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Competitive Ph. D. opportunity: Models of Sustainable Living (University of Glasgow & The James Hutton Institute)


The aim of the proposed Ph. D. project is to develop and evaluate alternative scenarios for spatially dispersed Net Zero lifestyles that entail viable rural communities and economies; with the viability being demonstrated through spatial agent-based social simulation. The following research questions could be investigated in pursuit of this aim, though the student will be encouraged to develop these questions themself:

  1. How does simulating social complexity affect findings from spatial interaction modelling? Does it exacerbate or ameliorate the pull of urban areas? Can we use agent-based models to ‘grow’ the emergence of urban areas with greater pull?
  2. What are the trade-offs between the sustainability gains from densification and the losses from addressing health issues? Taking a whole-systems approach (i.e. bearing in mind food transportation, travel to see friends and family and for recreation, impact of health), how do energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per capita change with spatial density of human occupation?
  3. What are the options for sustainable living that do not entail densification? How could extra environmental costs for transport, water, power, information and heating in less dense scenarios be compensated for? Are there alternative technologies that take advantage of opportunities not open to those living in compact spaces? Are there options that entail delivering in a different way some of the same benefits from land freed by densification?

The main methods taken will be through a combination of literature review and computational modelling, with an emphasis on agent-based modelling. The student will be encouraged to develop and take ownership of the project aim and research questions, including modelling approach, with the proviso that the approach taken does justice to social complexity and takes a whole systems perspective.

The main activities in the first 12-18 months of the project will be reviewing relevant interdisciplinary literature, training on modelling methodologies (especially agent-based modelling) and underpinning technology and infrastructure, and developing and refining a prototype agent-based model to address the first of the above research questions.

This 4 yr PhD project is part of a competition jointly funded by The James Hutton Institute and the University of Glasgow. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition only.

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