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.

The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is currently hosting a range of funded PhDs for people wishing to study Environmental Science, Biochemistry, Natural Sciences and more.

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


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


    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.  


    Please email Dr Sunitha Pangala for further queries.


    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: 30 March 2020

    Provisional Interview Date: to be confirmed         

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

    Application process

    1. Download the LEC Funded PhD Application Form and LEC Funded PhD 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
    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
    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:

    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.


  • Downscaling and cross-scale integration of land use data and models for building pathways towards sustainable food and land use systems


    Supervisors Pete Atkinson
    Paula Harrison
    Pete Henrys
    Closing Date Wednesday 18th March
    Expected Interview Date Wednesday 1st April


    Food and land use systems are unsustainable in every part of the world. Today's practices drive biodiversity, forest, and other ecosystem losses; cause water scarcity, and threaten the health of freshwater ecosystems through chemical and fertilizer run-off. From a climate change perspective, food systems and land use are crucial. They account for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and unprecedented biodiversity loss. However, better land- and water-use planning, strengthened governance, policy reform, technological innovation and investment could deliver around a third of the mitigation the world needs by 2030 and help achieve the Paris Agreement's long-term goal of keeping the rise of average global temperatures to "well below 2°C".

    Most countries lack tools for integrated land use planning that take account of the complex synergies and trade-offs between agriculture, water, land use, biodiversity, healthy diets, and greenhouse gas emissions. Integrated assessment models which couple together multiple sectoral models to simulate some of these interdependencies have been developed at the global and European levels. However, such models are generally applied at very coarse spatial resolutions whereas land management decisions are taken at finer spatial scales. This PhD will develop methods for downscaling a global/European integrated assessment model to the UK. This could include integrating it with other land-use modelling approaches more appropriate to capturing fine resolution processes and interactions. It could also include testing new machine learning techniques that automatically refine or improve fine-resolution simulations based on new land-use data. The PhD will also contribute to the development of methods to interface the UK model with multiple country versions from different parts of the world as well as the global model. Crucially, this will enable international trade flows in agricultural and forest commodities to be integrated into national decision-making, ensuring the UK and other countries do not meet their national goals by exporting their environmental footprint. Scenario and pathway analysis will be undertaken with the interfaced multi-scale models to inform sustainable food and land-use systems in both national and international contexts accounting for the full propagation on uncertainty across model components and scales.

    The PhD will collaborate with the FABLE Consortium, which mobilizes top knowledge institutions from G20 and other countries to support the development of the data and modelling infrastructure for long-term pathways towards sustainable food and land-use systems. Currently, 22 countries are involved in FABLE modelling activities covering 62% of the world's population (including China, India, Brazil, Ethiopia, USA, Australia, Argentina and Indonesia). Hence, the PhD student will have the opportunity to interact with modellers and data scientists from these countries, as well as IIASA and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) who coordinate FABLE. This is also a unique opportunity to undertake a PhD with significant impact as outputs will help inform national policy debates in real-time as well as the intergovernmental processes on climate.

    How to Apply

    Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship in which you will learn to develop cutting-edge data science approaches to address a key environmental science challenge related to sustainable land use.

    The studentship is part of the £2.6million EPSRC-funded grant Data Science for the Natural Environment (DSNE), a joint project between Lancaster University and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. This is an exciting opportunity to work at the heart of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers consisting of environmental scientists, computer scientists, statisticians and stakeholder organisations, working together to deliver methodological innovation in data science to tackle grand challenges around environmental change. The student will be registered at Lancaster University. The studentship covers the full fees and stipend of UK/EU applicants only (i.e. does not cover the full fees of non-EU applicants).

    The DSNE research programme is a prestigious and high profile research programme targeting a paradigm shift in the role of data in environmental science and leading to long-term impact in decision making. The research is arranged around methodological developments in three core methodological themes (integrated statistical modelling, machine learning and decision-making, and virtual lab development), interlocked with three challenge themes from the environmental sciences (ice sheet melt prediction, air quality modelling and land-use modelling) The PhD topic available is listed below.

    Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Professor Pete Atkinson ( or Professor Paula Harrison (email: before making an application.

    To apply

    Please send a letter of application to by 5pm Wednesday 18th March. The letter should include:

    • An explanation and reasoning about why you want to be considered for the project
    • An explanation of why your skillset and previous education will allow you to be successful in this project (a transcript of your undergraduate or masters degree programme is likely to be helpful)

    Unfortunately, while we can cover the full fees and stipend for UK/EU applicants, the full fee of non-EU applicants cannot be covered.

  • Roots to resilience: climate-proofing crop yields within future salad production
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Professor Ian Dodd
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Ian Dodd Roots to Resilience
  • 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 Jess Davies Bridging the crop-soil-water phosphorus gap
  • '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 Kirsti Ashworth Cos it worth it
  • Optimizing yield and flavour consistency of rocket greens
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Dr Marjorie Lundgren
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Marjorie Lundgren Optimizing yeild and flavour of rocket greens
  • iPotato: Using smart technologies to spot internal defects in potato
    Start October 2020
    Supervisor Professor Martin McAinsh
    Based at Lancaster University
    Details Martin McAinsh iPotato Using Smart Technologies
  • 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 Simon Potts Precision Apiculture
  • 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 Liz Shaw - Optimising Baby Leaf

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.