Citizen science, biodiversity and urban environments

A quantitative and qualitative study on the inclusivity and impacts of participation in urban citizen science research

Introduction

An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE Bristol. The studentship will be funded by UWE Bristol's Dean's Society, Science and Health PhD Studentship. Ref: 2022-JAN-HAS08.

The expected start date of this studentship is 1 January 2022.

The closing date for applications is Sunday 5 September 2021.

About the studentship

Background

Biodiversity loss is a critical global issue; within the UK 41% of species have declined since 1970 and 17 out of 20 of the Aichi biodiversity targets for halting biodiversity loss by 2020 were not met. Reversing such declines requires evidence based strategies, which in turn necessitates monitoring data, and large scale public awareness and participation.

Citizen science is seen to be both an opportunity for participants to contribute to the scientific process and to gain something in return. Citizen science has an extensive history in fields such as natural history, archaeology, and astronomy, however the tools of social and digital media have particularly increased its expansion as a technique. Nonetheless, citizen science is often criticised for reaching particular types of participants (male, economically independent), with questions raised as to how it can be conducted safely, ethically, with high data quality and participants adequately recognised within the process.

Urban areas are rapidly expanding; 68% of people globally are projected to live in urban areas by 2050. Given that access to nature positively impacts human health and wellbeing, urban areas need to be managed to promote biodiversity and the engagement of urban residents with nature. There is therefore an urgent need to better understand the potential for citizen sciences use in urban contexts, alongside a more diverse set of participants.

This project aims to critically evaluate the use of citizen science for monitoring biodiversity and engaging the public within urban environments. The findings will inform the design of future citizen science schemes to improve outcomes both in terms of data collected for scientific research and for engaging participants in future conservation actions.

Methods

The PhD will focus on the City Nature Challenge (CNC), an annual 4-day international bioblitz. You will use quantitative modelling techniques to identify spatial and temporal patterns in public engagement in the CNC, as well as to identify key drivers of spatial variation in urban biodiversity. Furthermore, you will use participant surveys and qualitative interviews to ascertain demographic, motivational and behavioural change aspects associated with engagement in urban citizen science. Thus, you will develop techniques in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. You will have access to UWE Bristol modules, in order to develop an understanding of techniques, which may not currently be in your skills set.

Partnerships

The project will be supervised by Dr Bethan Hindle (Centre for Research in Biosciences) and Dr Clare Wilkinson (Science Communication Unit) and will be in partnership with the Natural History Consortium (NHC). CRIB is committed to solving contemporary environmental challenges, such as biodiversity loss, habitat disturbance and sustainable food production. SCU has an international reputation for its research, practice and teaching on science.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Dr Bethan Hindle (Bethan.Hindle@uwe.ac.uk) or Dr Clare Wilkinson (Clare.Wilkinson@uwe.ac.uk).

Funding

The studentship is available from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £15,609 per annum.

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years.

Eligibility

Applicants will ideally have a:

  • minimum of 2:1 in relevant subject (e.g. Biological Science, Environmental Science, Conservation, Social Science or closely related subject)
  • interest in developing data analysis skills (e.g. either some experience using R or willingness to learn) 
  • interest or qualification (e.g. MSc Science Communication) in science communication and/or public engagement.

Applicants with questions about their eligibility are welcome to contact the supervisory team.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted, use the reference number 2022-JAN-HAS08. Applications which do not include a studentship reference number cannot be considered for shortlisting.

Supporting documentation: you will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form. Applications which are incomplete at the application deadline will not be considered for shortlisting.

References: you will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Sunday 5 September 2021.

Further information

Interviews will take place on Friday 29 October 2021. If you have not heard from us by that date, we thank you for your application but, on this occasion, you have not been successful.