Project code



School of Biological Sciences

Start dates

February and October

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This 3-year self-funded PhD will be based in the School of Biological Sciences and will be supervised by Dr Gordon Watson, Dr Paul Stebbing (Programme Manager for Aquatic Non-native Species Research, CEFAS) and Dr Steve Mitchell.

The work on this project will:

  • Produce an A. senhousia Invasion Species Management Strategy for UK and European policy makers
  • Use survey techniques to assess the current extent of on the UK Channel coasts
  • Undertake population dynamics assessments to calculate invasion stage
  • Assess impacts on the function of benthic habitats and commercial species
  • Assess invasion potential using hydrodynamic modelling for larval dispersal
  • Perform a GB Non-native Risk Assessment and generate management strategy

Non-native species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity globally, and cost the UK economy billions of pounds per year in damage and control. They also have ecosystem-changing effects on protected habitats and species, and our globally connected world continues to deliver new species into UK waters. The most-recent is the Asian date mussel (Arcuatula senhousia), in the Solent in 2017.

A. senhousia is a highly successful invasive species having colonised intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats in America, Australia and the Mediterranean. In regions previously invaded, this fast-growing and highly-fecund species forms mats of >1500 mussels m-2.

The impacts on the colonised benthic habitats are extremely significant with dramatic declines in commercially-important bivalves and benthic community abundance reported. It also inhibits eelgrass (Zostera) rhizome growth, especially in recovering populations with low plant density.

A. senhousia grows on artificial structures such as rope and concrete pilings, and because of this, the threat to UK and European shellfish aquaculture cannot be understated. The UK is now at a time-critical moment when understanding the potential spread and impacts of this species is essential to assess the risks to UK benthic habitats and the blue economy.

This project will provide the essential baseline information to generate full risk assessment and management assessments for the species and ultimately a management strategy for policy makers.

The successful candidate will have opportunities to acquire a diverse set of skills including macrofaunal sampling and identification, hydrodynamic modelling, GIS mapping and assessments of benthic functional traits. You’ll also work closely with other relevant agencies including the Solent Forum, Natural England and The Southern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Agency and be part of the vibrant invasive species and genome science Groups within the University.

You'll have access to the Graduate School Development Programme and Department Postgraduate Researcher Training. Expected career opportunities would be academic research as well as conservation and marine resource management for government agencies, NGOs and environmental consultancies in the UK and beyond.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

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).

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 Accordian Panel

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area
  • 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

How to apply

Please contact Dr Gordon Watson ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Biological Siences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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.

Please note, to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BIOL4780219 when applying.