweed farms.
  4. In this exciting project the student will develop and apply a wide range of skills and techniques, including video recordings and diver surveys, macro and microscopic imaging, cytometry, physical/chemical oceanography, molecular biology, and computational modelling. They will integrate into large well-funded research teams that will bring associated benefits in terms of additional support and networking.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must 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 area of science or technology.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.

For more information and how to apply, click here.

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