Overcoming challenges for saltmarsh conservation and restoration

PhD Project Outline

Scientific background

Coastal ecosystems are vital buffer zones and flood defences between sea and inland areas. These ecosystems are also rich habitats for flora and fauna and important natural carbon sinks. Unfortunately, global coastal wetlands are fast diminishing, mostly because of human pressure (including the effects of climate change). A 2019 IPCC Special Report states that conservation and restoration of these so-called “coastal blue carbon ecosystems” could help mitigate global carbon emissions and, perhaps even more important, have positive knock-on effects for the resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities. This research project will focus on one type of coastal ecosystem, namely saltmarshes in the East of England (though mudflats could potentially also be included). Some current saltmarsh areas in England are under the protection of conservation organisations; but there are many former saltmarsh areas that have been overgrazed, reclaimed for pastoral farming, in-filled for built development, or affected by invasive alien species. These environments have much potential for restoration, but the opportunities for adaptation and mitigation in the face of climate change that these ecosystems offer are still poorly understood and can be viewed with scepticism by coastal communities, particularly due to concerns with land use transformation.

This research project will investigate the views and preferences of stakeholders regarding the saltmarsh ecosystem services, potential restoration and land use transformation; and explore the ecosystem management and possible financing options. The project draws on contacts of the potential supervisors with the National Trust (a major British conservation charity) and other local groups.

Research methodology

The student will review existing work on saltmarshes, their characteristics, ecosystem services, and management practices, and interview local stakeholders to understand the challenges for saltmarsh conservation and restoration. The student will help identify ecosystem management options and test their viability with behavioural methods, e.g. lab-in-the-field experiments and/ or field surveys, and/ or qualitative, participatory methods. The student can also perform an ecosystem services valuation if needed/ desired, and help develop financing options to support ecosystem restoration and conservation projects. The student will have the opportunity to collaborate with the National Trust, and to be involved in policy advice in an exciting and important field.


The successful candidate will join the PhD programme within the School of Economics at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and can collaborate with members of the interdisciplinary, internationally renowned Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE), as well as with members of the School of Environmental Sciences. Doctoral training covers one year of compulsory courses in Research Methods and Quantitative Skills (Mathematics and Econometrics), as well as core training in both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Optional courses are offered in the second year and vary from year to year. PGR researchers have access to the School of Economics’ programme of Summer Schools, as well as to the graduate training programme offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences at UEA.

Research Team: You would be working with Dr. Christa Brunnschweiler and a second supervisor to be determined.

Person Specification

We are seeking a high-calibre candidate with a good MSc in Economics (2.1 and above or equivalent) or in related disciplines. The candidate should have an interest in interdisciplinary research and methods.

Application deadline: 15 March 2021

Start Date: October 2021

Mode of Study: Full-time or Part-time

Studentship length: 3 years

Minimum entry requirement: UK 2:1.

Applications are to be submitted electronically via our Postgraduate Apply page.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Industrial Economics Research Group at the School of Economics at UEA.

The School of Economics is an Athena Swan Award Holder and is committed to equality and diversity, and inclusion of students of any and all backgrounds.

UK and EU nationals, as well as international candidates are eligible for the stipend.

Applications must be supported by:

  • Official transcripts (in English) of your higher education qualifications.

  • A Personal Statement of 500 to 1,000 words

  • A CV detailing your work experience to date. Two academic references.

  • Evidence of your English proficiency if English is not your first language

  • A Research Proposal.

Applications must be accompanied by a research proposal of 2000 words on the topic of this call. In some cases students who are funded or who expects funding from some government agencies apply for a ‘1 + 3': MSc followed by a MPhil/PhD; in these cases, at the time of applying for a ‘1 + 3' a short research proposal will suffice. Please email Dr Stephen Davies for more details on this project.

The School attaches great importance to providing a speedy response to applicants. To help us do this, please follow the procedure described in the application form and guidance notes and enclose all the material that it requests. No application will be considered until all the supporting documentation is received.

All applications are considered on their own merit by the Economics Postgraduate Selection Committee.


Download this PhD Project Outline