Accounting for Forest Ecosystem Services in Ireland (FOR-ES): PhD Studentship available

An exciting new multi-disciplinary project is seeking to recruit a PhD student. The student will work as part of a team to develop Natural Capital Accounts for specific forest sites in Ireland. These accounts will capture information on forest natural capital STOCKS (the amount, location and condition of forest habitats), and the FLOWS of ecosystem services (in terms of commercial timber production, carbon sequestration, water retention, biodiversity and recreation). The PhD student will assist in creation of these accounts, and in the development of an interactive web-based management scenario tool. This will enable decision-makers to make more sustainable decisions regarding forest management. 

This project will be led by Professor Jane Stout in the School of Natural Sciences in Trinity College Dublin, who will be the primary supervisor for the PhD student. The PhD student will be co-supervised by Dr Catherine Farrell and Professor Yvonne Buckley, also in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity. The PhD student will also work with collaborators at UCD and Coillte.

This PhD is a 4-year structured programme, with an anticipated start date of March 2022. It is available to both EU and non-EU applicants, with an €18,000 annual stipend and a contribution of €6,000 per annum towards tuition fees.

Applicants must have:

  • First class or upper second class BSc (Hons) or MSc in environmental sciences, environmental studies, environmental management, ecology, botany, zoology, biology or similar
  • Knowledge of ecosystem services and natural capital concepts, and approaches to assessment
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent numerical/data analytical skills, including GIS
  • Ability to work in academic team and with industry partners
  • Full clean driving licence, valid for Republic of Ireland.

Application Process

Informal enquiries should be made to Jane Stout via email stoutj@tcd.ie.

Applications can be made by emailing Jane Stout stoutj@tcd.ie by 14th January 2022. Late applications will not be accepted. Applications should include:

  1. A curriculum vitae (including the names of two referees, one of which must be an academic referee).
  2. A cover letter (maximum 1000 words) outlining the applicant’s research interests and why they are suitable for this project.

Interviews will be held remotely by video-link in early January 2022. The successful applicant will subsequently apply to register as a PhD student through the Trinity College Dublin central portal but must meet all requirements for registration in order to be eligible for this studentship. Postgraduate admission requirements are available here: https://www.tcd.ie/study/apply/admission-requirements/postgraduate/. The successful applicant will be required to provide evidence of English language competence following the award offer and before registering.

Exploring social justice in ecosystem restoration

Elaine Marshall has just started her PhD research with Jane Stout (Botany) and Susan Murphy (Geography), School of Natural Sciences. Here she describes what her research will focus on…

Global biodiversity loss and increasing awareness of the multiple values of biodiversity for people, has resulted in an array of mechanisms, actions, policy, legislative and financial incentives for ecosystem restoration. 2021-2030 is declared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, to prevent, halt and reverse degradation of ecosystems worldwide. Efforts such as the international “Bonn challenge” – to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 – will take place in the context of sustainable development decision-making and COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Ecosystem restoration is place-based – interventions in landscapes where people live and derive livelihoods can result in trade-offs and conflicts with existing land uses and land users. It imperative to engage the full participation of local communities around restoration decision-making to promote fair and equitable benefit sharing over the longer term. The natural capital approach frames social-well being within the context of provisioning goods and services from nature, but we seek to build a more inclusive approach, drawing from environmental and climate justice theories, to address the historical eco-centric or anthropocentric dichotomy. We will evaluate and synthesise existing International Development and Ecological Restoration approaches to develop a new conceptual framework that balances ecological, social and economic considerations for restoration, recognising different ideological motivations for restoring and maintaining biodiverse landcapes, and the differentiated impacts of interventions upon different stakeholders. Of particular interest is how restoration effectiveness varies according to the demographic and socio-economic status of recipients (power dynamics, well-being, gender, age, access to education, religion, and race inter and intra-generational differences, gender etc.), and allows us to consider which people and whose views are taken on board when decisions are made, and who is impacted by those decisions.

Methodology

Provisional research questions have been defined in order to enable the social dimensions of ecological restoration to be explored in depth.

  1. What are the most effective incentives underpinning successful ecosystem restoration outcomes?
  2. What are the social justice implications of ecosystem restoration important in ensuring success?
  3. What are the key opportunities to strengthen incentive mechanisms to ensure effective and successful ecosystem restoration?

It is envisaged that a combination of mixed methods approaches inlcuding desk-based analysis and in-field engagement with relevant stakeholders, will be employed. Methods will be refined and developed, taking a global view initially, and then focussing on case-studies for in-depth analysis:

  1. In-depth literature review of incentives for ecosystem restoration and evaluation of their effectiveness where possible; of social justice implications of restoration; the key incentives for ensuring compliance. Peer-reviewed or published (from bi and multilateral funded initiatives, UN, NGO, Academic) and grey literature will be included. Different mechanisms will be recorded and categorised; and social justice, inclusion and participation elements extracted.
  2. Including multiscale policy and regulatory analyses of international conventions around biodiversity and restoration to better understand the place-based specifics of biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  3. Stakeholder identification and consultation with case study communities (to be identified). Questionnaires and semi structured interviews based around key research questions to elicit quantitative and qualitative data on effectiveness, compliance and impacts of established and contrasting restoration initiatives. Robust, felixble methods to allow for field travel / non travel:
    • Expert opinion consultations with key informants, authors and thinkers: donors, conservation and development practitioners, private sector business, to collect their perspectives on what is successful ecosystem restoration.
    • Participatory research in communities or a combination of (in person / remote) focal group conversations and semi structured interviews to explore incentives from historical, gender, intergenerational, ethnic, perspectives; what incentives are in place for costs, benefits, rights, responsibilities, and risk sharing; perceptions of effectiveness of these incentives; barriers to implementation; and other demographic and socio-economic factors perceived as affecting successful restoration.       
  4. Analysis will focus on effectiveness of mechanisms across a range of parameters, enabling recommendations to be made around approaches and incentives for delivering effective, sustainable and ultimately successful restoration outcomes.
  5. Output: Develop a typology of incentives, or new conceptual framework, around environmental rights based and social justice to address different and diverse elements of equity, including distributional (sharing conservation and restoration costs and benefits) and procedural (involvement and participation in decision-making at different levels).

About the author: Elaine has 20+ years of experience managing collaborative relationships for research, impact assessment, communication and policy implementation across the natural resource, rural livelihoods and health sectors. She has an established interest in community based resource management and trade, poverty alleviation, governance and gender empowerment, and has worked more recently on ecosystem restoration and farmer-led interventions for mainstreaming biodiversity on farm. Wider experience includes evaluating climate change mitigation policies on agricultural systems and human health, and opportunities for sustainable energy solutions for health care provision in resource constrained settings. Her first degree was in Agriculture and the Environment, she holds a Masters in Resource Management and she believes that making progress on environmental and sustainable development ambitions relies on the engagement of local communities to ensure that enabling conditions are in place to support effective outcomes at a local scale. She hopes her PhD research will provide an exciting and timely opportunity to bring her experience and interests into a space where components of justice and equity can be more explicitly evaluated.

Researcher in Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital Accounting

Trinity College Dublin is seeking a highly motivated, collaborative researcher, with interests in Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital Accounting, to join the interdisciplinary Farm Zero C project

Farm Zero C is an SFI-funded collaboration between industry and academia, which aims to deliver a range of strategies to help to create a more sustainable and resilient dairy sector. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop a replicable net zero emissions model for dairy farmers. The Farm Zero C team is led by SFI BiObic Centre and Carbery Group, with partners including University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Munster Technological University Kerry, Teagasc and GRASSA B.V. The project builds on previous work at Shinagh Dairy Farm (in West Cork), as a ‘demonstrator’, and will develop tools to be deployed through a technological platform (Climate Neutral App) that will allow farmers to design climate and biodiversity strategies that best suits their needs.

Trinity College Dublin is leading work on habitat mapping and natural capital accounting, and is seeking a researcher to:

  1. Build natural capital accounts (extent, condition and services) at farm level using the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EA) approach. Accounts will focus on extent, condition, and services (carbon sequestration and storage, runoff pollution remediation and aesthetic services), and will be built for Shinagh and 10 farms in the Greener Dairy Programme.
  2. Develop and test indicators for farmland habitat condition and assess the link farmland between habitat condition and service provision for integration into natural capital accounts.  
  3. Work with other members of the Farm Zero C team to integrate accounting into an interactive app-based interface (Climate Neutral App), so that accounts are informative, useful and intuitive to use by farmers.
  4. Write and publish peer reviewed scientific papers and present results at national and international conferences.

The researcher will join the group of Professor Jane Stout in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, who leads the INCASE project developing Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) approaches for Ireland, and who is a lead PI on the Nature+Energy project, developing NCA for the wind-energy industry. As part of the Farm Zero C project, the researcher will also benefit from training and collaboration with Professor Lars Hein at Wageningen University who was one of the main authors of the UN SEEA-EA framework.   

Qualifications and experience required

Candidates must demonstrate the following

  • Minimum 2 years experience (which may include experience gained during a Masters/PhD) in a relevant field, such as environmental sciences, agricultural ecology, ecological economics, environmental resource economics, or related discipline, with an interest in Natural Capital Accounting, and ecosystem services.
  • Research expertise and excellent written communication skills as evidenced by, for example, publications in international peer-reviewed journals
  • Excellent oral communication and team work skills for transdisciplinary collaboration with other researchers and partners in industry
  • Strong organisation skills and self-motivation
  • Driving licence

The following is desirable

  • Understanding of Irish dairy or related agricultural systems
  • Direct project or work experience developing tools for habitat assessment and/or using SEEA-EA approach
  • Understanding of habitat assessment and related policy within the agricultural sector
  • Experience participating in collaborative research projects

Details of the position

Salary

This post is full time 18-24 months’ duration, with an annual salary of €38,632 (gross).

Start date

It is anticipated that the successful applicant will be in place as soon as possible.

Application procedure

Please submit a cover letter outlining suitability for the post and a CV (including details of experience and publications, and the names of two referees) via email to stoutj@tcd.ie.

Applications accepted until the position is filled.

The Cherry on Top? Flies as Alternative Crop Pollinators

PhD student Caroline Ponsonby may have been grounded by Covid-19 and unable to travel to Western Sydney University to start her PhD as planned, but she has been able to examine crop pollination by flies here in Ireland instead.

During 2021, Caroline has been examining cherry pollination, and investigating the role of flies as well as bees as pollinators. She has been determining the diversity of species that visit cherry flowers, looking at the pollen those visitors carry and deposit, and how those visitors behave within the cherry orchards. This will help inform management of pollinators in and around the cherry crops.

Caroline has just won the Western Sydney University Visualise Your Thesis competition with the video below, and now goes on to the the international competition in Melbourne.

Caroline is supervised by Prof James Cook and Dr Jon Finch at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in Western Sydney University and Prof Jane Stout at Trinity College Dublin.

‘FOREST – Reimagining relations with nature’ – Five PhD Studentships available

An exciting new multi-disciplinary project is seeking to recruit 5 new PhD students. Students will work as a team to examine native woodland afforestation, which has become perceived as a key strategy to address climate and biodiversity challenges, and is attracting investment from public and private actors. However, the ecological, social, and financial risks of this are not always well considered. This project, FOREST, will use the increase in forestry in Ireland as a model system to explore the challenges associated with addressing climate and biodiversity issues, and examine potential solutions from a multi-disciplinary perspective. The aim is to develop socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable options. 

PhD 1: Climate justice through restorative development – primary supervisor Professor Murphy (Geography), co-supervisor Professor Denny (Economics). To explore the opportunities and barriers to community participation, social recognition, and fair distribution of the social, economic and ecological costs and co-benefits of offsetting through afforestation in Ireland

Phd 2: Blending nature-based & technology solutions – primary supervisor Professor McCormack (Engineering), co-supervisor Professor Stout (Botany). To examine optimisation of a blended approach, addressing the compatibility of nature-based solutions (long-term forestry) and technological solutions (e.g. solar farms) at different spatial and temporal scales in order to determine options for optimum climate action for Ireland.

PhD 3: Quantitative analysis/integration of metrics – primary supervisor Professor Brophy (Statistics), co-supervisor Professor Stout (Botany). To develop a statistical approach to exploring impacts of native afforestation, including a meta-analysis of ecological data (e.g. role of forests for pollinators in Ireland), integration of different metrics for value (monetary vs quantitative vs qualitative metrics) and methods for scaling individual actions to societal level. This project will also collaborate with the other four FOREST PhD students to develop a multivariate statistical analysis to jointly assess outcomes across the FOREST project.

PhD 4: Perspectives on value and financial incentives – primary supervisor Professor O’Hagan-Luff (Business), co-supervisor Professor Denny (Economics). To explore behavioural and financial incentives for increased forestry (restoration, afforestation, rewilding, offsetting) in Ireland.

PhD 5: Ecological value of new forests – primary supervisor Professor Jane Stout (Botany), co-supervisor Professor Fraser Mitchell (Botany). To determine the ecology and ecosystem services provided by newly planted forests, across a range of sites of different sizes, ages, and tree composition.

PhD students will work as a team and so excellent team working and communication skills are required. Each candidate will produce an independent piece of research in the form of a PhD thesis based on this research project.

ProjectPrimary supervisorContactRequirements
Climate justice through restorative developmentSusan MurphySusan.P.Murphy@tcd.ieMaster’s degree in geography, politics, economics, or other relevant social sciences area of study. Research / field experience in sustainable development research and practice is desirable
Blending nature-based & technology solutionsSarah McCormackmccorms1@tcd.ieMaster’s degree in engineering or natural sciences or a relevant area of study
Quantitative analysis/integration of metricsCaroline BrophyCaroline.Brophy@tcd.ieBachelors (upper second class or higher) or Master’s degree in Statistics, Mathematics or similar quantitative field; experience or interest in addressing environmental challenges desirable.
Perspectives on value and financial incentivesMartha O’Hagan Luffohaganm@tcd.ieMaster’s degree in business, finance or economics
Ecological value of new forestsJane Stoutstoutj@tcd.ieBachelors (upper second class or higher) or Masters degree in ecology, environmental sciences, or similar; experience in ecological fieldwork desirable; must have full-clean driving licence

This project is part of the Kinsella Challenge-Based E3 projects at Trinity College Dublin, and PhD students will have the opportunity to work alongside the other successful projects, particularly in terms of team-building and dissemination events.

The PhDs are all 4-year structured programmes, with an anticipated start date of September 2021.

Application Process

Applications can be made by clicking here…

Late applications will not be accepted. Informal enquiries should be made to the primary supervisor. Completed applications should be submitted via the above link and will require:

  1. A curriculum vitae (including the names of two referees, one of which must be an academic referee).
  2. A cover letter (maximum 1000 words) outlining the applicant’s research interests and why they are suitable for this project.

Applications will be jointly reviewed by project supervisors. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to video-interview. The successful applicant will subsequently apply to register as a PhD student through the Trinity College Dublin central portal but must meet all requirements for registration in order to be eligible for this funding award. Postgraduate admission requirements are available here: https://www.tcd.ie/study/apply/admission-requirements/postgraduate/. The successful applicant will be required to provide evidence of English language competence following the award offer and before registering.

About the Project

FOREST brings together research leaders across Botany, Economics, Engineering, Finance, Geography and Statistics to reimagine our relations with nature. People and nature are not separate – we are dependent on nature as our life support system. The systematic failure of economic, political, and financial systems to take nature into account has resulted in climate and biodiversity crises. Ireland is now seeking to transition away from highly carbon-dependent social and economic practices, towards sustainable practices, systems and behaviours that support the coexistence of flourishing human systems and natural environments.

This project will investigate how to assign value to the natural world to create investment initiatives with ecological benefits, to encourage investors to actively invest in assets with environmental and societal benefits.  It will examine the behavioural aspects and financial investment incentives that can be linked to the protection or restoration of forests.  However, placing a financial value on nature is not enough to preserve it, there must also be policy initiatives, and stronger legal mechanisms which recognise the multiple benefits of forests such as carbon capture, biodiversity habitat, and recreation. The financial industry is beset by a focus on short term gains, caused by performance metrics, remuneration incentives and incomplete measures of value.  Policy supports can to some extent address these market failures by creating incentives which incorporate the long term non-market and socio-cultural benefits of nature. 

To correctly design incentives, an understanding of different perspectives on the values and benefits of nature in the widest sense is key, particularly in terms of impacting on individual and collective action. Actions taken have consequences for environment, people, and economies, but are often only assessed through a single lens. Implementing the right action in the right place urgently requires a new kind of multi-disciplinary dynamic, and a way of integrating data measured on different scales.  This research challenge is inherently multidisciplinary in nature and will be conducted in conjunction with researchers across a range of relevant disciplines.

FOREST will use the increase in forestry in Ireland as a model system to explore the challenges associated with addressing climate and biodiversity issues, and examine potential solutions through a multi-disciplinary lens. It will recruit a team of PhD candidates to study as part of an interdisciplinary team to address complex human-nature relations and the social-economic-ecological challenges and opportunities associated with transitioning away from unsustainable to sustainable development pathways.

Projects are also advertised on findaphd.com – but please apply here

Climate Justice Through Restorative Development (with Susan Murphy and Eleanor Denny

Blending nature based technology solutions (with Sarah McCormack and Jane Stout

Quantitative Analysis Integration of Metrics (with Caroline Brophy and Jane Stout

Perspectives on Value and Financial Incentives (with Martha O’Hagan-Luff and Eleanor Denny

Ecological Value of New Forests (with Jane Stout