Space4Nature (S4N): Using Earth Observation for the assessment of Urban, Peri-Urban and Wetland Sites

The unique CES PDS programme enables UK students to conduct their Doctoral research in sustainability to PhD/EngD level directly linked to, and embedded in, our PDS Partnering Organisation for this project - The Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT).

Start date

1 April 2023


3 years full time for PhD, starting in April 2023. There is the possibility to extend this to 4 years funding for an EngD submission by mutual agreement.

Application deadline

Funding source

Surrey Wildlife Trust

Funding information

Open only to applicants with UK home student fees status.

Studentship funding £20,000 annual stipend plus University tuition fees for 3 years for a full-time PhD with research training support grant covered.


We invite applicants with a keen Interest in/previous experience with biodiversity and habitat assessment (EO or ground-based assessment would be an advantage) to contact us now so that you can be considered for this exciting PDS doctoral research opportunity starting in late April 2023.

SWT focus on key areas of the county to maximise their impacts for biodiversity on the ground. These key areas are called ‘Biodiversity Opportunity Areas’ or BOAs. The aim is to deliver habitat creation or restoration targets relevant to that BOA, to develop specific species targets that are relevant to that habitat and to increase the connectivity within, and between, BOAs. This includes urban and peri-urban environments. Space 4 Nature (S4N) contributes to the work being done within the BOAs and beyond and the S4N partnership between CES at UoS and SWT supports this PDS project to:

  • Research the use of innovative Earth Observation/AI capabilities, particularly VHR satellite imagery (also drones, aerial photography) for several selected research sites and, combined with developing AI capabilities and on-the-ground data, to assess habitat attributes such as quality, connectivity/networks to enhance the biodiversity and nature recovery in these sites.
  • Work with diverse partners to disseminate the results from the research. This will include academic publication, outputs tailored to a more general audience and open source outputs e.g. habitat maps, community events etc.
  • Contribute to the education of Surrey students about the S4N programme, and local schools.

The PDS Programme will start in late April 2023 with an approximate 3-month intensive training programme at CES, University of Surrey after which the Doctoral Practitioner (DP) will join the research team at SWT and CES in July 2023. During the training, the DP will be in contact with SWT/CES drafting the project plan and assimilating the relevant literature. After the initial training period, the DP will undertake their research spending time flexibly at both SWT and CES according to the research needs.

Related links

Information about CES Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability (PDS) The Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES)

Eligibility criteria

Open to UK candidates only.

Minimum Upper Second UK or equivalent BSc/BA degree and/or MSc/MA at Merit or equivalent in a discipline relevant to diverse aspects of applied sustainability research and thinking. Broadly, these may well be in bioscience,  maths, physical sciences, engineering but we welcome applications from any relevant  disciplinary background.

We particularly welcome applications from individuals with experience in industry/business, government and/or NGO/third sector organisations and account is taken of such relevant experience in balance with formal qualifications as outlined above.

Person Specification (Essential (E), Desirable (D) )

•             English proficiency (E)

•             Expertise in computer science and/or engineering (E)

•             A passion for the environment (D)

•             Inquisitive nature (E)

•             Ability to work independently (E)

•             Technical skills needed – such as computer programming skills in EO (E), GIS(E), mapping (D), AI (D)

•             Strong communication skills (E)

•             Evidence of ability to engage with diverse stakeholders at all levels (D)

•             The candidate must be able to display a capacity for independent thought, as well as a pragmatic attitude to applying advanced research to practical/’real world’ issues (E)

How to apply

Please contact: Professor Richard Murphy by email at to express your interest in joining the PDS programme by stating the named research project ‘Space4Nature (S4N): Using Earth Observation for the assessment of Urban, Peri-Urban and Wetland Sites’, with an accompanying CV and a covering letter.

NOTE: we will be conducting interviews as we receive applicant CV’s via email and appointing sequentially – so if interested, you are encouraged to contact us immediately (do not wait until the deadline!).

Prior to interview, applicants will be required to provide two References; typically these will be from previous academic supervisors, or Industry/employment references.

The successful candidate after PDS interview will then be provided with a unique link for them to complete the University’s formal online admission procedures.

Studentship FAQs

Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.

Application deadline

Contact details

Richard Murphy
17 AA 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686680

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