Innovation and Evaluation of Interventions to Reduce Marine Plastic Pollution


Innovation and Evaluation of Interventions to Reduce Marine Plastic Pollution


Project Description


Professor Nicola Beaumont (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) contact me

Dr James Clark (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

Dr Trevor Tolhurst (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Project Background

The impact of marine plastic pollution on UK society, economy and environment is poorly understood but likely to be substantial. Extensive research is underway into the sources, distribution and impacts of plastic, but the transference of this research into meaningful governance recommendations remains sporadic. To address this issue this studentship will draw on the wealth of current research, and collaborating with natural and social scientists at PML, UEA, CEFAS, and Defra, will innovate and evaluate a range of intervention strategies to reduce marine plastic pollution.

Research Methodology

This PhD will be primarily based at PML, but with research stays as required at UEA, CEFAS(CCSUS) and Defra. The research is focused around 3 objectives:

i. Review existing policy interventions in the UK and internationally, including an assessment of barriers to, and the social and economic implications of, their implementation;

ii. Quantify sources, types and amounts of plastic in UK waters using both data collection and modelling;

iii. Systematically assess the effectiveness of different interventions to reduce marine plastic pollution, utilising modelling, interview and survey techniques.

The research will directly inform Defra’s 25 year plan, and contribute to future policies and management plans.


This PhD includes training in interdisciplinary research, ecological modelling, scientific data analysis, survey design and stakeholder engagement. The candidate will receive scientific writing mentoring  to lead their own publications. They will be supported to present their work at national and international conferences. The candidate will be embedded in the PML community, ensuring regular contact with modellers, remote sensing scientists, marine ecologists, social scientists, biogeochemists in addition to the PML communications and impact teams. PML is certified to ISO9001 and ISO45001, and the candidate will receive training in health and safety processes and in mental health awareness.

This studentship will be based at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and registered at the University of East Anglia.

Person Specification

The project will suit an exceptional, highly motivated candidate with a background and skills in environmental science coupled with an interest in governance, or alternatively with a social or political science background with an interest in environment.


  • 1. Beaumont N.J., Aanesen M, M. Austen, T. Börger, J. Clark, M. Cole, T. Hooper, P. K. Lindeque, C. Pascoe, K. Wyles (2019) Global ecological, social and economic impacts of marine plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 142, May 2019, Pages 189-195
  • 2. Clark JR M Cole, PK Lindeque, E Fileman, J Blackford, C Lewis et al. (2016) Marine microplastic debris: a targeted plan for understanding and quantifying interactions with marine life. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14 (6), 317-324
  • 3. Walkinshaw, C., Lindeque, P. K., Thompson, R., Tolhurst, T. & Cole, M., 1 Mar (2020), Microplastics and seafood: lower trophic organisms at highest risk of contamination. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 190, 14 p., 110066.
  • 4. Martínez-Vicente V., JR Clark, P Corradi, S Aliani, M Arias, M Bochow et al. (2019) Measuring marine plastic debris from space: initial assessment of observation requirements. Remote Sensing 11 (20), 2443
  • 5. Abate T., T. Borger, M. Aanesen, J. Falk-Andersson, K. Wyles, N. Beaumont (2019) Valuation of Marine Plastic Pollution in the European Arctic. Ecological Economics. In press.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.

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