Exploring the incentivisation and biodiversity returns of treescapes using agent based models


This interdisciplinary project will use cutting-edge modelling techniques to design effective conservation policy by understanding the socio-environmental feedbacks between human decision makers and natural populations. Measures such as Environmental Land Management Schemes aim to reward activities that promote biodiversity, but the decision makers that manage these landscapes are influenced by a wide range of considerations – expected economic benefits, the behaviour of neighbours, as well as the consequences of their decisions for natural populations. Understanding the repercussions of policy interventions requires a consideration of the interaction between subsidies and other economic drivers, ecological dynamics, and human decision making.

You will use agent based models to capture the spatiotemporal dynamics of the biological and human agents that together effect the outcomes of policy, in the context of treescapes – networks of woodland that promote many ecosystem services. You will explore the likely consequences of different policies currently under consideration, and identify unintended consequences (e.g. increased connectivity can benefit biodiversity, but also promote risks from disease). The project will exploit recent advances by the supervisory team that facilitate the exploration of this class of model.

The project is supervised by Dr. Stephen Cornell, Dr. Julia Touza, and Dr. Glyn Jones. You will be working in a team with expertise spanning mathematical modelling, ecology, and environmental economics. The project is a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and York, and FERA Science. The student will have the opportunity to spend time working in FERA, who continue to play a key role in designing and evaluating environmental and agricultural policy for the UK government. The project would suit a candidate who is keen to make an impact on biological conservation, either from a biological or environmental science background with strong quantitative skills, or with a background in a quantitative discipline (e.g. Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science).


Notes and how to apply are available here: https://accedtp.ac.uk/acce-dtp-phd-opportunities-at-university-of-liverpool/

All applicants to ACCE must complete the ACCE personal statement proforma. This is instead of a normal personal/supporting statement/cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not.

The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Informal enquiries may be made to 


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2023.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2022/23 UKRI rate £17,668)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2022/23 rate £4,596)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)
Note - UKRI funding only covers UK (Home) fees (£4,596 at 2022/23 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2022/23 entry were £25,950 (full time) per annum.



S J Cornell, Y F Suprunenko, D Finkelshtein, P Somervuo, and O Ovaskainen. A unified framework for analysis of individual-based models in ecology and beyond. Nature Communications, 10: 4716 (2019). J A Hodgson, D W Wallis, R Krishna, and S J Cornell. How to manipulate landscapes to improve the potential for range expansion. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 7:1558-1566 (2016)
Novoa, A., Shackleton, R., Canavan, S., Cybèle, C., Davies, S. J., Dehnen-Schmutz, K., Fried, J., Gaertner, M., Geerts, S., Griffiths, C. L., Kaplan, H., Kumschick, S., Le Maitre, D. C., Measey, G. J., Nunes, A. L., Richardson, D. M., Robinson, T. B., Touza, J. ,Wilson, J. R. U. A framework for engaging stakeholders on the management of alien species. Journal of Environmental Management, 205, (2018), 286-297. Mato-Amboage R., Pitchford J.W., Touza J.M. Public-private partnerships for biosecurity: an opportunity for risk sharing. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 70(3), (2019), 771-788.