New PhD: Blue prescriptions

We have a new fully-funded PhD studentship in partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to commence in October 2019. The PhD is linked to the NERC funded South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP) programme.

The deadline for applications is midnight on the 12th of July. Interviews will be held in the week beginning the 29th of July.

Application details on the University of Exeter Studentship website.

The Blue Prescriptions PhD

The overall aim of the PhD project is to improve understanding of what works, from multiple stakeholder’s perspectives, in using wetland visitor centres and reserves for site-based social prescribing or ‘blue prescribing’.

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The PhD project will focus on how outdoor sites, including wetland visitor centres and open-access wetland nature reserves, can be used to promote health through nature based social prescriptions and related mechanisms. ‘Nature on prescription’ is a relatively widely offered referral activity and is generally provided on an ad-hoc basis through local partnerships. This project will explore how the ‘Nature on prescription’ process might work best, through which mechanisms, for which health outcomes, and in what environments. The project will focus on wetlands but will produce findings of relevance to similar activity in a range of natural environments.

The key research questions are:

  1. What are the perceived health and wellbeing benefits of visits to a wetland visitor centre or nature reserve?
  2. What are the ‘active ingredients’ of a wetlands based social prescribing programme?
  3. What are the important conditions for a successful, mutually beneficial social prescribing partnership between a site owner and a healthcare provider?
  4. What practical guidance and support can/needs to be given to visitor centre and reserve managers to support interaction with social prescribing programmes?

The PhD will use a broadly qualitative design. The student will be encouraged to consider the merits of different research frameworks, such as the use of realist methodologies, in selecting the final design and methods.

Context of the studentship

The successful student will join a thriving group of researchers focusing on the role of the environment in promoting health and wellbeing at ECEHH UEMS. The PhD links to the H2020 BlueHealth project led by Prof Lora Fleming on blue space interventions for health and wellbeing, and to the MRC and Defra funded projects on the development of  nature-on-prescription group intervention for people with mental health conditions led by Dr Ruth Garside.

There is significant interest in the potential of social prescribing to help address common mental health conditions. The Department of Health and Social Care recently provided funds to support innovation in social prescribing and Defra’s new 25 Year Plan for the Environment sets out how the department will support nature based nature-based social prescribing for mental health.

The student will have the opportunity to interact with the South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP) programme. SWEEP is a partnership of three research institutions (Plymouth University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and led by the University of Exeter), funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), to deliver economic and community benefits whilst also protecting and enhancing the South West’s natural resources.

Details of the studentship

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 £15,009 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 years of full-time study to commence in October 2019.

Academic Supervisors

Dr Rebecca Lovell and Dr Ben Wheeler, University of Exeter Medical School

Partner Supervisors

Dr Jono Reeves and Dr Ruth Cromie, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge


European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, College of Medicine and Health, Truro Campus, Cornwall, with time spent at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Bristol.

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 discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 7.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

Visit the University of Exeter PhD studentship site for application links. In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.

  • Your 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)
  • Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

If you have any questions about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150. Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor Dr R Lovell

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