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PhD fellowship "la Caixa INPHINIT" in landscape structure and agri-environmental schemes


Research Field
Natural sciences
Funding Type
Career Stage
European Research Programme
Not funded by an EU programme




Group Leader: 

Prof. Sergio Villamayor

Research Project / Research Group Description

Agri-environmental schemes (AES) are, with protected areas and compulsory regulations, one of the main governmental tools for conservation in European countries. Contrary to other tools, AES promote conservation by paying farmers to change their agricultural practices. Funds devoted to AES amount to 20% of the expenditure for rural development and twice the cost of managing Natura 2000 protected areas. The impact of AES, however, has been only modest. About half of the schemes aiming to enhance biodiversity, for example, lack positive effects. A promising response to this deficit has been the promotion of spatial coordination and so-called agglomeration effects among farmers in the implementation of AES. In theory, the ecological effectiveness of some conservation measures such as those promoting pest control, pollination, biodiversity corridors, or the maintenance of certain landscape elements such as hedge rows or water streams can considerably increase if implemented following certain spatial patterns, i.e. by neighboring landowners. In practice, however, much of this theory remains untested. Moreover, coordination may also entail managerial challenges which may hinder the ecological effectiveness of the measures. This project will test the promise of “coordinated AES” via the combination of large-n statistical analysis and experiments. Findings from this project will not only contribute to conservation theory (e.g., socio-ecological fit theory) but also contribute to evaluate and inform recent European policy efforts to promote ecological agglomeration effects and transition to more sustainable agricultural systems.

Job position description

To address the goals of the project we will work towards the following specific objectives: 1) collect time series data on AES across a selection of European districts and explore their evolution and spatial patterns; 2) collect and model land cover and biodiversity data to estimate the potential of ecological agglomeration effects within the selected districts; 3) design and carry an ecological experiment to test the agglomeration effects of an coordinated measure in one of the studied districts; 4) design and carry a choice experiment to explore the conditions under which farmers shall uptake said coordination measure.

The selection of the Europen districts will be co-decided with the student after a preliminary exploratory analysis. Although grounded in land systems science and conservation ecology, this is a highly interdisciplinary PhD position is highly interdisciplinary; it falls in the interface of agriculture, conservation ecology and institutional economics. Thus, we expect students who are willing to think out of the box and trespass disciplinary boundaries. We offer a committed supervision; a lively environment including seniors, postdocs and other PhD students from a diversity of discipline; and the premises of ICTA, a top ranked environmental science studies center.

What is funded

Salary is €34.800 gross, plus €3.564 per year for additional costs (conferences, courses, etc.). An additional prize of €7.500 is paid upon completion of the PhD.


3 years


The selection process is very competitive and candidates should have an excellent academic record.

The candidate will apply through “la Caixa” foundation. Deadline 4 February 2021 at 2 pm (Central European Time - CET).…


Eligible candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for less than 12 months in the last 3 years, have a B2 English degree, and have a higher education degree that gives access to doctoral studies.


The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona is a research centre accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence María de Maeztu in 2020, the perfect place to carry out your PhD project through an INPhINIT Incoming fellowship.

For more information, please contact Ms Silvia Martínez (silvia.martinez.sinibaldi AT


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.