PhD: Impacts of environmental change on UK coastal ecology for nature based solutions

University of Southampton

Southampton, UK 🇬🇧

Dr Jasmin GodboldProf Martin Solan, Dr Eli Lazarus, University of Southampton; Jessica Taylor, Marine Senior Advisor, Natural England


Nature-based solutions (NbS) to natural hazards and environmental change offer the potential to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems whilst also providing benefits for health, the economy and society. Coastal habitats such as seagrasses and tidal marshes are increasingly recognized for their essential carbon capture capabilities, their ability to attenuate storm surges and accommodate flooding. Whilst efforts are being made to restore these vital habitats significant gaps in understanding the cumulative impacts of climate-driven changes, environmental forcing (e.g., flow dynamics) and biological interactions remain. Understanding multiple stressor imacts on these systems is vital given their potential to provide a more sustainable and resilient long-term solution to coastal sustainability.

This project will focus on 1) understanding how coastal habitats (seagrasses and/or tidal marshes) respond to multiple abiotic drivers (climate warming, ocean acidification, current speed and flow conditions) and biotic interactions (grazer dynamics, faunal sediment reworking) and 2) will assess the implications for supporting NbS strategies and enhancing coastal adaptation plans. Laboratory and field experiments combined with assessments of geomorphology and fluvial dynamics will examine the importance of sediment fauna and flora for coastal protection under varying environmental and climatic contexts.


A combination of laboratory and field experiments will be used to quantify how the presence/absence of key sediment-dwelling faunal species and epibenthic grazers affects the development and structure of coastal seagrass communities. Using our state-of-the-art facilities and well-established experimental protocols, experiments will be conducted under different environmental (e.g. different warming, acidification and/or flow scenarios) and biological contexts (incl. changes in faunal community composition) to determine how these interact to affect the morphology and structure of important UK seagrass species at various life-stages, which could have significant implications for the long-term restoration potential of these important UK habitats.




The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted within the School of Ocean and Earth Science. Specific training will


  1. laboratory-and field-based experimental skills in marine ecology, which include setting laboratory experiments using our state-of-the art facilities and conducting field surveys
  2. experimental design and spatio-temporal data analysis techniques using the R-programming environment,
  3. use of technologies capable of non-invasive quantification of structures, including high-resolution computed tomography, aerial drones and lidar, acoustics and ground penetrating radar
  4. numerical modelling of flow dynamics
  5. image analysis to quantify species behaviour and changes in floral structure using ImageJ and Photoshop

Eligibility & Funding Details: 

Please see for details.

Background Reading: 

Solan et al. (2020) Benthic-based contributions to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Phil Trans Roy Soc B 375: 20190107

De Los Santos et al. (2017) Short-term growth and biomechanical responses of the temperate seagrass Cymodocea nodosa to COenrichment. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 572: 91-102

Lazarus et al. (2016) An evolving research agenda for human–coastal systems. Geomorphology 256: 81–90

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IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development