PhD: Exploring inclusivity factors for climate resilient Blue-Green Infrastructure via FindAPhD

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project


Within the context of the climate emergency, regions and communities will need to adapt to more frequent occurrences of flood events that put homes, businesses and services at risk. Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI), such as ponds, swales and urban river corridors, is one way for urban areas to adapt to future extreme climatic events. Conversations around BGI installations typically focus on the need to manage urban water and protect the environment. However, there is increasing exploration of the multi-functionality of BGI to address: climate resilience; flood management; biodiversity habitat; human health and wellbeing; leisure opportunities and community resilience. BGI presence can improve air and water quality; increase carbon storage; enhance flood and temperature regulation; reduce noise; and improve efficient use of resources, biodiversity and amenity value as well as support communities in adaptation to climate change. These factors in turn impact human health and wellbeing1. The importance, for health and wellbeing, of living near green spaces (neighbourhood proximity) has been widely explored across multiple countries. Emerging evidence suggests that a more intentional engagement with nature (interaction that purposefully focuses on rather than treats nature as a backdrop for another activity2) can foster improved health and wellbeing3. For urban communities, intentional engagement may require more effort as accessible and high-quality blue-green nature settings are unequally available. Widening access to make more inclusive opportunities involves understanding barriers that exist to access.

To date, urban planners have largely focused on the physical aspects of BGI, neglecting what is required to ensure a well-used amenity is designed. Design of BGI features has long been the domain of engineers, yet to fully explore the multi-functionality of BGI, new methods which fuse physical environmental processes with social science understanding of context are required. Current approaches couple physical and natural environment understanding. However, to bridge the gap to valuing health and well-being that will engage with communities whilst exploring effects of engineered changes, a truly interdisciplinary approach is required.

The Project

This is a highly interdisciplinary project that will utilise a mixed methods approach – drawing from physical and social sciences – alongside novel applications of virtual immersive experiences to explore climate resilient BGI that addresses inclusivity and health and wellbeing. The overarching aim is to understand and enhance the inclusivity of BGI for climate resilience. The project will include fieldwork (travelling to possibly remote sites) to collect samples and engage with communities (to be identified). The project has four objectives:

1. Bring together natural and social elements of BGI to understand the factors which influence inclusivity and health and wellbeing drivers. This will include;

  • (a) Developing flow (blue) and habitat (green) indicators which link to health and wellbeing factors.
  • (b) Developing bespoke virtual immersive experiences using the above to investigate inclusivity.

2. Co-develop BGI guidelines that encourage community access and build climate resilient BGI;

3. Develop inclusivity framework with and for designers, planners, and policy makers; and,

4. Disseminate framework and virtual immersive tools.

Supervision and training

The project will be supervised by Prof. Lindsay Beevers (Heriot-Watt University), Dr. Katherine Irvine (James Hutton Institute [JHI]) and Dr. Claire Hardy (JHI). The student will be hosted at Heriot-Watt University with periodic time at the JHI (Aberdeen campus) and on case study fieldwork location (to be determined). Specific training for the PhD will be planned based on background of the successful candidate and may include: (i) social science methods (qualitative and quantitative approaches); (ii); experimental design and data analysis; and (iii) modelling (iv) hydrology sampling. The student would be encouraged to discuss research plans and outcomes with other Hydronation Scholars and relevant projects within the Hydro Nation Scholarship Programme.

The successful candidate will have a degree in a Geography, Social Science or a related discipline with experience using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods. An aptitude and interest in engaging with people and working within an interdisciplinary team would also be advantageous.

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline. Applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form (available here, their Curriculum Vitae and cover letter to Prof L Beevers ([email protected] ) by the final submission deadline of 7th January 2022.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by Heriot Watt University. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 27th or 28th January 2022


1 Mijic & Brown, 2019. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.22773.12002, 2 Keniger LE, Gaston KJ, Irvine KN & Fuller RA. 2013.DOI: 3 White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al 2019.