PhD Studentship: Does vegetation increase the coastal defence function of sand dunes?

Loughborough University

Start date: October 1st 2017

Closing date: January 23rd 2017

Interview date: Week beginning February 13th 2017


Primary supervisor: Dr Jon Millett

Secondary supervisor: Prof Joanna Bullard

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by the NERC CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership to start in October 2017. The project will be based in the Department of Geography at Loughborough University.

Project Detail:

Coastal areas support high population densities and are the location of significant infrastructure. The proximity to the sea, however, makes them vulnerable to coastal flooding. These impacts are predicted to get worse in the future due to sea level rise and increased storminess. Coastal ecosystems can provide significant flood protection, which might mitigate some of these climate change impacts. Our understanding of the degree of protection provided by coastal ecosystems is, however, incomplete and very variable. It is assumed that vegetated dunes provide better coastal defence than unvegetated dunes, yet the evidence for this is largely untested.

This PhD will combine ecological and geomorphological measurements to explore whether the amount and type of dune vegetation on frontal dunes increases the amount of coastal defence service the dunes provide, and will determine the relative contribution of vegetation compared with other geomorphological factors. The student will undertake fieldwork at a range of sites (e.g. Northumberland, Lincolnshire or Norfolk on the UK east coast; North Wales on the west coast), to measure sand dune morphology, vegetation cover and type, and storm damage. The student will use these data and existing regional-scale data (e.g. aerial photography) to construct a statistical model linking geomorphology, vegetation and environmental factors to the extent of the defence function. They will work closely with Dr Laurence Jones at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Bangor. This provides the potential for excellent cross-over between the fundamental (at Loughborough University) and applied (at CEH, Bangor) aspects of the project.

Find out more:

For further information on this project, please see the main CENTA website ( or contact Dr Jon Millett (

Entry requirements:

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Earth Science, Ecology or Environmental Science. A Master’s degree and/or experience in a related area associated with the research will be an advantage.

Funding information:

The studentship is for 3.5 years, which is intended to start October 2017. It provides a tax-free stipend of £14,296 per annum (2016/17 rate) for the duration plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and a research training support grant of £8,000. Due to funding restrictions, only students with UK/EU fee status will be considered for this opportunity. For further information on studentship eligibility, see RCUK Terms & Conditions.

Contact details:

Name: Dr Jon Millett

Email address:

Telephone number: +44(0)1509 222739

How to apply:

To apply:

Please quote CENTA-LU11 when completing your online application.

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Midlands of England