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

  • The role of lateral and tree transport in methane cycling in tropical peatlands

    Supervisors

    • Dr Sunitha Pangala (Lancaster Environment Centre, UK)
    • Dr Niall McNamara (Centre Ecology & Hydrology, UK)
    • Dr Alison Hoyt (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany)

    Description

    Tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia have sequestered carbon over thousands of years and are an important global carbon stock. In natural peat swamp forests, high water levels, warm temperature and availability of carbon make them a perfect environment for methane-producing microorganisms to thrive and produce increased quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas known to contribute significantly to the global climate. Despite these ideal methane-producing conditions, methane measurements from peat surfaces in tropical peatlands indicate that these ecosystems only release a fraction of methane compared to peatlands in other regions. Acidic conditions in peat and increased microbial methane oxidation by tree roots or within the peat surface have been suggested as possible theories to explain the low methane emissions from this region. In this project, we will look at an alternative methane transport theory (figure 1) that may help explain the low methane emissions from the tropical peat surfaces. We propose that the observed low methane fluxes from the peat surface are the result of most methane being released via alternative pathways, namely 1) lateral transport into watercourses and 2) tree transport to the atmosphere. Both these methane transport pathways have not been fully measured from any of the tropical peatland, which may have led to the earlier lower methane estimates.

    In this study, we will develop a comprehensive understanding of the production, transport and emissions of methane from peat swamp forests in Borneo (Brunei and Indonesia) using field measurements and modelling approaches. We will first measure methane emissions from peat, tree stem and aquatic surfaces capturing spatial variability to quantify the role of lateral and tree transport against peat surface emissions. Second, we will measure the methane, dissolved organic carbon and dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations in peat profiles across the peat dome to capture trends in depths. Third, these two measurements will be complemented with measurements of carbon isotopic (stable and radioactive isotopes) composition to identify the source and mechanism of methane produced and transported. Finally, we will use an isotope-based approach to develop a model of methane transport and emissions which will allow us to capture the changes in methane cycling due to water table fluctuations for the first time in these systems of global importance.

    What’s in it for you?

    The student will receive training in experimental design, planning and organising field campaigns and field sampling techniques as well as data analysis and interpretation and communicating research to a range of audiences. The student will receive specific scientific training in biogeochemical techniques (e.g. the use of portable greenhouse gas analysers and isotope-ratio mass spectrometers, chamber measurements, gas and water sample collection and analysis). The student will also be part of 4 field campaigns in peat swamp forests of Brunei and Indonesia and perform a range of carbon isotope tracer experiments to evaluate methane production, transport and emissions. Following field campaigns, the student will spend three months at Max Planck Institute and receive extensive training to develop and refine a methane transport and emission model.

    Who should apply?

    Students who have a strong background in environmental science, with prior knowledge of plant-soil carbon cycling and willingness to work in challenging field sites, are encouraged to apply. The student will join an established, well-resourced and vibrant team researching plant-soil ecology, biogeochemistry and ecosystem science at Lancaster Environment Centre, UK. The student will spend significant periods of time in some of the most beautiful ecosystems on the planet – tropical peat swamp forests of Borneo.  

    Enquiries

    Please email Dr Sunitha Pangala for further queries.

    Funding

    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. 

    Dates

    Deadline for applications: 30 January 2020

    Provisional Interview Date: second/third week of Feb 2020         

    Start Date: April - October 2020 (early start is an option for interested students)

    Application process

    1. Download the Application Form and Reference Form.
    2. Complete the Application Form, renaming the document with your ‘Name and Application Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs Application Form.
    3. Submit the completed Application Form and a CV to Applica.yk2qaq0mzoyka4iu@u.box.com
    4.  Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted.
    5. Rename the referee form with your ‘Name and Reference’, e.g., Joe Bloggs Reference. Send the renamed reference form to two referees and request them to forward the referee document to Applica.yk2qaq0mzoyka4iu@u.box.com
    6. Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted. It is important that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.
    7. You will receive a generic acknowledgement in receipt of successfully sending the application documents.
    8. Please note that only applications submitted as per these instructions will be considered.
    9. Please note that, if English is not your first language, you will be required to provide evidence of your proficiency in English. This evidence is only required if you are offered a funded PhD and is not required as part of this application process.
    10. Please note that, if you do not hear from us within four weeks of the closing date then you have been unsuccessful on this occasion. If you would like feedback on your application, please contact the supervisors of the project.

    Please note: Submit all applications and references to this unique email address: Applica.yk2qaq0mzoyka4iu@u.box.com

    Further reading

    • Gandois L, Teisserenc R, Cobba AR, Chieng HI, Lim LBL, Kamariah AS, Hoyt A, Harvey CF. 2014. Origin, composition, and transformation of dissolved organic matter in tropical peatlands. Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta 137: 35-47.
    • Hoyt A. 2017. Carbon Fluxes from Tropical Peatlands: Methane, Carbon Dioxide and Peatland Subsidence. PhD thesis.
    • Pangala SR, Enrich-Prast A, Basso L, Peixoto RB, Bastviken D, Hornibrook ERC, Gatti L, Calazans LSB, Sakuragui CM, Marotto H, Basto WR, Malm O, Gloor E, Miller J, Gauci V. Large emissions from floodplain trees close the Amazon methane budget. Nature doi:10.1038/nature24639.
    • Pangala SR, Hornibrook ERC, Gowing DJ, Gauci V. 2015. Tree contribution of trees to ecosystem methane emissions in a temperate forested wetland. Global Change Biology 21: 2642-2654.
    • Pangala SR, Moore S, Hornibrook ERC, Gauci V. 2013. Trees are major conduits for methane egress from tropical forested wetlands. New Phytologist 197: 524-531.

     

  • Developing Countries - fully funded PhD studentship

    Description

    Lancaster Environment Centre (UK) is offering one fully funded PhD studentship to a student from developing countries within the field of Environment. The studentships will cover all fees for a three year PhD, a stipend of a minimum of £15,009 (2019/20 rate) to cover living costs and a research support and training grant to cover research costs.

    Applicants are invited from nationals of countries with medium or low human development as defined by the United Nations Human Development Programme Development Report published in 2018.  Applicants should hold a good undergraduate degree and meet university English Language requirements. Full details are provided here.

    Applicants should hold a good UK equivalent undergraduate degree and are asked to submit a CV, a one page personal statement outlining their experience and why they would like to study for PhD and a two page research proposal which details the research they would like to conduct at Lancaster Environment Centre. Please do not send an application longer than two pages, if you do then only the first two pages will be considered. In their research proposal applicants are also asked to identify up to three potential supervisors for their research. Supervisors must be members of academic staff at Lancaster Environment Centre, a list of academic staff can be found here. Please select staff members with research expertise in your chosen area. Applications should be submitted to lec.pgr.applications@lancaster.ac.uk with ‘Developing Countries’ specified in the subject line. The deadline for applications is 31 March 2020.

    As one of the world’s largest centres for environmental research, Lancaster Environment Centre’s academic expertise spans the natural and social sciences, offering balanced perspectives on what are complex societal challenges. We have more than 65 academic staff, 160 PhD students and 50 post-doctoral researchers spanning the social, physical and biological aspects of the environment.

    Lancaster University is a highly ranked global university and is ranked in the top 10 UK universities in three major league tables.  Lancaster University was awarded the highest possible score in the UK governments teaching excellence framework and was awarded University of the Year in 2018. Lancaster is a research-intensive university, with 35% of our research classed as world-leading and 48% classed as internationally excellent in the UK Government's latest independent review.

    Dates

    • Deadline for applications: 31 March 2020
    • Interview date:  via Skype
    • Start date: October 2020

     

    Please email lec-pgr@lancaster.ac.uk if you have any enquiries.

  • Roots to resilience: climate-proofing crop yields within future salad production
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Professor Ian Dodd
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Download the PDF
  • Bridging the crop-soil-water phosphorus gap: Managing phosphorus for sustainable crop production and sustainable water
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Dr Jess Davies
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Download the PDF
  • 'Cos' it’s worth it! Investigating how to mitigate ozone damage to salad crops
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Dr Kirsti Ashworth
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Download the PDF
  • Optimizing yield and flavour consistency of rocket greens
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Dr Marjorie Lundgren
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Download the PDF
  • iPotato: Using smart technologies to spot internal defects in potato
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Professor Martin McAinsh
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Download the PDF
  • Precision Apiculture: enhancing the health and effectiveness of managed honeybees for soft fruit production
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Professor Simon Potts
    Based at University of Reading
    Details Download the PDF
  • Optimizing soil nitrogen in baby leaf salad crops for sustainable crop production
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Dr Liz Shaw
    Based at University of Reading
    Details Download the PDF
  • Sun drenched or sun starved: Evaluating climate and ecosystem impacts of solar energy development

    Supervisors

    Dr Alona Armstrong (LEC)
    Dr Rebecca R. Hernandez (University of California, Davis, WildEnergy.org)

    Description

    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.

    Enquiries

    Please email Dr Alona Armstrong a.armstrong@lancaster.ac.uk to discuss the PhD further.

    Funding

    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. 

    Dates

    Deadline for applications: 29 February 2020

    Provisional Interview Date: late March/early April 2020         

    Start Date: October 2020 

    Application process

    1. Download the Application Form and Reference Form.
    2. Complete the Application Form, renaming the document with your ‘Name and Application Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs Application Form.
    3. Submit the completed Application Form and a CV to lec.pgr.applications@lancaster.ac.uk
    4. Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted.
    5. Rename the referee form with your ‘Name and Reference’, e.g., Joe Bloggs Reference. Send the renamed reference form to two referees and request them to forward the referee document to lec.pgr.applications@lancaster.ac.uk
    6. Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted. It is important that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.
    7. You will receive a generic acknowledgement in receipt of successfully sending the application documents.
    8. Please note that only applications submitted as per these instructions will be considered.
    9. Please note that, if English is not your first language, you will be required to provide evidence of your proficiency in English. This evidence is only required if you are offered a funded PhD and is not required as part of this application process.
    10. Please note that, if you do not hear from us within four weeks of the closing date then you have been unsuccessful on this occasion. If you would like feedback on your application, please contact the supervisors of the project.

    Submit all applications and references to this email address: lec.pgr.applications@lancaster.ac.uk

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

Facilities

Laboratories

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.