PhD position: Marine Spatial Planning in the Antarctic Region – Deadline 31 May 2023

Antarctica has significant environmental, scientific, historic, and intrinsic values, all of which are worth protecting. With the acceleration of global environmental change and the increase of human activities and related pressures in the region, developing sustainable ocean planning and effective governance is crucial. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a process and approach that allows for the balancing of multiple social, economic, and political objectives while ensuring a healthy ocean (Frazão Santos et al. 2020, Nat. Sustain.). For the past two decades, MSP spread widely and gained momentum globally (Ehler 2021, Mar. Policy). Yet, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean corresponds to the only sea basin worldwide where MSP is not being developed. There have been international approaches to protecting and conserving Antarctic ecosystems, including the adoption of marine protected areas (Hughes et al. 2018, Environ. Sci. Policy). Still, with the acceleration of global environmental change and the increase in human activities and related impacts (Rintoul et al. 2018, Nature), developing broader, integrated, sustainable MSP initiatives in the region is more fundamental than ever. There are governance mechanisms in place that can support MSP development in Antarctica, such as the Antarctic Treaty System or the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The establishment of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area is also an example of changing Antarctic governance in an era of climatic and geopolitical shifts. It is crucial to re-examine current and future governance challenges, as countries may become increasingly fierce in pursuing national economic interests in Antarctic affairs while also recognizing the Antarctic as a space for international diplomacy. The present proposal aims to support the development of climate-smart, equitable, sustainable, and adaptive MSP in Antarctica. It will do so by: (i) Identifying hotspots of tourism, fishing, and scientific activities, contributing to an integrated vision on the spatial-temporal distribution of ocean uses in Antarctica, as well as related conflicts and pressures; (ii) Exploring hypothetical future scenarios for the Antarctic region under changing environmental and socioeconomic conditions; (iii) Unravelling social, economic, and political idiosyncrasies that limit the development of MSP initiatives in the region; and (iii) Developing recommendations to overcome identified challenges and support the sustainable use and governance of the Antarctic region. Being active members of the Commission for Environmental Protection of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, with close connections with the Scientific Committee of CCAMLR, Dr. Kevin Hughes and Prof. José Xavier will facilitate the uptake of project results by decision-makers and stakeholders in the region. Results from the project will also contribute to FCT exploratory project MSPOLAR (2022.09067.PTDC; 2023-2024).

MARE-University of Lisbon will provide the baseline logistics for the project. Logistics will be further supported by project MSPOLAR (2022.09067.PTDC) (trips to Cambridge/Coimbra; meetings with collaborative organizations; access to software; attendance of scientific meetings). Access to data on Antarctica will be ensured via the Portuguese Polar Programme, the British Antarctic Survey, and other collaborative organizations (IAATO, CCAMLR, COMNAP). No fieldwork is envisioned at this stage.

Profile of applicants

The candidate should have a master’s degree in marine ecology, or related areas, and experience on marine spatial planning, ocean governance, and polar regions. Ideally, the candidate should also have experience in using social sciences’ research methods (e.g., surveys and interviews) and working with large datasets and statistical packages (e.g., R). The project will involve working in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Cambridge.


Dr. Catarina Frazão Santos – University of LIsbon;
Dr. Kevin Hughes – British Antarctic Survey;
Prof. Dr. José C. Xavier – University of Coimbra.

Host institutions

Marine and Environmental Sciences Center (MARE), University of Lisbon, Portugal, in collaboration with British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom; University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.


Scholarships are annual, renewable to a maximum of 4 years.


Applications and all supporting documents must be submitted online using the Application Form available on each scholarship page. Applications submitted by other means will not be accepted.

Application Process

Please note that you will need the items listed below. To ease the submission process, we suggest you gather them before you start your application:

  • Copy of your Identification Document (ID card, passport);
  • Certificate degree and grades transcript.
  • Your Curriculum Vitae and saved as PDF;
  • A Motivation Letter;
  • 2 Recommendation letters.

Notification of results

Evaluation results will be communicated to the email address provided by the candidates in the application form.


May 31 , 2023 |  23:59 Lisbon Time

Before applying, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you carefully read the Public Notice of the Call for detailed information on the application, evaluation and selection process.

Notice of the Call ( english version)

For  further information about this opportunity, click here.

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