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PhD Studentship: Coconut & Conservation: Environmental and Social Sustainability of Coconut Farming in Tropical Countries

University of Kent

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Canterbury
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,668 stipend plus fees and research funding
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 31st October 2022
Closes: 11th January 2023
Reference: STRUEBIG_K23AS

Qualification Type: PhD – funded by NERC/ARIES

University of Kent – Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation

Supervisory team contact Dr Matthew Struebig

Scientific background: Coconut farming contributes to the livelihoods of millions of people in tropical countries, but rarely features in discussions about biodiversity threats or sustainability. Preliminary work identified coconut as a crop with potentially significant impacts on wildlife because palms are mainly grown on tropical islands and/or coastal areas with high levels of species diversity and endemism. While coconut is generally grown at smallholder scales, cumulative areas are vast. Yet, compared to other tropical crops such as oil palm, very little is known about coconut’s roles in deforestation and biodiversity loss, or livelihoods and human well-being. This PhD will address this through an interdisciplinary study of coconut farming impacts on wildlife and people.

Research methodology: The student will implement some of the first research in Indonesia to quantify the biodiversity value of coconut farms relative to other relevant land-uses (e.g. corn, oil palm, rice). They will conduct biodiversity surveys of birds and/or other indicator taxa using standard methods, and have the option to investigate differences among various production practices.

Training: Working with established social scientists at Kent, Surrey and Universitas Indonesia, the student will also investigate the contributions of coconut farming to the incomes and livelihoods of local communities. They will document the extent to which people are reliant on coconut compared to other crops and livelihood options, and characterise levels of multidimensional poverty in coconut farming villages. They will be able to adapt the case-study to their strengths to help understand the role coconut farming has in – for example – environmental incomes, food security and/or poverty alleviation. Surveys will be undertaken by local researchers, but the student will need to design the study and analyse the data.

Efforts are underway to map coconut farms across the tropical world. The student will combine this map with their ecological and social datasets and other map products (e.g. IUCN range maps, national census data) to help estimate the scaled-up effects of coconut farming on wildlife and people. The research will help inform changes to practices in sustainability certification standards via a partnership with Chester Zoo.  

Person specification: The successful candidate will be familiar with ecological and social dimensions of sustainability, have strong analytical skills (including GIS), and ideally some experience of tropical fieldwork.

Candidates should apply by 12:00 am (UK time) on 11th January 2023 using the online application form.

For more information regarding eligibility etc., please see the ARIES doctoral training programme website.

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