fully funded epsrc & swtra phd scholarship: toads in the hole: designing new gully pots to reduce environmental impacts of road infrastructure on amphibians
Swansea university

fully funded epsrc & swtra phd scholarship: toads in the hole: designing new gully pots to reduce environmental impacts of road infrastructure on amphibians

United Kingdom 31 Jan 2021


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State University
Host Country
31 Jan 2021
Study level
Opportunity type
Eligible Countries
This opportunity is destined for all countries
Eligible Region
All Regions

This scholarship is funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and South Wales Trunk Road Agent (SWTRA).

Start date: October 2021


Amphibians are globally declining and are estimated to be the most severely threated group of vertebrates. One of the main drivers of these population declines is human alteration to environments, which can kill amphibians indirectly (by reducing habitat suitability) or directly. In the UK, roadside gully pots (or ‘gullies’) used to provide drainage are one direct contributor to amphibian deaths, to the extent that they have been implicated as a factor in population declines and localised extirpations.

Small animals fall through the grating of the gullies and are trapped within, resulting in death from drowning or starvation unless rescued. The animals entrapped are predominantly toads, Bufo bufo (80-90% of entrapped amphibians) but also smaller numbers of other amphibians and small mammals. Given the large spatial scale of the UK road network, the problem of gully pot entrapment has major implications for wild animal welfare and conservation.

This project proposes to capitalise on the combined expertise in amphibian behaviour (Dr Kevin Arbuckle) and engineering of drainage systems (Dr Patricia Xavier) to work with the successful candidate to develop a new gully design to address this need. Using our industry partner links at South Wales Trunk Road Agent (SWTRA) we will be able to both design new prototypes in the lab (optimising hydraulic efficiency and amphibian escape) and field test them at sites identified and managed by SWTRA.

The new gullies will be field trialled only after the joint aims of enabling amphibian escape and maintaining structural integrity and functional efficiency are met. Because climate change predictions in Wales are expected to increase surface water flows, our designs will be important at combatting this middle- to long-term problem without compromising animal welfare or conservation. Moreover, this project aims to design both complete gullies that can be rolled out across South Wales and eventually the UK, and gully inserts which can present a cheaper and immediate-term option while the basic structure of existing gully pots remains intact (before replacement is desired). This will help ensure both immediate and long-term real-world impacts of the project.


Candidates must have a First, Upper Second Class Honours or a Master’s degree with Merit, in a relevant discipline.

For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests . We prefer candidates to have already met the English Language requirements at the point of application, although this is not a requirement.

In addition to UK students, international and EU students are eligible to apply for these studentships but should note that they may have to pay the difference between the home UKRI fee and the institutional international student fee.

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