PhD studentship available

This fully funded PhD studentship is available from the Faculty of Engineering and Environment, University of Southampton, UK. Please note this studentship is open to UK/EU students only and other applications cannot be considered.


Title: Can agent based models help determine homeowners behaviour and willingness to pay for protection when living on an eroding coastline?

Coastlines are complex socio-economic-ecological systems containing key housing and infrastructure. Presently, many parts of the UK coast are protected to reduce erosion and flooding, but financially this level of protection cannot be sustained, nor is it always desirable to do so from geomorphological or ecological perspectives. The second generation of Shoreline Management Plans were developed exploring these perspectives. These indicate that many communities presently protected (via central government funds), will be subject to future policies of no active intervention or retreat. Under these conditions, they would erode or flood more frequently, causing long-term degenerative effects and dissatisfaction. Presently, research into this issue is limited, so this PhD aims to use a modelling approach (agent based modelling), to better understand the processes, triggers and mechanisms of how decisions will be made, such as:

  1. Will house prices degrade as policy shifts from protect to retreat?
  2. Will people retire to the coast, if they know that it is not a long-term investment?
  3. How will investment patterns change, and will locals be prepared to fund their own defences?

We are looking for an enthusiastic student who either has is keen to work in a multi-disciplinary research environment, covering modelling, and the natural and human environment. You must have at least a 2:1 in a science/engineering/quantitative discipline, with a MSc preferable. Supervisors: Dr Sally Brown, Prof Robert Nicholls (Engineering and the Environment) and Dr James Dyke (Electronic and Computer Science / Geography).

The successful applicant would be fully funded for three years by the Leverhulme Trust “Understanding Maritime Futures” Doctoral Scholarship at the University of Southampton, and is competitive against other studentships bidding to this fund. Candidates short listed for interview would be expected to submit a 1,500 word essay on one of two topics pre-defined by the funding body and submitted prior to interview. Please note due to funding requirements, this fully funding scholarship will be awarded to UK or EU students only.

For more information or an informal discussion please contact Sally Brown (; +44(0)2380 594796). For further details see:



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