South African National Biodiversity Institute: Bursary Programme

1 x PhD Bursary

Applications are invited for a PhD candidate to join the SANBI Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring Division to support research under Work package 4 (Benthic Mapping) of the Mission Atlantic Project. The bursary will cover three years or less if there are suitable existing candidates who have made progress on their post-graduate studies in this context. The student must register at a South African University. Collaboration with other institute(s) in the Mission Atlantic work packages are also encouraged.

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Candidates must qualify for a PhD in the field of marine biodiversity with a willingness to focus on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME’s) and predictive modelling of any VME species.

A PhD proposal must be developed that will help advance the knowledge base and methodology for the identification, classification, mapping, modelling and management of VME’s in South Africa. A willingness to engage in predictive modelling in a local and international context is essential. Knowledge of the local context in terms of potential VME indicators and eco-certification application are advantageous.

The bursary is open to South African students who qualify to register for a PhD at a South African University.

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Applicants must be able to demonstrate an ability to undertake research and synthesise literature and potential data sources through demonstrated research experience.

Research Areas:

Through the PhD bursary, we hope to develop local capacity in the identification, classification, mapping, modelling and management of VME’s. This could benefit South Africa and may support regional Fisheries Management Organisations. The successful candidate is encouraged to develop international collaborations through opportunities provided by the Mission Atlantic consortium.

Mission Atlantic is an international interdisciplinary project funded though the European Commission, Horizon 2020: Research and Innovation Framework Programme. The objectives of the Mission Atlantic project are: 1) to assess ecosystem status and resilience, 2) to map the present and establish the future three dimensional distributions of biomes and their pressures, 3) to develop new indicators, tools and technologies to identify risks and vulnerabilities in the marine environment, 4) to formulate and transfer assessment guidelines, data and modelling tools into ecosystem-based management procedures, and 5) to educate ocean resource managers and researchers in application of a systematic approach to ecosystem management. See here

Within the Mission Atlantic Project, SANBI’s marine programme is seeking to support a PhD student to contribute to Work Package 4 (WP4): Benthic Mapping: ecosystem resources and pressures. The goal of this work package is to generate new maps of seafloor characteristics, benthic communities, and VMEs to enable Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) in case studies (including South Africa) and at the Atlantic basin scale. Relevant objectives of WP4 include the modelling of spatial distribution of benthic communities and VMEs under present and future environmental regimes to underpin Atlantic basin scale and case study IEAs and identification of key natural environmental drivers and anthropogenic pressures and their impact on the spatial distribution of benthic communities and VMEs.

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Bursary value:

A bursary of R 180 000 per annum (to cover living expenses and registration fees) is available over a two-to-three-year period. Some running expenses may also be made available depending on operational needs and project budget availability.

Application procedure:

Each application is to be accompanied by a standard bursary application cover sheet (attached to this advert). Applications are to include: a letter of interest, a full CV that shows the applicant’s educational background, relevant research experience and other scholarly activities, two letters of reference (one must be from an academic supervisor), statement of acceptance from prospective supervisor, certified copy of academic marks for courses studied, certified copy of highest qualification, and a 5-page outline of a draft PhD project proposal or a 4-page motivation covering the following elements:


1) The applicant’s suitability for the PhD bursary, 2) A brief outline of the importance of VME research locally and internationally, 3) An outline or at least three proposed research questions, 4) A brief outline of how the applicant’s envisioned PhD work could contribute to the Mission Atlantic project.

Send all documents to with “SANBI Marine Programme doctoral bursary” in the subject line.

Application Cover Sheet:

Closing Date: 31 January 2022

Contact details:

SANBI reserves the right not to fill this bursary. If no response has been received within 21 days of the closing date, candidates may assume that their applications were unsuccessful


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