funded PhD available at University of Stirling

Determining the impact of climate change on the sustainability of tourism investment and long-term strategic planning for environmental management in Gabon

Deadline for applications: 15th March 2013

A funded PhD project is available in the African Forest Ecology Group at the University of Stirling, UK, exploring the links between climatic variation, tree phenology and primate and large herbivore abundance in Gabon. The project has a strong applied focus, aiming to inform on the sustainability of tourism and long-term strategic planning for environmental management in Gabon. The successful applicant will be supervised by staff based both at Stirling (Dr Nils Bunnefeld, Dr Alistair Jump, Dr Daisy Dent) and those based in Gabon (Dr Kate Abernethy, Dr Kathryn Jeffery) and will work in close partnership with The Gabon National Parks Agency (GNPA).

This PhD project will draw on a unique long-term landscape-scale dataset of tree phenology coupled with data on abundance of primates (gorillas, mandrills), large herbivores (elephants) and climate. For local communities dependent upon particular ecosystem services, such as non-timber forest products and tourism, a lack of prediction prevents the development of adequate resilience to change in the rural economy. It also acts against external investment in the national economy by adding insecurity to long term business planning. Thus, particularly for a country with a large tourism development potential such as Gabon, understanding how environmental changes affect interacting biotic components of tropical forest systems is highly important to facilitate a fundamental change in the resilience of rural livelihoods and the dependent local rural and national economy. The project will centre on two main components: 1) understanding the effect of climatic drivers on tree phenology and the interaction with primate and other large herbivore dynamics, 2) building resilience in the local rural economy, given its dependence on tourism linked to primate and non-primate large herbivore presence and abundance and to a growing use of non-timber forest products.

More detailed information is available by contacting Dr Nils Bunnefeld at For information on the African Forest Ecology Group see

Applicants must hold a minimum of a Bachelors degree at 2:1 or above (or equivalent) in a related subject. You must be highly numerate and ideally possess relevant experience in large dataset handling and analysis. The project will involve periods of fieldwork and work with GNPA and tourism industry partners in Gabon. Consequently, you should also be confident and both independent and a good team member. Knowledge of French or willingness to learn French is important.

This project is funded by the University of Stirling and Gabon National Parks Agency. The successful student will receive a stipend of £16590 per year for up to 4 years and fee payment up to the EU/UK fee level only.
You should send a current CV and a covering letter to Dr Bunnefeld at the email address above by 9 am UK time on Friday 15th March 2013. The covering letter must detail clearly your motivation for pursuing this research project and set out how your experience makes you suitable for the post. You should also arrange for two referee statements to be sent directly to Dr Bunnefeld by the closing date. Interviews will take place in the period 8th-10th April 2013.


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