PhD opportunity at ECEHH

3 Year Studentship: Transforming Lives and Landscapes: Health and wellbeing impacts of a wetland environmental improvement programme Ref: 2579

We are seeking to recruit an excellent candidate for this 3-year PhD studentship with the University of Exeter Medical School and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). The doctoral research project will be based within the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School (UEMS) in Truro, with co-supervision from WWT (Slimbridge).


Evidence on the value of natural environments (green/blue space) for health and wellbeing is at an early stage, but growing rapidly. There are indications of health promoting effects of exposure to green/blue space via mechanisms including support for increased physical activity, better mental health, psychological benefits of access to biodiversity and social contact. There are suggestions that environments incorporating water (blue space), both coastal and inland, may be particularly beneficial. Urban green/blue space interventions have the potential to capitalise on beneficial impacts for health and wellbeing, through making physical changes to people’s living environments including access to wildlife. Environmental volunteering may be one means by which community members may gain direct health and wellbeing benefits, although the evidence base is currently quite limited in depth and robustness.

Project aims and methods

WWT’s ‘Transforming Lives and Landscapes’ project is an exciting new venture with local authority (Slough Borough Council), water company (Thames Water) and government agency (Environment Agency) partners. The project, located in Slough, Berkshire, will allow a demonstration of an integrated community wetland scheme incorporating habitat enhancement interventions, sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) with community participation, to enhance community health and wellbeing, civil society, biodiversity, water quality, flood attenuation and other forms of natural capital.

For this PhD, the student will carry out a 3-year programme of research with the following aims:

  1. To map the potential mechanisms leading to community health and wellbeing outcomes of these local scale environmental interventions, with a focus on volunteers.
  2. To design a feasibility study for the evaluation of health and wellbeing impacts of community involvement (volunteering) in local scale environmental interventions and to explore spillover effects on volunteers’ family and friends.
  3. To apply this methodology to the Salt Hill Stream intervention, in order to establish relevant processes and outcomes.
  4. To explore the transferability of the study design to other similar environmental interventions.

The research will proceed with a mixed-methods approach, applying quantitative and qualitative methodologies. These are likely to include an evidence review based on realist methodologies, a longitudinal evaluation of the health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering with the project, and qualitative research with volunteer’s family and friends. The student will be encouraged to engage with various relevant theoretical frameworks, and learn lessons from relevant existing evaluations of environmental interventions.

Relevance & Significance

This project is is directly relevant to WWT interests in the health, wellbeing and wider social benefits of wetlands to promote wetland conservation. The project has wider relevance to environmental interventions in general, an area that is currently under-researched. It provides an excellent opportunity to develop our understandings of the impact that this type of natural environmental intervention might have on community health and wellbeing. As a mixed-methods, interdisciplinary studentship it will provide a broad based research training for the student. The project also relates strongly to ongoing research at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health such as the BlueHealth project (Horizons 2020), meaning that the student will have the opportunity to engage with a highly active research group in this topic area.


The student will be based at the University of Exeter Medical School in Truro, Cornwall, but will also spend regular periods of time at WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, for discussions and information/skills exchange with the supervisor and project staff. There will also be a need for travel to the intervention location in Slough to carry out the research, and potentially additional intervention sites as the project progresses.

Interview date: Monday 27th March 2017

Academic Supervisors:

The student’s supervisors will be Dr Ben Wheeler (European Centre for Environment and Human Health, UEMS), Dr Becca Lovell (European Centre for Environment and Human Health, UEMS) and Dr Ruth Cromie (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, WWT).

Funding Notes:

The studentship will be fully-funded for UK/EU students, including a stipend of £14,296 per annum (based on the full-time 16/17 rate).   Tuition fees will be paid at the UK/EU rate.  Candidates from countries outside the European Union will be liable for the difference between ‘home student fees’ and ‘international student fees’ which was just over £14,000 in 15/16 but is likely to increase slightly each year. Non-EU students who wish to be considered must confirm their ability to pay the international portion of the fee. If selected, financial assurances will be required.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. International applicants must also have IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification).


Application deadline: 8th March 2017
Value: Stipend of £14,296 per annum plus UK/EU fees for eligible students (2016-17 full-time rates)
Duration of award: per year
Contact: UEMS Graduate Admin

How to apply

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).
  • 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.

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