Bayi Glacier in Qilian Mountain, China (Credit: Xiaoming Wang, distributed via

Job advertisement PhD: Gamification of plastic action in coastal Vietnam

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European Geosciences Union

PhD: Gamification of plastic action in coastal Vietnam

PhD: Gamification of plastic action in coastal Vietnam


Lyell Centre, Heriot-Watt University

Edinburgh, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Relevant divisions
Biogeosciences (BG)
Hydrological Sciences (HS)
Ocean Sciences (OS)

Full time

Student / Graduate / Internship


Preferred education

Application deadline
8 January 2021

24 November 2020

Job description

Supervisors: Dr Heidi Burdett (Lyell Centre), Dr Andre Gilburn (University of Stirling), Prof. Tom Wagner (Lyell Centre), Dr David Cole (GRID, Heriot-Watt), Dr Vu Kim Chi (Vietnam National University)

Deadline for applications: Friday 8th January 2021 at 5pm (GMT)

Project summary: Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year, with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. To tackle this, widespread action is required at local to (inter)national scales. However, the “throwaway” mindset, convenience of single-use plastics and economic benefits compared to other options means that progress is slow. The Vietnamese coastline supports millions of people through industries such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture. However, this region is also under severe pressure from plastic pollution, directly impacting local ecosystems and human health and indirectly by compounding the effects of other environmental pressures such as climate change.

To increase participation in initiatives such as recycling, waste reduction and plastic reuse, it is necessary to provide societal motivation. Research has shown that mobile applications and competitive gaming (eco-gamification) can be an effective way of enhancing environmental awareness and encouraging sustainability activities, by creating a fun, motivational framework. Much research into eco-gamification focuses on the digital environment, such as Apps. However, in a traditional society such as those found in the rural coastal communities of Vietnam, access to digital technology can be limited, especially to certain demographics. Therefore, the aim of this project is to investigate the effectiveness of traditional board games and digital Apps in raising awareness of the issues surrounding plastic waste, and whether gamification can change attitudes towards plastic use, recycling and waste habits. This will be conducted via a multi-disciplinary approach combining game design, science communication and environmental conservation.

The appointed PhD student will design and implement different types of games in rural coastal communities throughout Vietnam and evaluate the effectiveness of these games in mobilising community engagement with plastic waste issues. Games will be placed in the wider environmental and societal contexts (e.g. mangrove ecosystem function, plastic production by fishing industries), informed by field visits to local communities in the northern, central and southern areas of Vietnam. Engagement with local communities will be facilitated through community groups, schools, NGOs and governing bodies, including the marine litter group at CEFAS. This multi-disciplinary project will involve environmental and social science approaches, applied through game design.

This PhD will be part of a multi-million pound consortium project led by the Lyell Centre, which aims to quantify the flow of plastic materials through the coastal environment of Vietnam and deliver solutions to reduce environmental and societal impacts in the long-term. This PhD will help to achieve these aims, focusing on communication approaches. The appointed PhD student will therefore be part of an inspiring and innovative environment, supported by the project supervisors and postdoctoral researchers. Should Covid-19 restrictions still be in place, physical distancing in the field will be possible, supplemented by remote deployment of the games via our in-country colleagues.

Eligibility & application: This is a competition-funded project through the NERC Iapetus2 DTP. Full details on the studentship can be found here: