PHD Project

October 4, 2022

Promoting a nature-positive future: how to measure biodiversity to assess habitat restoration success

The Knapp Estate Rewilding Project

Biodiversity is essential for ecosystem services and resilience to global change, but is declining globally. Recent regulatory shifts requiring biodiversity reporting, offsetting and nature positive outcomes are creating a market for private finance of conservation. However, this is being hindered by lack of appropriate measurement methods for biodiversity. The supervisory team, collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders, has received NERC funding to tackle this problem and develop a biodiversity credit standard (hereafter the “Biodiversity Credits Project (BCP)”). The credit standard, allowing credits to be bought to ensure increases in biodiversity, will open up large-scale investment in biodiversity conservation. Our BCP team is working to ensure it delivers real benefits (learning lessons from carbon credits).

The PhD project includes data collection during 2024-25 to supplement the 2023 BCP data collection at the Knepp Estate rewilding project, Sussex, and the Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire. Specifically, the PhD project aims to:

  1. Extend the range of biodiversity metrics considered to include stable isotope analyses
  2. Test how biodiversity metrics respond to changes over time
  3. Test how key taxa respond to restoration management
  4. Develop methodology for (semi-)automated recognition of bird species from audio recordings

Spring-boarding off an established and well-supported research set-up, this PhD will therefore allow a range of novel, important ecology and conservation questions to be addressed, and allow analysis and writing research up for publication from an early stage. It is supported by a CASE partner (Operation Wallacea), providing additional funds and opportunities. The networking and training opportunities are outstanding, and the project supervisors are at the forefront of developing the biodiversity credit market (e.g., one sits on the World Economic Forum’s Biodiversity Credit Working Group). The successful applicant will have the opportunity to be involved in wider research activities beyond the PhD itself, further building their CV.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level, or equivalent, in a subject such as Biology, Geography or Natural Sciences.

We expect a competitive applicant to have or be undertaking a Masters qualification or equivalent, and/or substantial relevant experience. The project may be undertaken on either a full- or part-time basis.

For further details (recommended), please contact Dr Sarah Luke ( and Dr Richard Field ( – we would prefer it if you send your email to both of us, please.