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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental SciencePostgraduate study

PhD Studentships

We offer a few different routes to beginning your PhD study.

Develop your own PhD proposal

If you have your own research idea, we can help you to develop it. To begin this process, you will need to find a prospective PhD supervisor working in a field, whose research interests align with your own. A prospective PhD supervisor can also let you know more about the opportunities for applying for scholarships that may be available.

Doctoral Training Centres

Doctoral Training Programmes (i.e., through a 'Centres for Doctoral Training' or a 'Doctoral Training Partnerships') aim to train tomorrow's leading researchers to address problems for the benefit of society. Doctoral Training Programmes at Southampton provide PhD training and encourage interdisciplinary research in a defined area.

At the University of Southampton, PhD funding is available from the following sources. This is not an exhaustive list. In each case, please check the website of the DTP for specific dates and details of applying:

A funding proposal from the relevant funder and a University of Southampton postgraduate application is required in each case. Your application requires the involvement of your prospective supervisor, so please get in touch with them to help guide you through the process (see below a list of prospective supervisors). 

Other sources of PhD funding

There are many trusts, charities and foundations (e.g., Leverhulme Trust) that award either full or partial funding for postgraduate study. The School of Geography and Environmental Science could potentially offer match funding. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and are very competitive, so it’s important that you make enquiries with a staff member who you think works in a field closest to your interests and apply as early as possible.

There are also many international government PhD scholarships. Each year we recruit international students from China and India and elsewhere with government scholarships.

Prospective supervisor-led proposals

In addition to developing your own student-led PhD proposals, academic staff also occasionally propose project ideas on specific topics that they wish to supervise. Some of these gain prior-approval from the Doctoral Training Centres. These are called ‘supervisor led’ or ‘project led’ proposals. Please check on the DTP webpages and below if any projects are currently being advertised (they are typically advertised between October and November so please check back again if you don’t see anything available now).

If interested, please read the relevant details on how to apply:

FindAPhD website

More generally, academic members of staff have general and specific areas that they would be happy to supervise a PhD project on. These are summarised below. Please check that you meet the school and relevant funding criteria for an eligible and competitive application. You can use the information below to help guide your enquiries into what projects you would be interested in, or what you could propose, and who would be best placed to supervise. Please do e-mail the relevant staff member as soon as possible if you are interested in developing a project based on their proposed topic idea or another project idea in their field of expertise and interest.  

Dr Patrick E. Osborne

General areas: spatial analysis; applied ecology; urban systems; geographic information science; statistical and machine learning applications.

Specific topics: spatial modelling of urban environmental stressors (e.g. sound, heat, light) and impacts on health; species distribution modelling; agent-based modelling of species movements and interactions; tracking movements of visitors at attractions.

Dr Nick Clarke:

Available to supervise projects using qualitative or mixed methods in political geography, urban geography, and cultural geography. Particularly interested in project ideas in the areas of governance and citizenship, including local governance, localism, urban policy, town twinning, citizens’ political understandings and participation, ethical consumption, the politics of Brexit, governance of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mass Observation. More detail on research interests and PhD projects supervised to date can be found here:

Potential opportunity for an interdisciplinary project between Geography and English (and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities more broadly) on ‘The afterlife of a “Cities of Culture” competition’, comparing the experiences of the short-listed cities – the winner and losers – in the years following the competition outcome, and asking the question: winner takes all?

Dr Sam Cockings:

General areas: geographic information systems/science; population mapping and modelling; environment and health.

Specific topics: automated zone design; output geographies for official statistics including Census; space-time representation of population; space-time population models for environment and health applications; novel geographical data sources and linkage.

Prof. Steve Darby:

General areas: Fluvial Geomorphology; Process sedimentology; Palaeo-hydrology.

Specific topics: Morphodynamics of submarine channels affected by turbidity currents; Geomorphological evolution of large deltas; Climate fluctuations and bank erosion on large rivers (e.g., Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Mekong); Monsoon variability and flood risk on the mighty Mekong River.

Prof Felix Eigenbrod (SOGES) and Dr Alessandro Sorichetta (SOGES):

Specific topic: We are interested in using spatial datasets to understand the large-scale (i.e. global, continental) environmental impacts (i.e. deforestation, flooding) of urban to rural human migrations, but also ‘counter-migrations’ – movements from urban areas back to the countryside. This work would build on Prof Eigenbrod’s expertise in understanding spatial socio-ecological trade-offs across scales, and Dr Sorichetta’s expertise in spatial demography/migration and urbanization modeling within the WorldPop Programme. We are looking for a highly motivated student with a keen interest using GIS/Remote Sensing, programming (i.e R, Python), and (spatial) statistics to answer aspects of these issues of particular interest to them (for example, how counter-urbanization affects forests).

Prof. Jane Hart:

General areas: Glaciers and Climate change; Environment Sensor Networks; Quaternary glacial sedimentology.

Specific areas: An investigation of stick-slip basal motion using wireless subglacial probe; Debris flow prediction models: integrating data from an environmental sensor network.

Brian J. Hracs:

General areas: economic geography, creative economy, urban geography qualitative methods.

Specific topics: 1) the dynamics of creative labour/entrepreneurship 2) the locational choices of creative talent 3) processes of value making, curation or intermediation in creative markets. 

Prof. Paul Hughes:

General areas: Holocene peatland development; Recent degradation of fen and lowland bogs in Britain and Northwest Europe; Holocene peat-based palaeoclimate reconstruction with special interests in Atlantic Canada and Patagonia; Holocene cryptotephras of north America and Europe.

Prof. Pete Langdon:

General areas: climate change, past & future, environmental change.

Specific areas: palaeolimnology, eutrophication, chironomids, lakes, palaeoecology & geochronology.

Dr Shengjie Lai:

Health risks are closely linked to human behaviours. As the world has been interconnected following the growth of the Internet, information from surrounding environment and social networks may shape people’s perceptions and guide their behaviours simultaneously. For instance, the attitudes of one’s peers on social media towards COVID-19 may persuade or dissuade them from complying with interventions (e.g., social distancing and vaccination). This project aims to explore how the social network nudges human cognition and behaviours, interacting with physical networks such as mobility or urban topology, and exerts an influence on health-related policy making and implementation. 

Dr Julian Leyland:

General areas: Landscape Evolution Modelling, fluvial geomorphology, Terrestrial Laser Scanning.

Specific topics: Developing landscape modelling tools for simulating terrestrial-marine process interactions; Use of Terrestrial Laser Scanning to study fluvial forms and processes; GIS based analysis and modelling of historical river channel evolution.

Prof. Dave Martin:

General areas: Population geography, geographical information science, geography of health, quantitative secondary data analysis.

Specific areas: Census methodology; automated zone design, post-census population data systems; population surface modelling, time-space representation of population, novel geographical data linkage, health care accessibility measurement.

Dr Jo Nield:

General areas: Modelling of aeolian landscapes and processes; Terrestrial laser scanning applications in aeolian process dominated environments.

Specific topics: Temporal and spatial patterns in salt pan surface roughness; Modelling the influence of moisture in aeolian environments, combining the feedback processes both of surface and water table inputs with vegetation response; Modelling yardang pattern formation; Surface moisture influences of sediment input to dune development: application of terrestrial laser scanning.

Dr Booker Ogutu:

General areas: Remote sensing of terrestrial ecosystems, land cover and land use change, impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems.

Specific areas: vegetation productivity modelling, crop production/yield modelling, estimation of carbon sequestration and modelling, vegetation biophysical variables from remote sensing data.

Dr Andrew Power:

General areas: Geographies of disability; geographies of voluntarism; geographies of family care; qualitative methods.

Specific topics: Welfare, austerity, activism, social care provision, and local authority commissioning of support. Relational geographies of the voluntary sector including experiences of staff and volunteers and organisational dynamics including how organisations sustain their funding and adapt innovative practices. The informal sector of family care, and how it is embedded in local networks of support from neighbours and peers.

Dr Suzanne Reimer:

General topics: economic geography; feminist geography; cultural economy.

Specific topics: design & commodity networks; design, creativity & knowledge; masculinity, craft & skill; the home & home consumption; local labour market dynamics; gender, caring work & emotional labour; design & mobilities, including moto-mobilities.

Dr Gareth Roberts:

General areas: Remote sensing of natural hazards, vegetation monitoring and characterisation, land cover / land cover change.

Specific topics: Remote sensing of biomass burning (burned area mapping, carbon emissions estimation, fire regime characterisation, post-fire vegetation recovery).

Dr Emma Roe:

General areas: Ecological citizenship; Food consumption, food retailing, agriculture; Human-animal relations; Human-microbial relations; Care practices and commercial supply chain practices in laboratory animal research; Human - non-human relations, particularly in relation to antimicrobial resistance in health or agriculture/food retail contexts; The politics of the sentient being; Care practices for the sentient; Theories of matter and materiality in the social sciences.

Dr Marije Schaafsma

General areas: environmental economics, monetary valuation, ecosystem services assessments.

Specific areas: relationship between wellbeing and ecosystem services, poverty and impact of environmental change, choice experiments, value chain analysis, value mapping, trade-offs between sustainability objectives, freshwater benefits, (dis)benefits of tropical deforestation.

Prof. David Sear:

General areas: Reconstructing climate change, human migration and ecosystem change in the tropical Pacific Islands using lake sediment and peat archives. Geomorphic processes in river ecosystems; How do we restore damaged river ecosystems? Understanding centennial to millennial scale coastal change.

Specific topics:  Did climate drive colonisation of Polynesia? What are the long term dynamics of the South Pacific Convergence Zone and how does these influence ecosystems on Pacific Islands? Can we reconstruct Atlantic salmon populations from lake sediments? Can we use lake sediments to extend our flood records for risk management? What is the role of fine sediments as vectors of water quality deterioration in Pacific island ecosystems? Modelling fine sediment storage and release from gravel beds. Interactions between large floods and floodplain infrastructure.

Prof. Justin Sheffield

General areas: Large-scale hydrological variability and interactions with climate; Hydrological extremes such as floods and droughts; Hydrological prediction and predictability; Early-warning of hydrological hazards; Climate change and hydrological impacts; Trend detection and attribution; Satellite remote sensing of the hydrological cycle; New sensors for hydrological monitoring.

Specific topics: Is the hydrological cycle intensifying? What is the spatial-temporal footprint of flood and drought risk? How will drought and floods change in the future under climate change? What is the role of human activities in the water cycle? How can we best manage water resources for water, food and energy security?

Dr Dianna Smith:

General areas: Health geography, social inequality, secondary data analysis of large datasets, small-area estimation of health behaviours and health inequalities.

Specific topics: Geographies of health inequalities, related to health behaviours including diet, smoking, alcohol consumption; food insecurity and food poverty and appropriate policy responses; synthesis of administrative and routine datasets to measure spatial health inequalities.

Dr Jake Snaddon:

General areas: Exploring the hunter's perspective of sustainable hunting in the context of forest and agricultural ecology, and the use of acoustics to monitor sustainable harvest of wild meat; and the barriers and constraints from the conservation practitioner’s viewpoint on using acoustics to monitor hunting.   

Prof. Peter Sunley:

General areas: Economic geography, regional and local economic evolution. Specific areas: Dynamics and evolution of industrial clusters; Path dependence in regional economies; Innovation systems and high-technology path creation; Design firms in global production networks; Comparative studies of creative and design clusters; Regional and urban economic resilience; Corporate social responsibility and industry governance; The local embeddedness of social enterprise; Geography and welfare-to-work policy.

Prof Emma Tompkins:

General areas: Human dimensions of climate change adaptation; co-delivery of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Disaster risk reduction/ hazard management in relation to weather and climate hazards, esp. tropical cyclones, floods, sea level rise, drought and storms. Perceptions of risk and hazards, and behavioural change in relation to climate and weather hazards. Governance and institutions for managing climate change adaptation. Managing environmental change/hazards/risks on small islands.

Specific questions: How can we document adaptation for the Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement? How have perceptions of risk affected adaptive behaviours? What are the drivers of resilience and post-disaster recovery on islands? Can we document island development trajectories and resilience to external shocks using ‘big data’ sources?

Dr Julie Vullnetari:

General areas: migration and development; development geographies of the global South; geographies of socialist and post-socialist development; social geography; feminist geographies; geographies of gender and ageing; qualitative methodologies.

Specific topics: migration, care and ageing; internal and international migration; development; social and cultural dimension of migrants’ remittances; Eastern and Southern European migration; Romani mobilities; borders and migration controls; home; socialist everyday life; visual ethnographies; oral history.

Prospective students with ideas for PhD projects in any of my research areas should feel encouraged to contact me for an informal chat.

Dr Eleanor Wilkinson:

General areas: Feminist and queer theory; the politics of affect and emotion; precarity, slow violence and welfare reform; racial inequality and justice; care and intimacy; housing, homelessness and home; qualitative methods; sensory and creative methods; participatory action research.

Specific topics: geographies of loneliness; feminist activism; racial justice and urban life; gender, race and housing insecurity; shadow infrastructures of care; LGBTQ+ intimacies; queer world-making.

Please feel free to contact me if you have an idea for a potential PhD project.

Prof. Ian Williams:

Specific topics: 
InSpiring the TRansition to a low carbon society Using Music (STRUM) 
Climate Change is a pressing global challenge. Furthering our understanding of the individual, cultural, political and scientific dimensions is essential to drive the social, structural and systemic change that is required. Finding mechanisms to engage and motivate the public towards effective behavioural change is hugely challenging. Scientists encounter difficulties in communicating research findings to the public in an expedient way. In order to communicate scientific findings in a way that is accessible to the public, new methods are needed. One rarely utilised approach involves using musical compositions and performances alongside intergenerational influence to raise public awareness, educate and change attitudes through evoking emotional responses (see: The STRUM project aims to expand this concept to engage and inspire the public to accelerate the transition to a low carbon society and economy by partnering academics with professional musicians and school children to raise awareness, provide inspiration and generate behaviour change. 

Quantifying the benefits of reuse

The Reuse Network is the UK’s only membership body dedicated to charitable and voluntary reuse organisations. It works collectively to reduce poverty, tackle waste issues and social exclusion, supporting >1.5 million low-income households annually. However, even though reuse is - apart from waste prevention - designated within the waste hierarchy as the prime waste-management process, barriers and questions remain outstanding. Reuse is dependent on goods being collected and channelled to this activity. The sheer variety of products on the market means that the diversion and preparation of products for re-use will remain a labour-intensive activity for the foreseeable future. Societal preferences, peer-pressure and desire for a slick, designer lifestyle prevent some potentially reusable items from being reused in practice. Economic barriers impede re-use of technically reusable items – the low price of new goods, a lack of developed markets for some used goods. There is an ongoing debate about when the potential benefits of purchasing a new, more energy-efficient appliance outweigh the benefits of reuse. And critics say that reuse is simply delaying time to disposal. With poverty and exclusion rapidly growing in the UK, and reuse a potentially vital tool in tacking climate change and resource over-consumption, there is an urgent need for research into the economic, social and environmental benefits; lessons learned from practitioners; barriers; enablers and challenges as well as future directions for reuse-based charitable organisations. This study will investigate these issues and produce a comprehensive tool to quantify the benefits/impacts of reuse for trialling, evaluation and rolling out across the Reuse Network.   

Dr Jim Wright:

General areas: Health-related applications of GIS (particularly those with a developing country focus); Environmental management applications of GIS (particularly those with a developing country focus); Linkages between drinking water and health.

Specific topics: Linkages between climate change and water-borne disease.

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