New PhD opportunity: Understanding Public Opinions of Conservation

This project will examine current public opinion about conservation actions and investigate where, how and why public opinion is sought and used by different conservation organisations.

We are currently advertising a new PhD project as part of the University of Edinburgh’s NERC E4 DTP:

Project details

Understanding public opinions of conservation
Public opinion is an important but surprisingly poorly researched influence on nature conservation. Conservation actions are often promoted in terms of the benefits they bring to humans and their value to society, and public opinion is thought to shape the policies and decision-making of governments, NGOs and other organisations (e.g. through democratic processes or memberships and donations). Despite this, relatively little is known about how favourably the public view specific conservation approaches. Governments, NGOs and other organisations pursue a wide range of activities intended to conserve biodiversity. Some of these activities such as trophy hunting and zoos are controversial and emotive issues and are widely discussed by members of the public who are not directly involved in conservation. However, other prominent forms of conservation activity, such as payments for environmental services or conservation easements attract much less public attention.

Recent research has demonstrated the existence of a wide-range of different opinions amongst conservationists themselves about the ultimate goals of conservation and how it should be conducted (Sandbrook et al. 2019) and conservationists regularly seek the views of direct stakeholders (e.g. local residents or land-owners), but understanding the views of people who are not directly involved in conservation poses several important challenges (e.g. the lack of familiarity and use of technical language). In other areas of public policy, opinion polling is regularly used to measure and track public opinion and recently several international NGOs have conducted opinion surveys on prominent conservation topics (e.g. space for nature; the wildlife trade in Asia; the role of nature in post-COVID recovery). This PhD will examine current understanding of public opinion about conservation actions and investigate where, how and why public opinion is sought and used. Drawing on insights from other fields it will test the potential for applying state-of-the-art polling methodologies to track public opinion for informing conservation post-2020.

Full project information can be found on the E4 DTP project site.


The deadline for applications for both projects is 12pm on 7th January 2021


Information on how to apply is available at:


UKRI has announced that international students will be eligible for all UKRI-funded postgraduate studentships from the start of the 2021/22 academic year and that they will be eligible for the full award – both the stipend to support living costs, and fees at research organisations UK rate (Home fees).

The University of Edinburgh will cover the difference between Home fees and International fees meaning that it will not be necessary for E4 DTP International applicants who will be offered an E4 DTP project at the end of our recruitment process to find additional funding to cover the home/international fees gap.

The E4 DTP will therefore offer fully-funded studentships for all appointed students, regardless of their fees status.

However, it is important to note that UKRI restricts the number of international students that DTPs can take on board to a maximum of 30% of their overall students’ number. For E4, this represents a maximum of 6 or 7 international students per annual recruitment round. 

For full eligibility information, please see

More information

To find out more about the E4 DTP programme please check out the website:

If you have other questions about the project or working in the group, get in touch!