Apply for a funded PhD position

We offer a range of PhDs funded by different sources, such as research councils, industries or charities. As a PhD student, you will become a valued member of a research group. Here you will work with internationally respected academics, post-doctoral research associates and technicians. Find out more about our research groups below.

How to Apply

To apply for a funded PhD please read the advertised project information carefully as requirements will vary between funders. The project information will include details of funding eligibility, application deadline dates and links to application forms. Only applicants who have a relevant background and meet the funding criteria can be considered.

Current PhD Opportunities

  • Measuring Greenland’s ice loss from space, with a new generation of altimetry satellites

    This project offers an exciting opportunity to work at the forefront of recent advances in satellite altimetry, making new measurements of Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise.

    The Greenland Ice Sheet currently contributes ~25% of global sea level rise. Measuring the loss of ice across the low-lying margins of the ice sheet is crucial for understanding Greenland’s response to climate warming, and a new generation of high-resolution altimetry satellites is transforming our ability to do so. This PhD project will develop measurements of Greenland ice loss from this new breed of altimetry satellites, including Sentinel-3 and ICESat-2. You will focus on the development of new processing techniques to improve the retrieval of measurements around the rapidly-changing ice sheet margins. You will receive training in satellite data processing from experts in the UK Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling, and have opportunities to collaborate closely with the European Space Agency.

    Fully funded UK/EU PhD studentship

    Supervisors: Dr Mal McMillan and Dr Amber Leeson

    Start date: October 2019

    Application deadline: 14 July 2019

    Click here to apply

  • Using drone imagery to manage tree failure hazards

    Supervisors:  Alan Blackburn, Duncan Whyatt, Paul Scholefield (CEH)

    Tree failures, which typically occur during severe storms, regularly cause severe disruption to transport and power networks. Operators of infrastructure networks and public spaces face the difficult task of managing the many millions of trees that are in their areas of responsibility, in order to minimise the risks of failure.

    This project will exploit the emerging generation of novel aerial platforms, sensors and data analysis techniques to acquire detailed information on individual trees and their environmental context, to inform tree management decisions for a range of utility and transport companies. .

    The project will generate: (i) protocols for acquiring remotely-sensed data that it suitable for measuring key tree and environmental parameters; (ii) analytical procedures that can extract tree and environmental parameters accurately; (iii) effective methods for repeated monitoring of risky trees; (iv) an efficient data processing platform that will support the operational application of large remotely-sensed data sets for tree survey and inspection. 

    This project builds on recent research projects funded by NERC and EPSRC and has strong potential to open up new markets in the UK and overseas, in the context of tree failure risk management and more widely in arboriculture, orchard management, forestry, ecological survey and carbon accounting. To enable data collection, the student will undergo training and certification as a UAV pilot and will also benefit from all the required training in image processing and  data analysis.

    More details on the Geospatial Data Science Research Group at Lancaster Environment Centre can be found here

    Informal enquires are welcomed, please contact Professor Alan Blackburn  or Dr Duncan Whyatt .

  • Local climatic effects of solar parks across the world – a means of mitigating climate change?

    The rationale: Decarbonisation of energy supplies is triggering notable land use change across the world. Solar photovoltaics is projected to be the dominant renewable. To date understanding of the consequences of the exponentially growing land use change for solar photovoltaic parks on local climate is limited to a few climate zones and ecosystem types. Given climate regulates ecosystem processes, this prohibits prediction of the effects on ecosystem properties and service provision in different locations. The focus: This PhD will resolve the local climate impacts of solar parks, and effects on some ecosystem properties, across the world using remote sensing and GIS methodologies and cloud-based approaches. There is potential to develop numerical modelling, statistical and field skills. The candidate: We are looking for a motivated student interested in developing spatial analysis skills. They will benefit from transferable and research specific training and be part of LEC and Energy Lancaster.

    Fully funded UK/EU PhD studentship

    Supervisors: Dr Alona Armstrong

    Start date: October 2019

    Application deadline: 14 July 2019

    Click here to apply

  • Monitoring Antarctic Ice Sheet melting from space

    Melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributes approximately one-third of global sea level rise. Whilst surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is well documented, less is known about the past and present surface melting of Antarctica, and specifically, the transient network of lakes and rivers that form on the surface of the ice each year. These elusive features are important for understanding the evolution of the ice sheet, and have been implicated in the recent disintegration of several peripheral ice shelves.


    This PhD will develop new understanding of the spatial and temporal evolution of Antarctic melting, and the resulting surface hydrological network. Using both traditional methods and novel data science techniques, several key questions will be explored, (1) What happens to Antarctica’s surface meltwater – where does it refreeze, does it drain into the ice sheet, or does it run off directly into the ocean, (2) How much water is stored in surface lakes, and for how long, and (3) How will the hydrological system evolve under future climate scenarios? To answer these questions, you will exploit the rapid, recent expansion in satellite data, to systematically map the distribution of melt features across Antarctica using both optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite imagery. In addition to traditional methods, there will be opportunities to explore state-of-the-art Machine Learning, Bayesian optimisation and signal processing techniques to deliver new insight into the surface hydrological system. You will then use advanced time series analysis techniques, such as extreme value theory and changepoint detection, to explore trends and variability in melt across space and time. Finally, you will utilise regional climate model estimates of future melting, together with high resolution satellite topography data, to predict the future evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet hydrological network.

    Fully funded UK/EU PhD studentship

    Supervisors: Dr Amber Leeson, Dr Mal McMillan and Dr Chris Nemeth

    Start date: October 2019

    Application deadline: 12 July 2019

    Click here to apply

How the application process works

  1. Select the project you wish to apply for. You can make informal enquiries to the project supervisors if you wish. Please ensure that you check the application deadline dates and eligibility criteria.
  2. Complete your application by following the links to the application form. At this stage, you are able to apply for more than one advertised project if you wish.
  3. After the closing date, the Department will consider all applications. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview. Interviews can be arranged by Skype or telephone. The timescale for this will vary but is in the region of 4 weeks.
  4. If you are successful at interview for the studentship, you will be invited to formally apply via the admissions portal online. This ensures that you receive a formal offer of admission. Please submit one application only, and state the studentship that you have applied for in the source of funding section.
  5. Once a formal offer has been made, you will need to check the conditions in your offer letter and supply any outstanding documents by the required deadlines. If your offer is unconditional then this will not apply to you.

Research Groups



You will find yourself taking advantage of several laboratory facilities at Lancaster Environment Centre. There are our £4.4 million Teaching Labs, for example, as well as specialist facilities for Environmental Chemistry, Noble Gas, and Plant and Soil Ecology.

Research Facilities

There are no fewer than 15 purpose-built glasshouse modules, 16 controlled environment plant growth rooms, 4 solar domes based at the Hazelrigg Weather Station and a suite of ultraviolet radiation research facilities that can truly claim to be world-class.

Field Sites

You could find yourself working at a range of catchment science sites across England and Wales, including the local River Eden Valley, or they can travel much further afield to the tropical forests of the Amazon and Borneo.

Cutting-Edge Technologies

You can be trained to use a range of equipment, such as our Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer Facility, X-ray CT Scanner, Magnetometer or the LI-COR Portable Photosynthesis System, which has the capacity to measure plant gas exchange with exceptional speed and precision.

Rich Data Resources

Dedicated support staff with expertise in GIS, statistics, modelling, information technology and programming are available to provide specialist training in all aspects of data acquisition, processing and analysis.

Other methods of applying for a PhD

Studying for a research degree is a highly rewarding and challenging process. You'll work to become a leading expert in your topic area with regular contact and close individual supervision with your supervisor.