PhD Studentship: The Illegal Trade of Marine Turtles in the Philippines - Biosciences, PhD (NERC GW4+ DTP Funded)

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Main Supervisor: Prof Annette Broderick
Co-Supervisor: Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth
Co-Supervisor Dr Ana Nuno
Co-Supervisor Prof Brendan Godley
Co-Supervisor:  Dr Heather Koldewey

The illegal international trade in marine turtles for meat, shell and eggs has contributed to global population declines. Demand for these products remains high in South East Asia and marine turtles from the beaches and waters of the Philippines are a key source for this market, which is thought to be on the increase.

Understanding the impact of this trade on marine turtle populations requires baseline biological and socio-economic data that is at present lacking. Working in partnership with the Zoological Society of London Philippines office (established in 2010 and implementing marine conservation projects nationally), this project will assess the status of marine turtle populations and their habitats in the Philippines and quantify the magnitude and drivers of illegal trade. A better understanding of the social-ecological factors related to illegal wildlife trade, a key threat affecting biodiversity and the livelihoods of communities dependent upon those resources, is key for designing and implementing effective conservation interventions.

This project will work at different geographic scales across the Philippines, from macro analyses to in depth studies at important sites. There are four main aims:

  1. Investigate the distribution and abundance of the five species of marine turtles reported in the Philippines.
  2. Assess the threats to marine turtles and their habitats and how that varies across species.
  3. Quantify the direct exploitation and trade routes of marine turtle products and identify the socio-economic drivers of illegal take.
  4. Develop an integrated social-ecological model of sea turtle trade in the region, aiming to inform design and evaluation of conservation interventions.

Methods: A review of peer and non-peer review literature will help compile and publish a national overview. A combination of nesting beach monitoring and in water surveys will be conducted to assess species distribution, abundance and threats.  Remote sensing, satellite imagery and in-water surveys will be used to identify and assess the quality of foraging and nesting habitats and produce habitat suitability models for key species. Socio-economic questionnaires will be used to investigate perceived change in populations over time and to quantify the magnitude and characteristics of the trade in marine turtle products (e.g. target species, use, prices, amounts, routes), profile resource users and understand the importance of turtles for food security. Social-ecological modeling will be used to integrate findings and consider potential conservation implications under different scenarios.

Candidate: Applicants should have a relevant undergraduate degree with 2:1 level or above, and a relevant MSc qualification. Previous experience in ecological and social sciences, interdisciplinary projects and conducting fieldwork in developing countries would be beneficial.

The Case partner, the Zoological Society of London will provide scientific and logistical support both in the UK and in the Philippines where they have an established track record or working with local communities. ZSL-Philippines is a registered foreign NGO, with permanent offices in Cebu and Iloilo, ~40 staff (comprising biologists, community organisers, technical specialists and operations) with good connections to relevant local and national government agencies and implement conservation projects across the Visayas region and northern Luzon.

3.5 year studentship: UK/EU/International tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at the Research Council rate of £14,553 per year

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England