Blue Communities: Public perceptions of the risks and benefits of marine ecosystems for human health and wellbeing in South East Asia, Medicine – PhD (funded) Ref: 2722

About the award

The University of Exeter Medical School is seeking to attract PhD candidates of outstanding ability to join their exciting and rapidly expanding programme of internationally rated research.

The European Centre for Environment and Human Health ( at the University of Exeter Medical School (UEMS) wish to recruit a doctoral student to work on a PhD linked to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supported ‘Blue Communities’ project, a collaboration between 3 UK institutions: Plymouth Marine Laboratories (PML, lead); the University of Exeter; and the University of Plymouth; and several institutions and non-governmental bodies across South East Asia including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China. The focus will be around communities living in and UNESCO Biospheres and Marine Protected Areas.

The overall aim of the project is to: “develop interdisciplinary research capability and lasting collaborations that: facilitate innovative application of integrated planning in the marine environment within the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme and other marine parks and their communities in South East Asia, and respond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of no poverty, zero hunger and good health and well-being for coastal communities through the sustainable use of marine resources”.

Working alongside a Research Fellow for the duration of the PhD, and supervised by Dr Mathew White (Environmental Psychology) and Dr Karyn Morrissey (Environmental Economics), the PhD will have three aspects: a) local stakeholder interviews to explore perceptions and beliefs about the marine environment’s links to human health and well-being; b) the co-creation of, and analysis of data from, public surveys in several of the case study sites that explore these issues in depth; and c) the design and testing of a communication to enhance public knowledge and understanding on these issues.

The three tasks involve key elements of the Mental Models Approach (MMA) to developing risk communications pioneered by Morgan et al (2002) but will also focus on benefits as well as risks. Given the importance of the survey to the project, the student must have strong quantitative skills and preferably some experience of survey design and analysis. Other desirable characteristics include a knowledge of: a) conducting and interpreting qualitative interviews; b) designing public communications and/or c) marine ecosystem services, but these are not essential. The PhD would suit someone trained in psychology or economics or a related discipline and we welcome both UK and EU candidates. As the Blue Communities project is focused on South East Asia, the student should be willing to include some travel to these countries as part of their studies. 

Start date:  Jan 2018

Duration: 3 years (full-time)

Academic Supervisors:

Dr Mathew White, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Psychology, UEMS:

Dr Karyn Morrissey, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Economics, UEMS:

Funding Notes:

There are two funded studentships associated with the Blue Communities project being supported within UEMS. These studentships are open to high quality applicants who meet the appropriate criteria from anywhere in the world. Both studentships are for three years and attract a stipend of £14,553 per annum. In addition there will be an annual allowance of £2500 to support other studentship related costs including travel. One of the studentships will fund tuition fees at international level (currently £19,050 per annum) and one will fund tuition fees at UK/EU level (currently £4400 per annum). The Appointing Committee will determine which studentship and applicant will hold the international studentship and which will hold the UK/EU one based on the quality and merit of applications received. 

Entry requirements:

Applicants should be highly motivated and have a relevant undergraduate degree (e.g. psychology/economics) at 2:1 level or above and ideally a relevant MSc qualification.

The ideal candidate would have a background in quantitative methods and related statistics and preferably an interest in both health and well-being and the marine environment. As part of the application process candidates should submit a brief (maximum 1,000 word) research proposal, suitable for this PhD, identifying the question(s) the research will address, a discussion of the methods involved and a brief description of the kinds of analysis to be conducted.

International applicants must also have IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification).

Useful references
Fleming, et al. (2014). Oceans and human health: A rising tide of challenges and opportunities for Europe. Marine Environmental Research, 99, 16-19.
Morrissey K, (2014). Using secondary data to examine economic trends in a subset of sectors in the English marine economy: 2003 to 2011. Marine Policy, 50, 135-141
White, et al. (2016). The ‘Blue Gym’: What can blue space do for you and what can you do for blue space?. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 96(1), 5-12.

How to apply

Click here to apply

Please be aware you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.
  • A brief (maximum 1,000 word) research proposal, suitable for this PhD, identifying the question(s) the research will address, a discussion of the methods involved and a brief description of  the kinds of analysis to be conducted.
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English (see entry requirements

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email Project specific queries should be directed to the lead supervisor. We regret that only candidates shortlisted for interview will be contacted.


Application deadline:7th October 2017
Number of awards:1
Value:£ 14,553 for 3 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: UEMS Graduate Admin