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news > New PhD Opportunity – From recovery to coexistence: future scenarios for British carnivores

31st August 2023

VWT is jointly funding a new PhD in carnivore research with The University of Exeter’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Project description

Mammalian carnivores are both conservation priorities (wildcat, pine marten, polecat, otter) and the focus of several wildlife management conflicts (otter, badger, fox). Their conservation status in Britain has markedly improved since the mid-20th century, and if current trajectories continue, meso-carnivores could soon return to high densities countrywide. While potentially a positive conservation story, the return of carnivores will be affected by both ecological and social challenges, including habitat availability, environmental contaminants, and deliberate or accidental killing by people. Continuing efforts to reinforce and reintroduce populations of some species can also generate complex social and human-wildlife conflicts.

This interdisciplinary project will employ mixed methods to model and evaluate future scenarios for mammalian carnivore populations in Britain. The student will combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to investigate ecological and socio-political factors affecting both the recovery of these species and their long-term co-existence with people. The research will include mapping current ecological and social influences on carnivore populations, modelling future populations under different scenarios, and participatory, scenario-based evaluations with key stakeholders. The project will involve a combination of desk research and UK-based fieldwork, often in rural locations.

This is a forward-looking, applied research project in which the student will gain a breadth of skills in conservation science, including social research. They will join an experienced, interdisciplinary team working across two thriving departments at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus. The project will be delivered in partnership with the Vincent Wildlife Trust, a specialist charity working to conserve threatened mammals through scientifically robust conservation practice. The student will therefore gain valuable experience of working in a practice-oriented environment.

For further information, visit


Photo: Pine marten ©Robert Cruickshanks

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