Human Geography: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership Collaborative PhD Studentship at Swansea University: Vegetation Fires and their Management: from Perceptions to Policy

  • Full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend
  • Deadline: May 4, 2018
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Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2018. The following collaborative studentship is available in the Human Geography pathway of the Wales DTP:

‘Vegetation Fires and their Management: from Perceptions to Policy’ (working title)

In collaboration with Brecon Beacons National Park, Natural Resources Wales, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Forestry Commission England, and Welsh Water.

Project description:

The project aims to understand the character and consequences of UK society’s perceptions of vegetation fires, both as natural hazard (wildfires) and land management tool (managed burning). This is a pressing issue given changes in UK uplands in the 21st century. Fire as management tool is fiercely debated. Scientists, land managers and Fire and Rescue Services [FRS] support its use for reducing wildfire risk, and maintaining grazing land and biodiversity. However, wider public perception is seemingly negative and resistant to its use, possibly influenced by biased media reports. The project steps back from this debate to obtain nuanced understanding of how different groups experience, understand and react both to threats from wildfire and to managed burning.

Vegetation fire research has overwhelmingly focused on fire behaviour and ecology, with few studies of social understandings. This is a significant gap. Vegetation fires are a major phenomenon in 21st century UK with increasing impacts due to changing landscapes. Wildfires are a public safety and environmental risk: FRS annually respond to ~70,000 vegetation fires, with direct costs of ~£55M. Furthermore, whilst UK uplands have lost agricultural economic functions, their ‘consumption’ values rise continuously, bringing increasing numbers of (urban) people into fire-risk areas. Such risk is being exacerbated by climate warming plus shifts towards forestry and decreased grazing. Notwithstanding this, fire has been used for centuries for land management and, as agricultural abandonment increases, provides a cost-effective maintenance tool. We require much better understanding of societal perceptions of fire to guide land management in minimizing future conflict.

The project builds on a successful pilot study that focused on the Brecon Beacons National Park. Its broader reach and scope make it ideal for a UK-wide study. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods will identify and analyse the content of and differences within stakeholder groups’ and the wider public’s perceptions of vegetation fires. Statistically analysed surveys of urban and rural residents will provide generalised understanding. Qualitative approaches, such as key-informant interviews and contextual ‘walking’ interviews, will provide insights into the everyday place of vegetation fires. Target groups include land-management bodies, policy-makers, farmers, leisure users, and the public.

Besides academic insights into UK society’s perceptions of vegetation fires, project outcomes will inform land managers and policy-makers on promising approaches to wildfire prevention and future use of managed burning. Overall, the project combines both intellectual and applied ambitions.

Eligibility

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master's degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a ‘+3’ award.

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements.

Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.

Benefits

Studentship awards commence in October 2018 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £14,553 per annum for 2017/18 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, overseas institutional visits and other small grants.

A ‘1+3’ studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A ‘+3’ studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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