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University awarded funding to train next generation of environmental scientists

under-the-sea-001The University of St Andrews has been awarded a share of £100 million funding to train the next generation of environmental scientists.

The Scottish Universities Partnership for Environmental Research (SUPER), led by the University of St Andrews, will receive a total of £5 million of funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for its innovative Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The funding will support between 60 and 90 new PhD students over the next five years.

SUPER brings together the research strengths of the Universities of Edinburgh Napier, Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, the Highlands & Islands, Stirling, Strathclyde University and the University of the West of Scotland. All partners are members of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).

Recognising that individual ecosystems or geographical areas are parts of larger systems that must be studied together, the SUPER DTP has been designed to take a joined-up ‘catchment to coast’ approach to understanding our freshwater and marine environments, including their marginal habitats.

The SUPER DTP will bring together an interdisciplinary group of eager and talented young scientists to research aspects of aquaculture, fisheries management, ecosystem health, biodiversity and pollution control, and data management and predictive modelling. Students will be offered unparalleled opportunities to understand societal and environmental challenges and deliver science for the benefit of wider society with international implications.

Lead academic Professor David Paterson, Executive Director of MASTS, said: “This support from NERC is fantastic news, not only recognising the excellent training environment that Scotland can offer but it arrives at a critical time to support efforts to respond to the environmental challenges highlighted in the recent IPCC Climate Change report. We are looking forward to placing our best students in a position to learn and then develop the tools to understand and better manage ecosystems sustainably.”

SUPER-logo-and-partnersDr Emma Defew, Deputy Dean of the MASTS Graduate School, said: “I am pleased by the success of our bid, and look forward to recruiting the first cohort of students next year. The SUPER DTP will offer students a wealth of opportunities to pursue research, engage in training, and to learn from each other as part of a large multi-disciplinary group. Research and training will be linked to the needs to environmental regulators and industry. The SUPER DTP will help to foster a new generation of PhD students equipped to take on diverse careers and become future leaders to manage our marine and freshwater environments more sustainably.”

Professor Tim Wheeler, Director of Research & Innovation at NERC, said: “This investment will provide a bedrock for the environmental science community, fostering the next generation of highly skilled professionals that bring together specialist knowledge from academia, industry and beyond.”

DTPs will train the scientists of tomorrow by providing the scientific, professional and technical skills that increase the UK’s scientific capability to solve economic problems. Together, DTPs will train the highly skilled workforce that the UK needs for its future as a leader in cutting edge research, innovation and sustainable economic growth.


The 2018 DTP2 call was an open and competitive process that identified 17 DTPs that will host PhD studentships funded by NERC. Each DTP was assessed on the basis of excellence through a transparent, peer-reviewed application process.

The PhD studentships will be available over the course of five annual admissions, starting in the 2019-2020 academic year. Each DTP will recruit a number of students every year, which will create a cohort of students who will network, train and tackle challenges together.

For more information: Doctoral Training Partnerships 2 (DTP2) programme

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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