Blue Communities: exploring the intersections between marine ecosystems, gender, health and wellbeing in coastal communities in South East Asia, Medicine – PhD (Funded) Ref: 2723

About the award

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 around 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 Ruth Garside (Evidence Synthesis), Dr Karyn Morrissey (Environmental Economics) and Dr Felicity Thomas, (Cultural Contexts of Health) the PhD will consider the intersections between marine ecosystems, livelihoods, gender, health and wellbeing within coastal communities.  We are particularly interested in exploring sexual and reproductive health in this context.

The project is likely to involve a systematic review and evidence synthesis to appraise the existing research evidence in this area, and use of both quantitative and qualitative methods.  Subject to securing appropriate funding, we anticipate that field work in partner countries in South East Asia will be key.

The student should have quantitative and qualitative research experience and be aware of methods for systematic review and evidence synthesis. Knowledge and experience of marine ecosystem services, livelihoods, and health and wellbeing would be an advantage, as would experience of working with partners in developing countries, particularly in South East Asia.

Other desirable characteristics include a knowledge of: conducting qualitative research using interviews, focus groups, ethnography and/or observational methods; quantitative data analysis; public involvement activities. The PhD would suit someone trained in health research, or an appropriate background in the social sciences (and we welcome both UK and overseas applicants. As the Blue Communities project is focused on South East Asia, the student should be willing to travel to these countries as part of their studies. 

Start date:  Jan 2018

Duration: 3 years (full-time)

Academic Supervisors:

Dr Ruth Garside, Senior Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis, UEMS:

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

Dr Felicity Thomas, Senior Research Fellow in Cultural Contexts of Health, 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 at 2:1 level or above and ideally a relevant MSc qualification. The ideal candidate would have a background in qualitative and/or quantitative methods and an interest in both health and well-being and the marine environment. As part of the application process candidates should submit a brief (maximum 1000 word) research proposal, suitable for this PhD, identifying the question(s) the research will address, a discussion of the pros and cons of the methods involved, a brief description of  the kinds of analysis to be conducted and an explanation of how such studies would extend previous work.

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

Useful references: 

Fleming LE, Broad K, Clement A, et al. Oceans and human health: Emerging public health risks in the marine environment. Marine pollution bulletin. 2006;53(10-12):545-560. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2006.08.012.

McKinnon MC, Cheng SH, Garside R, Masuda YJ, Miller DC. et al (2016) What are the effects of nature conservation on human well-being? A systematic map of empirical evidence from developing countries. Environmental Evidence; 5(8): DOI: 10.1186/s13750-016-0058-7 (

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

Thomas, F, Sabel CE, Morton K, Hiscock R, Depledge MH, Extended impacts of climate change on health and wellbeing, Environmental Science & Policy, vol. 44, 2014, 271-278

Allison, EH; Seeley, JA; (2004) HIV and AIDS among fisherfolk: a threat to 'responsible fisheries'? Fish and Fisheries, 5 (3). pp. 215-234. ISSN 1467-2979. (;jsessionid=DE34D598AA1C30E3A5519BF84724F802.f04t01)

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 pros and cons of the methods involved, a brief description of  the kinds of analysis to be conducted and an explanation of how such studies would extend previous work.
  • 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 supervisory team.

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