Fully-Funded Bertarelli Foundation PhD International Scholarships in UK

Project Description

The PhD student will join an established team working on the conservation biology of sea turtles across the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) (https://www.marine.science/project/sea-turtle-research/#). The student will work within one or more of the existing projects being conducted by the team, which include:

1. Foraging ecology of sea turtles in the WIO, which is one of the priorities of the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU (https://www.cms.int/iosea-turtles/). This has previously been assessed by stomach analysis (Stokes et al. 2019 https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-019-3584-3).

Now we will begin to explore other approaches for diet analysis including eDNA from swabs of oesophageal entrance and cloaca as well as using animal borne cameras to view turtles as they feed.

Further, we will assess diet using stable isotope analysis (SIA). This will involve sampling potential prey items (encrusting taxa including algae, corals and sponges), as well as taking tiny shell, tissue and blood samples from the turtles for SIA. Samples will then be analysed (mass spectrometry) using established methods in the laboratories at Swansea University.

2. Assessment of nesting numbers in the Chagos Archipelago and comparison more broadly across the WIO and globally. We have assessed nesting numbers by counting turtle tracks on nesting beaches (e.g. Mortimer and Esteban et al. 2020 https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605319001108).

For remote hard-to-visit areas, we are now starting to use camera traps to photograph beaches and hence record turtle tracks.

3. Assessment of changes in the demography of sea turtles across the WIO including changes in body size and reproductive output, using data collected over the last 30 years.

Using long-term data sets, we are exploring how the mean size of nesting turtles is decreasing at site where nesting numbers are increasing, possibly reflecting an influx of smaller, first time nesters. We are developing theoretical models to explore this hypothesis, based on the size of first time versus experienced nesters.

4. Identification of important habitats and assessment of movements of sea turtles across the WIO through the examination of satellite tracking data, including patterns of space use and diving behaviour.

This works the examination of extensive tracking data sets to explore patterns of movement, including utilisation distributions on foraging grounds (Hays et al. 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.05.086; 2021 https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2418).

5. Assessment of the impact of ocean currents on sea turtles movements through analysis of data from ocean current models such as Hycom and Copernicus as well as the tracks of Lagrangian drifters. See for example, Hays et al. 2022 (https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2021.0859).


Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at a first class or 2.1 level in Biosciences or a related subject, and/or a distinction at masters’ level in Marine Biology (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University). See – Country-specific Information for European Applicants 2019 and Country-specific Information for International Applicants 2019.

The candidate should have skills to develop one or more of the areas in the project description. These skills should include being accomplished in data analysis with the ability to manipulate large data sets using R, ArcGIS or other software. Experience with fieldwork and laboratory work is desirable. An ability to organise large numbers of volunteers in the field is desirable.

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 6.0 in each individual component) or Swansea recognized equivalent. Details on the Swansea University English Language entry policy can be found here.

This scholarship is open to international fee eligible applicants only living in one of the following Indian Ocean regional countries: South Africa; Mozambique; Madagascar; Mauritius, Comoros, Tanzania, Seychelles, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Yemen, Oman.


This scholarship covers the full cost of international tuition fees and an annual stipend of £16,062.

Additional research expenses will also be available.


To apply, please **complete your application online **with the following information:

  1. Course choice – please select Biological Sciences / PhD / Full-time / 3 Year / October. In the event you have already applied for the above program previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application; in this event, please email pgrscholarships@swansea.ac.uk where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.
  2. Start year – please select 2023
  3. Funding (page 8) 
  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS118 – PhD WIO’

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • A cover letter including a ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ to explain why the position particularly matches your skills and experience and how you choose to develop the project.
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting English Language requirement (if applicable).
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)

Informal enquiries before the deadline for formal applications are welcome, please contact Dr Nicole Esteban (n.esteban@swansea.ac.uk).

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