The Connected Waters Leverhulme Doctoral Programme: The evolving interactions between human agency and freshwater ecosystems

Connected Waters Doctoral Programme

The challenge

Freshwater ecosystems are central to the functioning and health of our ecological and social landscapes and are at the heart of cultures and religions. Rivers are now among the most threatened ecological systems and their degradation is caused by direct human action and the unintended consequences of human activities, both of which are underpinned by human values and societal priorities and structure. However, as freshwater ecosystems change, how humans perceive, value, and ultimately manage them also changes. We must better understand the continual evolution and interaction between human agency and ecological structure and functioning to support transformative approaches to environmental management.

The approach

The barriers to, and enablers of, holistic and effective action for ecosystem restoration lie with people. Understanding past, present and future connections within freshwater environments and between them and human society through an interdisciplinary lens is vital to restoring our relationship with them for the benefit of future generations. By offering up to 18 fully-funded masters and PhD scholarships the Connected Waters Leverhulme Doctoral Programme at the universities of Roehampton and Cranfield will train a new generation of interdisciplinary scholars to develop a deeper, holistic view of the interactions between humans and freshwaters, bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities and laying the groundwork for solutions that work for people and nature.

Research themes

Human Agency

We will examine how social, cultural, and individual factors affect our perceptions of, interactions with, and decision-making about aquatic ecosystems. We will explore how ecological knowledge interacts with cultural beliefs and values, and how these beliefs and values are encouraged by and find expression in institutions and legal frameworks.

Governance and Management

We will determine the mechanisms by which human values and environmental signals drive adoption of novel governance, engineering and management solutions for freshwater ecosystems.

Freshwater environments

We will evaluate how alterations to landscape connectivity can facilitate the environmental processes and ecological interactions that support resistant and resilient freshwater ecosystems.