Dr Alona Armstrong (LEC)
Dr Rebecca R. Hernandez (University of California, Davis, WildEnergy.org)
The rationale: Decarbonisation of energy supplies to mitigate climate change is triggering notable land take across the world. Land-use change is the greatest driver of decline in nature and therefore, such decisions risk trading global-scale climate change for local-scale ecosystem degradation. However, there is also the potential to use land-use change for renewable energy to facilitate improvements in ecosystem health. Understanding the impacts of ground-mounted solar energy power plants, including those using photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies, on ecosystems is very limited despite their rapid growth rates.
The focus:This PhD will resolve the local climate impacts of solar energy plants and consequences for ecosystem carbon cycling, elucidating how responses vary with solar energy and ecosystem types across the world to calculate the true carbon cost of the electricity produced. Example research questions include: (1) How is landscape carbon sequestration affected by solar energy development? (2) How does the size and configuration of solar energy plant influence local climate and ecosystem responses? (3) Which ecosystems types are most resilient to solar energy power plant development?
What’s in it for the candidate
The candidate will develop knowledge of the environmental impacts of renewable energy technologies, a very topical field. They will be trained in generic scientific skills (i.e. scientific writing, experimental design, and statistical analysis) and specific skills, for example, remote sensing, GIS, field monitoring with environmental instruments and sensors, and carbon modelling. Finally, they will gain knowledge of both temperate and arid ecosystems with the opportunity to undertake fieldwork in the UK, Mojave Desert and possibly other locations, including China.
Who should apply
We are looking for a self-motivated student interested in developing spatial analysis skills with an interest in land use change and/or renewable energy. They will enjoy being part of a supportive team of energy-environment researchers in Lancaster Environment Centre and co-supervised by Dr Rebecca R. Hernandez at the University of California, Davis.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in environmental science, geography, ecology, statistics or computing.
Please email Dr Alona Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the PhD further.
Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 2019/20 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 4 years, funded by the Royal Society. Unfortunately, funding is not available for International (non-EU) students.
Deadline for applications: 29 February 2020
Provisional Interview Date: late March/early April 2020
Start Date: October 2020
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