Project 10: Tracking changes in protection of Greek Key Biodiversity Areas

This project will explore what factors influence the indicator of protected area coverage of freshwater and terrestrial Key Biodiversity Areas, using Greece, one of the most biodiverse European countries, as a case study. Based at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (Anavyssos, Greece), with secondments to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Cambridge, UK; 7.8 months) and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Athens, Greece; 3 months).

This is Project 10 out of 15 PhD positions currently available as part of the Inspire4Nature training programme. Deadline for applications: 16 April 2018 (midnight, Brussels time). We are no longer accepting applications to this project. 

PhD topic

Policy relevance: Protected area coverage of terrestrial and freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs; Butchart et al. 2012, 2015) has been adopted as an official indicator of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Targets (Brooks et al. 2015). This is facilitated by the adoption of the new IUCN Global Standard for the Identification of KBAs, the World Database on KBAs, and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). However, a number of issues may have implications for the robustness of the indicator. These include both issues related to KBA identification – for example, coverage of KBA identification across taxonomic groups, ecosystems (e.g. terrestrial vs freshwater; islands vs continental), and KBA criteria; and issues related to protected area documentation – for example, type of protected area.

Key Biodiversity Areas of Greece, from the World Database of KBAs.

Data generation: This project will use Greece as a test case to investigate these issues at the national scale, given that it is among the most biodiverse of European countries. It would require the revision of KBA identification and delineation following the new standard, specifically to incorporate existing data on freshwater KBAs (Darwall et al. 2014) and terrestrial KBAs in Greece, as well as novel (published and unpublished) genetic, taxonomic and biogeographic data (e.g. Geiger et al. 2014), into the KBA dataset in the World Database of KBAs (which currently holds data on >15,500 Key Biodiversity Areas, with the largest proportion of these qualifying for birds); other datasets (e.g. land snails, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, Orthoptera, plants) may also be available. The project may work with members of the KBA Partnership present in Greece, such as the Hellenic Ornithological Society and WWF. Necessary steps would be: 1) desktop review to propose harmonised delineation of freshwater and terrestrial KBAs where these overlap; and to propose delineation for freshwater KBAs where they do not; 2) desktop review to confirm freshwater biodiversity elements in Greek KBAs as meeting the thresholds established in the new standard; 3) a national workshop to validate the above results. Existing protected area documentation for Greece is excellent, with data complete for 100% of the country's 1,256 protected areas, but other projects may be undertaken during the project's time frame to identify "other effective area-based conservation measures" in Greece that could also be considered if work to consolidate and apply a definition of these proceeds fast enough to be applicable here.

Analytical questions: The overall question to be posed by this project would be "What factors influence the indicator of protected area coverage of Key Biodiversity Areas in Greece?". Specific topics to be addressed could include: 1) How do different formulations of the indicator compare and vary over time (for example, via understanding the dynamics of protected areas boundaries and designations that are fundamental to develop robust biodiversity indicators and predict future trends to guide policy decisions)? 2) How does the inclusion of different biodiversity elements (e.g. terrestrial compared to freshwater; continental compared with islands) in the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas affect the indicator? 3) How does the incorporation of existing genetic data affect the indicator? 4) How does the inclusion of different kinds of protected areas (e.g. different management categories; Natura 2000 sites) affect the indicator?

Related references:

  • Brooks et al. (2015) Harnessing biodiversity and conservation knowledge products to track the Aichi Targets and SDGs. Biodiversity, 16, 157–174.
  • Butchart et al. (2012) Protecting important sites for biodiversity contributes to meeting global conservation targets. PLoS ONE, 7, e32529.
  • Butchart et al. (2015) Shortfalls and solutions for meeting national and global conservation area targets. Conservation Letters, 8, 329–337.
  • Darwall et al. (2014) Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas in the Mediterranean Basin Hotspot: Informing species conservation and development planning in freshwater ecosystems. Cambridge, UK and Malaga, Spain: IUCN.
  • Geiger et al. (2014) Spatial heterogeneity in the Mediterranean Biodiversity Hotspot affects barcoding accuracy of its freshwater fishes. Molecular Ecology Resources 14, 1210–1221.

Institutional context and Supervision

The PhD student will be hired by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the largest public organisation in Greece that performs research on issues related to the hydrosphere and its conservation and work at the division of Inland Waters of HCMR’s Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters (IMBRIW), in Anavyssos, Greece. S/he will be enrolled as a PhD candidate at the Biology Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). The PhD will be conducted according to the rules of the Postgraduate Programme of Doctoral Diplomas of the Biology Department of the NKUA. The PhD supervisory committee at the NKUA will consist of three academic members, including Kostas Triantis (NKUA) and Maria Stoumboudi (HCMR).

This project is in close collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,300 Member organisations and the input of more than 10,000 experts. IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. The student will interact strongly with the Global Species Programme, in particular its Freshwater Biodiversity Unit led by William Darwall who will co-supervise the project with Thomas Brooks, Chief Scientist at IUCN.

The student will spend 10.8 months in secondments:

  • 7.8 months at the beginning of the project with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Cambridge, UK.
  • 3 months towards the end of the project with NKUA in the Division of Ecology of the NKUA’s Biology Department in Athens, Greece.

Ideal candidate

Candidates must meet all the general eligibility conditions applicable to all Inspire4Nature PhD positions, as described under “check if you are eligible” in this page. In particular: candidates cannot have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Greece for more than 12 months within the previous 3 years, and must be early-stage researchers (no PhD yet, within the first 4 years of their research careers). In addition:

Required for this position:

  • A total of at least five years of university-level education.
  • A Master’s Degree or equivalent, related to ecology and/or biodiversity conservation.
  • Good proficiency in English: at least B2 level in understanding, speaking and writing as defined by the European Language Levels Self-Assessment Grid.
  • Good knowledge of Geographic Information Systems.
  • Competence with database management.
  • Good collaborative skills.

Desirable for this position:

  • Good knowledge of statistical analyses.
  • Having previously completed at least one individual research project lasting ≥ 3 months (e.g. a Master’s thesis).
  • Having previously participated in at least one research project related to ecology and/or biodiversity conservation.
  • Knowledge of Greek language.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview planned for the 6th-7th June - please keep these dates open.


For any questions regarding application procedures, check this page first. If you cannot find your answer there, contact us. For any questions regarding the scientific content and institutional context of the PhD, contact Dr. Maria Stoumboudi.

Ready to apply?

For the instructions on how to prepare and submit your application, go to this page.

Only applications that are complete, in English, that respect the instructions in this page and that have been submitted before the deadline (16 April 2018) will be considered eligible.

We are no longer accepting applications to this project. 



    Hellenic Centre for Marine Research
Anavyssos, Greece
        Maria Stoumboudi


    International Union for Conservation of Nature
Cambridge, UK
        Will Darwall

Thomas Brooks

    National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Athens, Greece
        Kostas Triantis