Can productive agriculture also enhance natural capital? Exploring catchment scale approaches to progressive land management, Geography (Physical) – PhD (Funded) Ref: 2647

About the award

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,553 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter, and will also spend significant proportions of their time at Clinton Devon Estates, at their Rolle Estate Office in Devon.

Academic Supervisors              

Prof Richard Brazier (Geography, University of Exeter) – Main supervisor

Prof Ian Bateman (Politics, University of Exeter)

Dr Sam Bridgewater (Clinton Devon Estates)

Iorweth Watkins (Westcountry Rivers Trust)

Project Description

The PhD will explore progressive ways in which land management can be delivered, to minimise negative externalities such as flooding, diffuse pollution, soil erosion and losses of biodiversity, whilst also maintaining, if not enhancing productivity, alongside other sources of income to farmland. In order to deliver this ground-breaking research, the student will be part hosted, by Clinton Devon Estates, which owns large areas of the lower River Otter catchment, in Devon. As such is able to trial, landscape scale approaches to land management. The student will work with Prof Brazier who is a leading expert in the holistic, environmental understanding of intensive agriculture and Prof Bateman, an environmental economist, who has pioneered the Natural Capital Approach to valuing changes in land use and land management. By monitoring the environmental quality that the Estate supports, the student will be able to construct a clear picture of which farming activities are sustainable, supporting resilient approaches to food production and which activities (and where) negative impacts occur. This quantitative, whole-estate understanding will then support a natural capital-based approach to modelling the differential values of land management, within a framework that can then be rolled out across larger scales.

The PhD will address the following objectives:

  1. To characterise and quantify soil and water quality alongside biodiversity at the field-farm-estate scale, thereby providing baseline understanding of the condition of the semi-natural and agri-environment.
  2. To value, across field-farm-estate scales, the natural capital contribution of current land management practices.
  3. To monitor change in soil/water quality and biodiversity as a function of land management change with respect to the baseline established in (1) and control sites where no change will occur.
  4. To evaluate the economic costs and benefits of progressive land management, versus ‘business as usual’ approaches, in the context of long-term change driven by external factors such as climate and the repatriated CAP, as well as internal factors such as land tenancy agreements.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,553 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.  

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in September 2017 and is subject to confirmation of funding.    

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.  Alternative tests may be acceptable, see


Application deadline:3rd July 2017
Duration of award:per year
Contact: CLES PGR Admin phone 01392 725150/

How to apply

Click here to apply

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, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”. 

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • 2 references from referees familiar with your academic work (if your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to If we don't receive your references, we will not request them unless you have been shortlisted)
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on 3rd July 2017.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 10th July.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 725150/723706.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor Prof Richard Brazier