PhD opportunity: Prediction long-term coastal impacts of climate change and application to coastal change management areas in south west England

Director of studies: Professor Gerd Masselink

Co-supervisors: Dr Tim Scott, Dr Tim Poate, Dr Kit Stokes, Dr Steven Essex and Mr Justin Ridgewell.

Project description

Coastal change management areas (CCMAs) are defined as: 'An area identified in Local Plans as likely to be affected by coastal change (physical change to the shoreline through erosion, coastal landslip, permanent inundation or coastal accretion).' If such areas are robustly defined and future impacts of climate change are accounted for in their definition, CCMAs are potentially very influential tools to help identify coastal adaptation strategies to climate change. Not only can they assist with the demarcation of coastal development exclusion or buffer zones, but can also guide Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) policy. This 3-year PhD project aims to develop a methodology for identifying CCMAs for the Devon and Cornwall, south West coast of England, in a robust and science-based manner, with the ultimate goal to increase consideration and implementation of CCMAs within coastal planning and management frameworks.

To meet the objectives of this multidisciplinary PhD, the following tasks are identified: (1) literature review to provide international context of the project; (2) assessment of current and future coastal erosion rates; (3) assessment of current and future coastal flooding risk; (4) definition of CCMAs based on coastal erosion and coastal flooding risk in partnership with the Environment Agency; and (5) evaluate the implementation of CCMAs in coastal planning in partnership with Devon/Cornwall council and/or local coastal councils.

The successful candidate will be part of the Coastal Processes Research group, an internationally recognised group of researchers, specialising in field studies and numerical modelling of coastal processes. It is customary for all members of the group to participate in each other’s field campaigns, resulting in organic transference of data collection/analysis skills and subject-specific knowledge. More specifically, this PhD project provides the opportunity to gain a range of advanced skills as the project includes spatial data analysis, numerical modelling and climate adaptation. The PhD student will also spend a significant amount of time interacting with external partners (Environment Agency, district and coastal councils), further augmenting their knowledge and skills.


We are seeking a PhD candidate with a background in marine science, physical geography, geology or coastal engineering, and with strong numeracy, communication and inter-personal skills, and with a strong affinity for the marine environment. Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification.


The studentship is supported for three years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,009 per annum. 

Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £12,285 per annum).

How to apply

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

Please apply via the online application form which can be found at: and click ‘Apply’.  

Please mark it FAO Aimee McNeillie, clearly stating that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV, research statement, and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact Aimee McNeillie

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 31 May 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview mid June. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 June 2019 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.