Future-proofing English Shellfish Exports: Ecology, Catchability and Sustainability of the Common Whelk Fishery


Future-proofing English Shellfish Exports: Ecology, Catchability and Sustainability of the Common Whelk Fishery


Project Description


Dr Tom Cameron (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex) contact me

Dr Phil Hollyman (British Antarctic Survey)

Dr Michelle Taylor (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Project Background

The commercial whelk fishery in the southern North Sea has expanded significantly over the last decade and is of significant economic importance to the region. While there is interest in maintaining or expanding the fishery sustainably, there is a lack of information regarding the organism’s life-history, population connectivity and key fishery and stock data, making informed management and recovery difficult. This project will look to address these data gaps and propose sustainable shellfish fishery management.

Research Methodology

The overall aim of the PhD is to characterise the variation in maturation, catch rates and catchability, stock size and the habitat use of the common whelk within the southern North Sea. Life history and catch data will be used to examine population dynamics, fishery effort and harvest rates [1,2]. You will investigate current proxies for population structure looking at diet, temperature and habitat effects on growth using stable isotope analysis of shells and trace element analysis of statoliths [2,3], comparing this to emerging results in our lab on population genetic structure [4].  You will investigate the effects of whelk behaviour across different habitats using underwater video on pots and from fisheries independent trials to understand catchability. You will explore the use of innovative technology in providing catch and return data to develop better stock models with a range of government stakeholders [1]. This project provides ample fieldwork opportunities at sea with CASE partner Kent & Essex Inshore Fishing & Conservation Authority as well as opportunities to work with fisheries stakeholders in the industry and government to feed into policy [e.g. 5].


This project provides an outstanding opportunity for anyone interested in applied marine science with training and research experience from the supervisor team and their wider networks in animal physiology, population ecology and applied fisheries science leading to high employability benefits in a growing fisheries sector.

Person Specification

Candidates should have a background/suitable degree in biology, ecology, or marine policy. Experience working in the fisheries sector and working with stakeholders would be desirable. Candidates with experience or developing expertise in fieldwork, working on boats, with quantitative biology skills and ability to drive in the UK is desirable but not essential.


  • 1. Lown, A., Dyer, R., Hepburn, L., Cameron, T.C. (2020) From individual vital rates to population dynamics: an integral projection model for European native oysters in a marine protected area, Aquatic Conservation (accepted an in press)
  • 2. Hollyman, P.R., Chenery, S.R.N., Leng, M.J., Laptikhovsky, V.V., Colvin, C. N. & Richardson, C.A. Age and growth rate estimations of the commercially fished gastropod Buccinum undatum. ICES journal of marine science, 75(6), 2129-2144.
  • 3. Hollyman, P.R., Leng M.J., Chenery, S.R.N., Laptikhovsky, V.V. & Richardson, C.A (2018) Statoliths of the whelk Buccinum undatum: a novel age determination tool. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 598, 261-272. doi: 10.3354/meps12119.
  • 4. Morrissey, D.A. J.Goodall, R. Castilho, T. Cameron, and M.L. Taylor (*in collaboration with KEIFCA) ddRAD reveals no population structure in a commercially exploited marine gastropod, Evolutionary Applications, in review
  • 5. Allison, S., Hardy, M., Hayward, K., Cameron, TC. and Underwood, GJC., (2020). Strongholds of Ostrea edulis populations in estuaries in Essex, SE England and their association with traditional oyster aquaculture: evidence to support a MPA designation. The Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 100 (1), 27-36

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.

Applications are Open

To apply, Send an email to Emma Revill  by 23:59 12th January 2021 with:

  • your CV (including contact details of two academic references)
  • a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the PhD
See other ARIES studentships at University of Essex