Potential Masters Projects

The following lists potential Masters projects relating to NatureScot's work. 

If you are a university supervisor, or a student enrolled on a course and looking for a project, then do please get in touch. The listed projects cover important work for us. 

Please complete the expression of interest form and return it to research@nature.scot.

Current projects

Design of street vegetation in Scottish urban centres to support Low Emission Zones

Street vegetation is known to help with urban cooling, management of rainwater and mental wellbeing. It can also have a positive or negative impact on NOx and particulate pollution. The impact is affected by factors like species, spacing, size and configuration or the vegetation. The current streetscape and wind regime is a critical factor. Best practice recommended by research is to gather evidence on baseline conditions and design Nature-based Solutions accordingly.

The project could use field work, currently available data or computer modelling, to map air circulation in a single streetscape, or city centre, and use the results to suggest possible design criteria.

Effectiveness of beaver mitigation measures

New and innovative beaver mitigation measures are being trialled on agricultural land. This project would design and trial straightforward monitoring techniques which could be undertaken by land managers and volunteers to test the effectiveness of different mitigation techniques such as beaver water gates, fencing, beaver deceivers, water loggers, tree protection and bank protection.

Carbon assessment tools in planning systems

A project looking at carbon assessment tools in planning systems in other countries. Could a simplified carbon test for all new developments be introduced in Scotland? Are there existing models from other countries that could be used?

Effective alignment of plans and strategies in the planning system

A project looking at lessons that could be learned from the ways other countries align their plans and strategies.

A study to look at the environmental impacts and potential mitigation relating to pipe bursts on hydro schemes. 

Pipe bursts during the testing or operation stage of a hydro development can be a catastrophic event. They are dangerous and can cause the movement of tonnes of rock, soil and overburden material to be dislodged with potential massive diffuse pollution effects. Are there engineering improvements to aid early detection?

A project to assess the effectiveness of, and alternatives to, mitigation used during construction.  For example, are their better techniques for building tracks/drainage systems on the steep ground?

Current good practice guidance is laid out in a number of documents, both of NatureScot origin and from others. Construction in the uplands, however, remains a challenging undertaking. What improvements can be proposed on design and mitigation to minimise impacts on landscape, drainage and ecology – for example, what is the most effective means of reinstating steeply cut batters?

A project to look at how wind farm visualisations are used in the planning process

Compare how the visuals are to the actual result – i.e. taking photographs from the same locations as the photomontages and see if they are the same? There could be some lessons learned and could help us with our appraisals and advice for future applications.

Moving away from hard, grey engineering – greening infrastructure.

What are the barriers to embedding biodiversity into engineering and where are the opportunities? Why aren’t green roofs the norm? Why do we default to concrete on all civil engineering projects (big and small)? How do we achieve a situation where we start green and go grey as the last resort?

Municipal planting: missed opportunities for biodiversity

Why do we plant roadside verges, business estates, municipal and private open spaces with monocultures of grass and trimmed hedges? What are the opportunities for increasing biodiversity, improving the aesthetics and reducing maintenance costs in urban spaces?

Effective communication with the construction industry

We produce lots of guidance, all of which is on our website and many is directed a good practice construction. Is the guidance reaching the full range of contractors, from the very big firms to the small businesses working on construction/engineering projects that require a level of natural heritage understanding to minimise impacts.

Cable removal

Research into effective reinstatement of habitats following the removal of long sections of energy sector redundant cabling

What influences and encourages outdoor learning and play in green infrastructure near schools?

Suggestions from Southside Housing Association

Beyond SUDS: Sustainable urban water management in residential streets

Suggestions from Southside Housing Association

What mechanisms successfully encourage community empowerment and ownership in green infrastructure?

Suggestions from Southside Housing Association

How do different greenspace management techniques affect community involvement and community ownership?

Suggestions from Southside Housing Association

Do fossorial voles change their behaviour when translocated to a new wetland park?

Focus on Greater Easterhouse GI project where fossorial water voles were found and then translocated as part of the project. Links with Glasgow Water Vole Project.

Can chemical contamination hotspots be predicted without ground investigation?

Did developing access to Claypits LNR change nature visits by Glasgow’s Chinese community?

The lifespan of tree pit trees in cities. 

Urban street trees are being recognised as ever more important to combat effects of climate emergency (e.g. urban heat island effect, air pollution, water run-off management). What is their lifespan under best practice conditions?

Have the trees and changes in Sauchiehall Street reduced particulate pollution?

Biodiversity of street trees. 

The impact of GI interventions on house prices and council tax returns as a proxy for more people in work

Explore the impacts of GI interventions in the longer term. Projects are focussed in areas of multiple deprivations with the longer-term strategic objective of addressing multiple deprivation indicators including education/upskilling and employment.

Do GI projects increase Outdoor Learning in Nature in local schools?

Most GI projects include outdoor learning spaces as part of the intervention. Explore how these are being used and what the impacts are on increasing outdoor learning provision and uptake.

How GI interventions can increase green prescribing by GPs

Biodiversity and links to other outcomes

Explore and provide evidence for links between biodiversity value and the other outcomes of the Green Infrastructure Fund (communities, economics, climate change and health & well-being).

Gene flow via green/blue infrastructure: how can these be made effective?

What is gene flow in urban GI projects? What influences or prevents it? What are the risks or benefits?

Biodiversity Net Gain

What is the BNG of GI projects, and testing the suitability of BNG as a measure?

People’s perceptions of/ satisfaction with their local greenspace

How can this best be measured over time

Business impacts of flood management of GIF projects

As well as quantitative evidence of this it would be really good to have some qualitative evidence from business owners/residents about the difference it’s made to them. Number of businesses/households benefiting from flood management etc of GI projects

Health & wellbeing impacts of GIF greenspace improvements

Open space audits and changes in the sites, amount of path put in and correlations with wellbeing data etc.

The outdoor classroom and non-traditional learning

There was a lot of talk about skills development outside the traditional classroom setting, learning the cues in conversations, experiencing challenges, seeing numerical questions in a new context, learning about elements, science and nature in a ‘live’ setting. How quality greenspace enhances educational opportunity and offers a ‘less formal’ setting for education which for some pupils is a key non-classroom experience.

Measuring the local success of GI projects

What makes a site successful and part of the community and is there a template for future sites in this to enhance the chances of others being successful.

Successful community engagement and impacts in GIF projects

The role of engagement and involvement of the local community from the outset in GI projects: is involvement actually more powerful than it seems on the surface – i.e. do parents take on a greater involvement on the back of their children visiting the site regularly, does this spread to the wider family group and community.

Is MOHAWk applicable to cities other than Manchester?

‘Development of an observation tool for measuring physical activity and wellbeing in urban spaces: MOHAWk’ is a 2018 research paper by Benton, et al published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. The authors from Manchester University believe that the tool is applicable to other areas, but it needs work to confirm it.

Public transport network and public space Green Infrastructure

Retrofitting urban public spaces and transport infrastructure with Green Infrastructure (GI): Park and rides, car parks, bus depots, green-roofed bus/ tram shelters, station platforms. Management of road verges etc.

e.g. good to do a calculation of how much semi-natural habitat you could create for pollinators and what the costs would be?

Guidance in the form of drawings rather than text.

The development of simple design-based solutions to accessing remote landscapes (ie tracks) but with a focus on drawings/sketches rather than narrative. Building on the ‘in cab, dangle’ photo guide which has been well received and come up with a visual guide? We are not proposing highly technical drawings (See ‘NatureScot Constructed tracks in the uplands’ guidance) rather read-able sketches that convey common terrain challenges and how often heavy machinery might access these areas. 

Sediment build up in the weir pools of Run-of-River hydro schemes

Small scale Run-of-river hydro schemes have proliferated across, particularly, the west coast of Scotland over the last 10 years. We would be interested to know the implications of a large build-up of sediment behind the weir pool. Comparisons of control waterbodies could be made for sediment distribution in-stream, and potential salmonid migration, temperature, water chemistry impacts considered.

Recycled material for National Nature Reserves 

A spatial mapping exercise in linking recycled construction material sources with National Nature Reserve (NNR) locations. NNRs require material for projects (e.g. track construction, fencing, general infrastructure development, laying surfaces and maintenance requirements). Having a local, recycled option for material use will further NatureScot’s contribution to the circular economy and reduce our carbon budget.

Past projects

Ecology of Arctostaphylos heath and the impact of burning and new woodland in Eastern Cairngorms

This habitat is a component of several SACs and a distinctive habitat in eastern Scotland supporting high species diversity. There are increased pressures for new woodlands of all types and to reduce burning on heathland which may impact on this habitat. Understanding is required of these impacts, where the habitat occurs and the importance of those areas remaining for strategic purposes eg directing forestry and moorland management policy with Cairngorms National Park Authority and Forestry Commission.

Nature-based solutions in the planning system

A project that draws together examples of nature-based solutions in the planning system.

What species/groups and how soon do invertebrates colonise daylighted streams?

Many GI projects include denaturalised/deculverted watercourses. What are the effects of this in the short, medium and long term?