PhD Studentship: Sediment Fingerprinting: exploring farmers’ attitudes to on-farm control measures

About the award

A major new research programme, commissioned by the Environment Agency and led by Professor Adrian Collins at Rothamsted Research, is exploring the landscape scale impacts of on-farm measures for controlling diffuse water pollution from agriculture (DWPA) funded and delivered by the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) initiative.

In tandem with work on assessing baseline and post-mitigation pollution sources in ten experimental landscapes covering different farming systems in England, a research studentship will explore farm business structures and management decisions and their evolution in response to the CSF programme. There are data from previous research projects on general farmer attitudes to the uptake of on-farm control measures for DWPA.  We have a good idea of what measures appeal to famers and those that do not. In the main, and not surprisingly, the more attractive measures are those that fit better with existing farming systems and have cost benefits to farmers (either through lower input costs or grant aid).

The research in this PhD will explore in greater detail attitudes to a range of on-farm measures including those that are less popular with farmers. What informs the attitudes of farmers to these measures and what might allow or encourage attitudinal shift?  This requires more in-depth research with farmers than standard interview surveys. So it is anticipated that the student will spend time on farms in observation and conservation (an ethnographic approach) and/or conduct farmer focus groups with the study areas.

The studentship will be co-supervised by Professors Michael Winter (University of Exeter) and Adrian Collins (Rothamsted Research).


Application deadline:18th April 2017
Number of awards:1
Value:3 years tuition fees UK/EU and an annual maintenance allowance at research council rates (£14,553 in 2017/18)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Beth Owen / Issac Maswade 01392

How to apply

Entry Criteria

• This award is available to those students with Home / EU residency status

• MSc, MA or Mres or equivalent post-graduate qualification and knowledge of appropriate social science research methods

• This project entails national travel with extended periods of fieldwork

• This project entails extensive travel to remote, rural farm locations so a driving licence is essential

How to Apply

In order to apply you will need to complete an online web form where you must submit some personal details and upload the following documents by 11.59pm on the 18 April 2017.

• A detailed CV

• Covering letter - outlining your academic interests, any prior research experience and reasons for wishing to do PhD in the context of the research interests of the Centre.

• A statement outlining (maximum 1500-2000 words, excluding bibliography) what you see as the particular opportunities and challenges of this PhD research project. Please note that you are expected to illustrate your knowledge and understanding of the issues and/or the research process and explain why you are suitable, given your skills and disciplinary background, to achieve this research project within three years. Please upload in the research proposal section in one document together with your research paper (it is not possible to upload separate documents).

• Transcript of your highest qualification to date or an interim transcript if you are still studying

IELTS/TOEFL certificate - where applicable

• 2 references to be sent direct to

Please note that if you are successful in being awarded funding you will then be asked to apply for a study place in addition to formalise the funding offer.

Selection Process: Short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview in person (in Exeter at the University’s Streatham Campus) or by Skype. The interviews will be scheduled on 25th April 2017.

For informal enquiries and further information on the project please contact

Emma Tranter
01392 722438