Governing effective marine protected areas: Backing the blue belt through governance structures

Governing effective marine protected areas: Backing the blue belt through governance structures

Project Description


Dr Gina Yannitell Reinhardt (Government Department, University of Essex)

Dr Thomas Cameron (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Dr Christopher Sweeting (Marine Management Organisation)

Project background

Environmental sustainability is an important current issue. Marine conservation is key to sustaining our natural and environmental resources. The conservation of marine species such as porpoises and flame shells, or marine features such as seagrass and chalk reefs, often takes place through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Some MPAs perform quite well in preserving and sustaining resources, but others perform much worse. Why is that?

This studentship will assess MPA governance structures to determine how and whether they condition MPA conservation performance. Decades of research have explored how best to manage and preserve collective resources. If you would like to be part of developing a solution for marine conservation through rigorous research, please apply!

Training and training environment, and research skills

You will be based at the University of Essex (the 2019 University of the Year), with supervisors in the Government Department (the highest ranked politics department in the UK), the School of Life Sciences, and co-supervision from Marine Management Organisation. Along with outstanding Social Science training as part of the SeNSS and ARIES DTP programs, you will receive genuinely interdisciplinary training in policy analysis, political economy, marine social sciences, and marine and environmental policy. Your doctoral education will include interview methods, machine learning, computerised text mining, and discourse analysis, and you will be able to meet policy makers and practitioners in regional, national, and international fieldwork locations. You may undertake an internship at a UK government or NGO organisation.


The successful applicant’s tuition fees will be paid and, if eligible, they will receive tax free living costs of approximately £1,250 per month throughout the studentship. Eligibility rules can be found on the SeNSS website. They will also be able to apply for up to £5,000 additional funding to support their research.

Studentship structure

This studentship is available on a 3.5 or 4-year basis, depending on training needs. It is also available part-time or full-time.

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills

Essential: bachelor’s degree and an interest in or across Public or Environmental Policy, Marine or Conservation Biology, International Development, Political Science, Economics, or Data Sciences.

Desirable: passion for research in the natural world and the pursuit of effective public policy.


First, apply for a place to study at Essex by 20 January 2020.

Second, make a separate application to SeNSS for studentship funding by midday on Monday 2 March 2020. Please email for access to the online SeNSS application form. Please read the application guidance notes before completing the online application form.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • 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 (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

Applications are open

Apply now