University of Exeter funding: Light pollution Biosciences PhD

Impacts of light pollution on protected areas, Environment & Sustainability Institute, PhD (Self-Funded) Ref: 3211

About the Research Project


Professor Kevin Gaston, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

Location: Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

Project Description:
Artificial light at night is profoundly altering natural light cycles, particularly as experienced by many organisms, over vast areas of the globe. Although this was initially thought predominantly to be an urban issue, it is now clear that light pollution - from streetlights and other sources - can extend hundreds of kilometres from towns and cities. This means that it is potentially eroding the nighttime across many of the world’s protected areas (national parks, reserves etc), including some of the largest and most important. This is of major concern, as these areas are key to buffering many threatened and rare species from human pressures.
This project will determine how severe is the loss of the nighttime in protected areas, how rapidly their natural light cycles are being eroded, and the likely consequences for species of conservation concern. It will exploit recent developments in nighttime satellite imagery of the Earth, including working with the images that are taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. Using cutting-edge techniques, these data will be used to map the levels and trends in light pollution across protected areas. In particular, attention will be paid to the intensity and the colour spectrum of this artificial lighting. This information will then be used to determine where the impacts on and risks to selected species of conservation concern (e.g. large mammals) are greatest.
The research will particularly suit a candidate with interests both in conservation biology and strategies to protect species of major concern, and in remote sensing. It will provide experience in new methods of handling and manipulating spatial imagery, and in using this to tackle a real-world conservation problem of global significance.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Professor Kevin Gaston:

For general information about this project and the application process, please contact Postgraduate Admissions

Things to consider:
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For information about possible funding sources click here
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Please note: In addition to tuition fees, this project will require project costs. The estimated costs to cover costs of consumables and travel are £2,500 per annum. For more information, please contact Professor Kevin Gaston


Entry requirements

You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree from a UK university or equivalent, in Ecology, Conservation Biology, Geography or related disciplines.  Experience in conservation biology and/or remote sensing is desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and two academic references. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project. You may also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

Please quote reference 3211 on your application and in any correspondence about this project.


Application deadline:7th January 2019
Value:This project is self-funded
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: PGR Enquiries