Quantifying the marine ecosystem functions and services provided by restoration of biogenic native oyster reefs in European temperate coastal systems


Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Biological Sciences

Start dates

October and February

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded 3-year PhD.

The PhD will be based at the University's Institute of Marine Sciences, located in the heart of the Solent, and will be supervised by Dr Joanne Preston, Dr Sarah Marley, Dr Philine zu Ermgassen and Dr Gordon Watson.

The work on this project will involve:

We are approaching the UN 'Decade of Ecological Restoration' 2021–2030 which recognises the urgent need for ecological restoration to mitigate biodiversity losses, impacts of climate change and to provide the ecosystem resilience and services on which society and human welfare depends.

Restoration of marine habitats, particularly seagrass meadows, saltmarsh systems and shellfish reefs have been identified as key habitats controlling coastal water quality through bioremediation services; providing food security via provisioning services; offering coastal protection by reducing erosion impacts. Additionally these habitats can mitigate climate change as significant carbon sinks via primary production, sequestration and burial.

Native oysters and the reef habitats they create have disappeared throughout Europe and the UK. Globally, over 85 per cent of oyster reefs have been lost. Oysters create biogenic reefs and provide net gains in biodiversity by providing habitats for many other species. The biodiversity gain and wider ecosystem services of restored biogenic oyster reefs has been demonstrated in the USA with large scale restoration projects, however the early stage of European restoration means that we have yet to quantify and value the ecosystem services provided by restoration of O. edulis populations.

The Solent Oyster Restoration Project is one of Europe's largest restoration projects; to date, a total of 69,000 oysters have been restored in a combination of sanctuary seabed sites and a novel 'brood stock' restoration cage system. The next phase is to increase this number to 5 million oysters, and we are seeking an exceptional PhD candidate to be part of a larger team working to achieve this ambitious restoration goal.

Based at the Institute of Marine Sciences, this PhD project provides an exciting opportunity to quantify the benefits of oyster restoration, in terms of net biodiversity gain and ecosystem services provided by this once abundant habitat. This PhD will also provide the metrics to develop European relevant natural capital valuation of oyster restoration.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

2020/2021 entry (for October 2020 and February 2021 entries)

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a

International full-time students: £16,400 p/a

International part-time students: £8,200 p/a

PhD by Publication

External candidates £4,407 p/a

Members of staff £1,680 p/a*

2021/2022 entry (for October 2021 and February 2022 entries)

PhD and MPhil

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a*

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a* 

International full-time students: £17,600 p/a

International part-time students: £8,800 p/a

All fees are subject to annual increase.

PhD by Publication

External Candidates £4,407 p/a*

Members of Staff £1,720 p/a*

If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.

*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021. 

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

You'll need an upper second class honours degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in Marine Biology, Marine Ecology or a related discipline. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We are looking for a talented student with a passion for marine conservation and ecology, with the interpersonal skills to work well as part of a dynamic and collaborative team. You should be confident and willing to conduct extensive field sampling and boat survey work. Ecological data analysis skills are not required but a willingness to develop these is essential.

How to apply

We'd encourage you to contact Dr Joanne Preston at joanne.preston@port.ac.uk to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our 'How to Apply' page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BIOL4731020 when applying.

October start

Apply now

February start

Apply now