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Funded PhD: Coastal connections and the wellbeing of people, communities, more than humans and environments/ ecologies, at University of Waikato Aotearoa New Zealand

Funded PhD at University of Waikato Aotearoa New Zealand: would be relevant for students interested in outdoor sport, sustainability and wellbeing. 


Coastal connections and the wellbeing of people, communities, more than humans and environments/ ecologies. 


This PhD will explore the ways in which coastal connections improve the wellbeing of people, communities, and environments, especially as enabled by nature-based solutions (NBS) and developed through recreation.


Sport and recreation, in, on and by ‘blue spaces’, is recognised as contributing to individual and community wellbeing, while recognising that these spaces can also be sites of cultural contestation and the exclusion/ marginalisation of individuals/ communities/socio-demographics.   Research also shows that coastal engagements from beach-walks to surfing, can lead to improved ocean literacy, environmental stewardship (e.g., beach cleans, restoration), and environmental activism.  Yet these  human and environmental health and sustainability outcomes have largely been explored in isolation.  


This PhD research will focus on selected sites in and around Tauranga harbour in NZ. These sites, the communities and potential sport or recreational activity/ies (e.g., beach walking, rock-fishing, paddling, swimming, waka ama, surf-lifesaving, surfing, citizen science engagements) will be determined by the candidate in consultation with the supervisory team, community stakeholders and indigenous Māori iwi/hapū partners. 


The lead supervisor for this project will be Prof. Belinda Wheaton (Sociology), with Associate Professor Silvia Serrao-Neumann, and Dr Sandi Ringham (Environment and Planning, Indigenous Studies). 


This project will be part of a wider cohort of postgraduate students and researchers focused on interdisciplinary understanding of the application of nature-based solutions for the wellbeing of harbour environments in Aotearoa New Zealand. The PhD student will be involved with the activities of the wider project including seminars, community engagement activities, and presentations at national/international conferences. 


The candidate will: 

  • have a masters or equivalent in a relevant disciplinary area (e.g. sport and leisure, cultural geography, sociology, social policy, environmental planning) and research methodology training. 

  • Their prior research experience should include conducting qualitative research such as interviews, ethnography, PAR, etc.  

  • They should also have an understanding of (or be willing to first learn about) te ao Māori and Mātauranga in relation to people and places in Aotearoa.  

  • We particularly welcome applications from Māori and Pasifika candidates.



The project will run from 2024-27. 


Each PhD candidate will receive 3 years of full-time funding i.e. tuition fees  and a stipend of NZ$30,000/yr plus field work expenses. 


Please email Professor Belinda Wheaton  to express interest.

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