Funded PhD research studentship – Oceanographic and Ecological interactions with an offshore, long-line mussel farm

Globally, the development of offshore aquaculture has the potential to provide the most sustainable source of protein to feed our growing population. 

In 2013, the University of Plymouth commenced a robust annual monitoring study of the UK’s 1st large scale offshore mussel farm in Lyme Bay, in the south west. 

To date, the study has been valuable in demonstrating the interactions of the farm with the surrounding ecosystem, showing the potential to increase habitat value for the benthos and mobile commercially valuable species. This project will build on the annual monitoring with a particular focus on the oceanography and plankton.

The PhD student will be expected to undertake fieldwork using a range of fishing vessels and sometimes in challenging conditions. 

Therefore, experience of working at sea is essential. In addition to monitoring oceanographic variables such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, cDOM, plankton will be seasonally collected and analysed with the support of the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey at the Marine Biological Association. 

Annual benthic impact surveys will adopt methods already developed at the farm including ROV, towed, baited, and midwater video and grabs. Potential topics for investigation will include:  

  • effects of the mussel farm on oceanography and ecosystem processes and services
  • functional change of benthic and commercially targeted species
  • diversity of rope biodiversity and associated Fish Aggregation Device effects. 


The studentship will have a four year duration and will cover full-time Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,777 per annum. 

The position is open to UK and EU citizens with appropriate qualifications who have been resident in the UK for three years. 

EU citizens who have not been resident in the UK for three years may qualify for a fees only scholarship.

Selection criteria

Applicants should be highly motivated, have strong personal and communication skills and have a relevant undergraduate degree at 2:1 or above, and ideally an appropriate MSc or MRes qualification.

An oceanography and marine fieldwork background is essential. Candidates are expected to be able to demonstrate an existing awareness of oceanographic principles and analysis techniques (ideally Matlab) or, if previous studies have been in a different area, evidence of their ability and willingness to learn aspects of a new scientific discipline. 

Previous experience in plankton ID, video, statistical and GIS analysis would be beneficial. Candidates must also hold a UK driving licence.

How to apply

General information about applying for a research degree at the University of Plymouth.

You can apply via the online application form by selecting ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Aimee McNeillie and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Marine Science and Engineering.

Please submit a cover letter, CV and the University application by noon on 9 October 2018. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in October. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. 

Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by December 2018 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.