Nature-based protection of coastal electricity assets: Optimal design of Coir in combating coastal erosion through habitat restoration


The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Maritime Energy solutions (N0MES) has a 4-year funded PhD place available for an exceptional researcher. With the support of the University of Liverpool (UoL), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and 33 maritime energy sector partners, N0MES PGRs will pursue new, engineering-centred, interdisciplinary research to address four vital net zero challenges currently facing the North West, the UK and beyond:

a) Energy generation using maritime-based renewable energy (e.g. offshore wind, tidal, wave, floating solar, hydrogen, CCS);

b) Distributing energy from offshore to onshore, including port- and hinterland-side impacts and opportunities;

c) Addressing the short- and long-term environmental impacts of offshore and maritime environment renewable energy generation, distribution and storage; and

d) Decommissioning and lifetime extension of existing energy and facilities.


Project Description

The coastal region is under increasing threat from rising sea levels and storm waves, causing damage to energy infrastructure through flooding and erosion. Existing coastal interventions can be non-optimal, have a limited lifespan and overlook changes in future climate. An increasingly popular alternative to hard barriers like concrete defences, are ‘living shorelines’ that utilise natural elements like rocks, reefs and plants to fortify the shoreline against erosion. Biodegradable yet sturdy, coconut fiber called Coir frequently plays a role in combating river and slope erosion by acting as a temporary buffer that can help build up soil layers and give vegetation a stable place to take root. However its use in coastal protection is yet to be fully realised, largely because there is a lack of evidence on its effectiveness under differing wave, tide and sea level conditions.

The project aims to address this shortcoming by combining laboratory flume experiments and hydro-morphodynamic modelling to explore the potential of Coir rolls to provide protection to coastal electricity generation and transmission assets in the UK. The flume experiments will examine the direct impact of Coir rolls on wave attenuation and beach erosion under a range of wave, water depth and sediment conditions. Through these experiments, new parameterisations of Coir-erosion interactions will be incorporated into an existing hydro-morphodynamic model that will allow both the direct impact of Coir rolls to be quantified and their indirect impact on promoting the development of vegetation growth. By running numerical experiments for different storm and sea level rise scenarios that are expected to occur due to climate change, and exploring differing specifications and locations of Coir rolls along the shoreline, a set of optimal design specifications will be generated for sites of critical importance for energy generation and distribution. Together these outputs will assess the potential for Coir rolls to enhance the climate resilience of renewable energy assets and existing electricity infrastructure.

Industrial partner: Salike Geotechnical


We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result.

We believe everyone deserves an excellent education and encourage students from all backgrounds and personal circumstances to apply.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master’s Degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.


Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Environmental Sciences and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, two academic references and a supporting statement [maximum 300 words] detailing; what inspires you within this project, how your skill set matches the project, up to 3 examples showing your commitment to science, piece of science that excites you & anything else to support your application.


Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor [], those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the CDT Manager Matt Fulton [].


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.

EPSRC Studentships are available to any prospective student wishing to apply including international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise of international students and they will not be charged the fee difference between UK and international rate.