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Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity Recruitment

 

Why we are recruiting

Profile photo of Director of Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity

The Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) aspires to stimulate a profound shift in environmental thinking, recasting 'biodiversity loss' and 'ecosystem degradation' perspectives into a more complex, realistic, and nuanced picture of Anthropocene change.

Our interdisciplinary approach to understanding, interpreting and responding to the challenges of the Anthropocene will help identify opportunities to increase the future sustainability of our planet, steering us towards what might be regarded as a good Anthropocene.

Seven PhD projects are open to apply to, with a total of six studentships available. The projects are available across a range of disciplines and are all connected by the theme of Environmental Knowledge. Relevant research areas in the theme of Environmental Knowledge include, but are not limited to:

  • How knowledge develops
  • How knowledge is converted into action
  • Incomplete knowledge
  • The representativeness of knowledge
  • The durations of knowledge
  • The politics of environmental knowledge

By hosting projects within a range of perspectives relating to a common theme, it is our aim that successful students will form an integrated cohort with shared academic interests. You will interact and communicate with each other and the wider LCAB academic community to develop interdisciplinary thinking and skills, which we believe are vital to addressing the complex challenges of the Anthropocene. The projects are:

Professor Chris Thomas,
Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity

Our research areas

The Centre’s core research will develop an improved understanding of biodiversity gains; how humans are causing, responding to, and sometimes benefitting from those gains, and how human responses in turn affect subsequent biodiversity change.

We will use a combination of methods from multiple disciplines within the Centre's four Research Programmes to address the following key issues:

  • Biodiversification: Understanding how human impacts and biological processes underpin changes to biodiversity and ecosystems. Tackling radical questions about the growth of biological diversity and rates at which new species are coming into existence.
  • Philias and phobias: Identifying the causes and consequences of varied human attitudes to the growth and loss of biodiversity. Considering personal, historical and cultural circumstances and points of view which influence societal responses to these changes.
  • Utility: Establishing both the benefits and harms we experience from human-altered biodiversity and novel ecosystems. Evaluating the socioeconomic, political, geographical, historical and cultural circumstances under which these changes exist.
  • Moulding the future: Integrating knowledge to foster further positive gains in biodiversity, without compromising human wellbeing or risking 'past' biodiversity. Furthering understanding how we can foster beneficial increases rather than just attempting to halt the losses.

Why we work here

We value the participation of every member of our community and want to ensure that LCAB is an enjoyable place to work. LCAB provides a friendly, supportive, collaborative working environment and advocates flexible working to encourage a healthy work/life balance. We welcome applications from people of any and all backgrounds, and are very happy to discuss and accommodate any individual needs.

Six PhD studentships are available across seven projects around the theme of Environmental Knowledge. LCAB will provide students with a supervisory team to support their research and offer a wide range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers in order to develop both their own research and their interdisciplinary skills.

A brand new work space designed in collaboration with LCAB will provide an area which caters for individual and collaborative research as well as social space for relaxed and informal get togethers.

The University of York

Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity

LCAB researches the changing relationship between humanity and the natural world, and how we might maintain and develop a sustainable Earth. The Centre represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between multiple departments at the University of York, the University of Sherbrooke, the Australian National University and the University of St Andrews. LCAB recognises biological gains as well as losses, and identifies the circumstances under which changes are perceived as positive or negative. It aims to understand and inform society’s response to these changes.

LCAB and the University are committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community - a place where we can all be ourselves and succeed on merit.

The University

Founded on principles of excellence, equality and opportunity for all, the University of York opened in 1963 with just 230 students. In 2019 it is the centre for over 18,000 students across more than 30 academic departments and research centres. In over 50 years we have become one of the world's leading universities and a member of the prestigious Russell Group.

The University has consistently been recognised as one of the leading Higher Education Institutes and is one of just six post-war universities which has appeared in the world top 100. The University of York has won six Times Higher Education (THE) Awards and five Queen's Anniversary Prizes, including two in Computer Science.

We are proud of our association with Athena SWAN, holding twelve awards in support of women in science, with gold awards for Chemistry and Biology as well as a University-wide bronze award.

Of 154 universities that took part in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014, the University of York ranked 14th overall and 10th on the impact of our research. The University is consistently in the top ten UK research universities and attracts over £60m a year of funding from research alone.

Centred around the picturesque village of Heslington on the edge of the city of York, our colleges are set in an attractive landscaped campus. With a compact and easy to get around design, York enjoys a safe, friendly atmosphere. The campus offers a wealth of facilities, which includes bars, shops, theatres and concert halls all within easy walking distance.

Find out more about the University of York

How to apply

We welcome applicants from any relevant disciplinary background and encourage you to approach the topics from your own perspective.

As well as being a member of LCAB students will also have a home department which is most appropriate to their research. Applications should be submitted to the relevant home department with the project title entered into the research proposal field. The home department for the open project is determined by your lead supervisor.

Please note you must enter Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity as the source of funding when prompted with: How do you intend to finance your studies.

Candidates will be asked to submit a:

If you would like to apply for more than one role, please complete a separate application for each.

Key dates

  • Application deadline: Monday 11 January 2021
  • Anticipated interview dates: February 2021
  • Start date: October 2021

This studentship covers UK fees for 4 years and a tax-free stipend to match the UKRI's minimum rate for 2021/22 (estimated £15,860 per year) for 3.5 years. Non-UK citizens are welcome to apply but must pay the difference between the international and the UK fee rate themselves. Find out more about fees.

Take a look at some Frequently Asked Questions about these studentships.

Currently recruiting

Seven Postdoctoral Research Associate positions are available in biodiversity change, covering maths, science, social science and the humanities. Post-holders will develop and conduct both independent and collaborative LCAB research. In addition to being a member of LCAB, they will also be a member of a University department appropriate to their research.

PhD in Sustainable agriculture as a battlefield of knowledge

A PhD studentship is available to investigate different voices, priorities and knowledge around sustainable agriculture and their impact on farming systems and biodiversity conservation. A broad comparative approach will be taken, considering conservation agriculture in maize systems in Africa, rice-fish co-cultures and upland swidden agriculture in SE Asia, with fieldwork focused on a single system and location. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts in human-environment relationships (Lindsay Stringer) and environmental governance (Richard Friend).

This research project will apply a multi-scale political ecology lens and asks:

  • How do different approaches to sustainable agriculture interact with more traditional farming systems, support land user empowerment and learning, and integrate multiple environmental knowledges?
  • How do policies, institutions and knowledges combine in specific environmental, biodiversity, technological, gender and socio-cultural contexts to shape discourses, practices and experiences of sustainable agriculture?
  • Are experiences of positive livelihood and biodiversity outcomes from dominant approaches dependent on particular combinations of environmental knowledge and the interactions of particular groups with farmers?

Potential field sites in Africa/Asia will enable the student to work with local university partners, local government and international development organisations.

The student should have experience in environmental social sciences or environmental sciences, alongside a grounding in qualitative and quantitative methods. This project takes a political ecology approach, requiring knowledge of environmental and human systems. The student will draw on a wide variety of literature and methods from disciplines as diverse as ecology, development studies and social anthropology.

LCAB will provide you with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will support you with additional training as required.

Apply for PhD in Sustainable agriculture as a battlefield of knowledge

PhD in Knowledge, understanding and the demand for ivory

The illegal wildlife trade is a key driver of biodiversity change. A PhD studentship is available to analyse ivory demand from biological (supply) and marketing (demand reduction) perspectives. Through fieldwork, the student will collaborate with organisations that have run demand management or social marketing campaigns to evaluate their success in changing audiences’ knowledge, beliefs and behaviour. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts in this field, Colin Beale and Victoria Wells.

Working closely with international conservation organisations, the student will explore key questions including:

  • What makes a successful social marketing campaign in conservation, where success is increased knowledge and changes in beliefs and behaviours?
  • Does social media amplify the effectiveness of campaigns?
  • How sensitive are the rates of illegal activity to fluctuations in demand: what is the potential for campaigns to improve conservation outcomes?
  • How should conservation funds be prioritised between interventions at source sites, at international borders or on demand reduction campaigns, considering both the conservation benefit and ethical implications?
  • Fieldwork will be conducted in Hong Kong, mainland China and Nairobi.

The project will suit a student with an interest in conservation and marketing open to a wide range of methodologies and approaches. They will have, or be willing to gain, skills in social marketing, social media data analysis and analysis of economic and ecological data from elephant range states. They will need to have excellent communication and collaboration skills, sensitivity to ethical concerns and an ability to identify and comply with best practice when dealing with human data about illegal activities.

LCAB will provide you with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will support you with additional training as required.

Apply for PhD in Knowledge, understanding and the demand for ivory

PhD in Environmental knowledge, sustainability and tropical ecosystems

A PhD studentship is available to understand how knowledge of the environmental benefits of sustainable palm oil and soy practices affect consumer and producer perceptions and decisions. Using interdisciplinary approaches, the student will evaluate the extent to which current sustainability practices will succeed in protecting biodiversity in these hyper-diverse tropical ecosystems where these crops are produced. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts in this field, Jane Hill, Lindsay Stringer, Bob Doherty and Chris West.

Through a range of methods, including international fieldwork, the project will:

  • Review sustainability practices, stakeholder roles and how knowledge of their effectiveness for biodiversity affects implementation and compliance;
  • Examine how stakeholder knowledge of sustainable supply chain initiatives affects choices by business and consumers of which products to purchase/source, and from whom;
  • Determine farmer perceptions of benefits/disbenefits of sustainability practices and trade-offs between yield, management and biodiversity.

This project will suit a student with a background in ecology, environmental or social sciences. It will require quantitative skills, and an ability to critically analyse the evidence for biodiversity benefits of sustainability practices. The student will develop and apply skills in questionnaire design and analysis, participatory and stakeholder engagement/knowledge exchange methods, and socio-economic methods. The student will carry out ecological field work, testing ways in which sustainability practices enhance biodiversity, and using satellite forest-cover data to quantify deforestation patterns in landscapes with/without high take-up of sustainability certification, and test biodiversity benefits of Zero Deforestation Commitments (ZDCs).

LCAB will provide you with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will support you with additional training as required.

Apply for PhD in Environmental knowledge, sustainability and tropical ecosystems

PhD in Statistics, computing and environmental knowledge in the 20th Century

A PhD studentship is available to explore the contributions to environmental knowledge and innovations in farming made by applied scientists based at agricultural research stations in Britain and its colonies between 1920 and 1970. Statistics and computing became key tools for the study of ecology during the course of the 20th century and this project will unpack the motives for developing these tools and the assumptions that underpinned their use. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts in this field, Sabine Clarke and Calvin Dytham.

Key research questions include:

  • What is the relationship between problem-solving in agriculture and the development of new quantitative methods of analysis involving statistics and computing between 1920 and 1970?
  • What is the relationship between agricultural research and ecology in Britain?
  • What was the relationship between environmental knowledge and the ambitions of government for increasing productivity in farming in Britain and the British empire?

The student will use the archives of agricultural research stations and British scientists, and relevant publications to map the contexts and networks that were important for the production of new techniques for analysing data and their relationship with ecological and agricultural knowledge in the mid-twentieth century.

This project would suit a student with an interest in history (of statistics, computing, ecology or agricultural research) or ecological/environmental science methods and interdisciplinary working. It also has potential for thinking about the ways in which ecologists communicate their methods (not just their findings) to a wider public audience, a key issue in building trust in science amongst society.

LCAB will provide you with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will support you with additional training as required.

Apply for PhD in Statistics, computing and environmental knowledge in the 20th Century

PhD in Sensory environments c1500 - c1950

A PhD studentship is available to explore the relation between historical contexts and the creation of knowledge in textual, visual, and recorded media linked to the environment and biodiversity. Despite the recent development of sensory studies and sensory history, we know relatively little about the varying ways in which the senses have been trained, focused and used to fashion environmental knowledge, and about the ways in which sensory repertoires vary between cultures and over time. Through developing case studies this project will address these gaps. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by leading experts in perceptions of past environments (Mark Jenner), olfaction research (Asifa Majid) and human-animal relationships (Amanda Rees).

Research questions may include:

  • Did European knowledge of the environment between c.1500 and c.1950 become increasingly dependent upon sight as influential theorists of natural history and chemistry have suggested?
  • To what extent do different cultural groups know, sense and thereby inhabit their environments differently?
  • To what extent have environments been modified according to different sensory aesthetics?

You will develop the focus of your project with your supervisorial team according to your geographical, chronological and methodological interests. You will primarily use sources held by libraries, archives or galleries, though you could also use interview material.

You will be an independent researcher with a keen interest in how humans sense and interpret their environments. This project can be developed to reflect your skills, experience, language competence and interests.

We welcome applications from people with a background in history, history of science, literature, history of art, psychology, linguistics, music, anthropology, sociology or sensory studies.

Apply for Sensory environments c1500 - c1950

PhD in More or less: understanding the trade-offs of increased resolution and complexity in environmentally-extended trade models

Global trade is complex, as are the ecological systems underpinning human activities. Increasing environmental pressures, and international pledges and commitments to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function, create urgent need for quantitative methods effectively linking consumption and ecological impacts.

This studentship needs a candidate with strong quantitative skills and passion for understanding and working synergistically with the natural world. Exploring interactions between temporal, spatial and sectoral heterogeneity, scale and complexity within mathematical trade models, you will describe how this complexity filters through to model predictions, and affects output utility, confidence and robustness.

You will:

  • comprehensively survey individual elements of different approaches, models and metrics;
  • assess how these can be rigorously combined;
  • inform practical outcomes, e.g. land use change and biodiversity indicators, methods for capturing and representing supply chains and commodity flows, and effective knowledge exchange.

This research will clarify the relative trade-offs across these processes, illuminating where the biggest biodiversity gains can be achieved, and helping ensure efforts and outputs are accurate, usable and actionable.

You will utilise computational and mathematical techniques to interact with a suite of datasets, methods and tools, implementing and running scenarios, and comparing and analysing datasets, indicators and metrics across scales and resolutions. You will collate information and data, convert these into real-world contexts and consider policy-relevant frameworks and settings.

You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB), University of York, supervised by Simon Croft (mathematical and computational experience in trade models) and Jon Pitchford (interdisciplinary expert in understanding complexity and uncertainty). Several colleagues within LCAB and SEI-Y have proven track records in this area, and you will join a thriving research community with a range of opportunities to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and support with additional training as required.

Apply for PhD in More or less: understanding the trade-offs of increased resolution and complexity in environmentally-extended trade models

PhD in Environmental knowledge - submit your own research proposal

An opportunity is available to submit your own research proposal for a fully funded PhD studentship that fits within the theme of Environmental Knowledge, and complements our predefined projects. We welcome applicants who share our vision and want to undertake innovative and exciting research as part of the LCAB community.

You should identify a suitable academic to help develop your research proposal before submission. As LCAB is interdisciplinary, the academic can be from any relevant department. Please contact us for guidance on suitable project ideas and to put you in touch with an appropriate potential supervisor.

When making your application, you should make your research proposal as specific and clear as possible. It should be no more than 1500 words and include the questions or hypotheses to be addressed, the sources to be consulted and the methods to be used. Research projects should, at the outset, be designed to be capable of completion (including submission of the thesis) within the period of funding provided.

The focus of your work will be an independent research project but you will have the opportunity to interact with other PhD students and researchers across departments and institutions, and we will support you with additional training as required.

  • Supervisors: Any relevant to your chosen project
  • Home department: Same as lead supervisor

Please read the guidance notes on this particular choice before making an application.

Apply for PhD in Environmental knowledge - submit your own research proposal

 

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