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

Accordion

  • Citizen and stakeholder deliberation for a ‘just transition’ in West Cumbria

    Supervisors:

    Professor Rebecca Willis & Professor Nigel Clark (Lancaster University); Karen Mitchell (Cumbria Action for Sustainability).

    Overview

    This project will provide evidence to inform research and policy in a crucial area: the development of local strategies for a ‘just transition’. The UK is legally required to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The implications of this shift are far-reaching, with changes to the type and location of jobs and industries. In recognition of this, there is widespread support for the concept of a ‘just transition’: a managed shift away from employment in high-carbon industries and sectors, combined with the purposive development of new forms of employment in low- or zero-carbon sectors. The ‘just transition’ concept has been used by the OECD and the United Nations. However, although it is well-defined at a conceptual level, there are many uncertainties about how it manifests in specific local geographies. The project addresses this gap in both academic and policy knowledge, by investigating a specific local area: West Cumbria. In doing so, it contributes to scholarly debates and to the development of UK climate policy, by providing vital evidence about the potential contribution of local areas to national climate goals.

    The project aims to:

    • bridge the research gap between theoretical understandings of ‘just transition’ and its manifestation in a specific geographical location
    • deepen academic and policy understandings of the implementation of climate policy in local areas
    • test the use of deliberative methodologies to develop context-specific, socially and geographically attuned climate strategies
    • support Cumbria Action for Sustainability in its work to develop a County-wide pathway to net-zero
    • contribute to the policy process to meet the UK’s carbon budgets, at Cumbria and national level.

    This project has been developed as a collaboration between Lancaster University and the voluntary organization, Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS). It links to a new research initiative investigating the role of citizen deliberation in energy and climate governance, led by Professor Rebecca Willis (see the project website here). The student will work with the project team, consisting of Professor Willis, a Senior Research Associate, and one further PhD student; and with the team at CAfS.

    The focus of this studentship

    The student will map the national and local context for ‘just transition’, through a review of the academic and policy literature. They will design and carry out fieldwork in West Cumbria, using deliberative research techniques to investigate the positions of citizens and stakeholders in the area. The student will use this research to develop conclusions and an agenda for local and national action. The possibility of a PhD by ‘alternative format’, i.e. a portfolio of published papers or other writings as opposed to a final thesis, may be considered as an option.

    Benefits of the studentship

    The student will join a lively, interdisciplinary department, Lancaster Environment Centre, with a strong tradition of quality research and impact with government and business, and a vibrant postgraduate community. A full range of training is available, both through Lancaster University’s training programme, bespoke training as part of the project team, and external opportunities. Funding is available to cover travel and other expenses as appropriate. The student will have the opportunity to take part in project meetings and events, as well as conferences and events run by external partners. The student will have regular contact with CAfS, with the opportunity to use their Penrith office by arrangement, and gain wider experience of CAfS’ work, eg attending staff meetings and attending events. The exact working pattern will be agreed with the successful candidate and maybe negotiated dependent on their location and other commitments such as caring responsibilities.

    The candidate

    We are looking for a candidate with a relevant first degree (see below), an excellent academic record, and a demonstrable interest in energy and climate governance and the issues addressed by this research programme. The student will be able to demonstrate this interest from study at undergraduate or masters level, work experience or voluntary work. Experience of qualitative research methodologies, or deliberative research, would be an advantage. The student will be expected to travel to meetings, mostly in the UK but possibly elsewhere.

    We welcome applications from people in all diversity groups. We are committed to family-friendly and flexible policies on an individual basis. The department holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, which recognises and celebrates good employment practice undertaken to address gender equality in Higher Education and research.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant discipline, such as geography, sociology, environmental social science, political science or related disciplines. A Masters degree and/or relevant work experience is desirable.

    Enquiries

    Please contact Rebecca Willis (r.willis@lancaster.ac.uk) with any questions.

    Studentship funding: This is a CASE studentship funded by the Northwest Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (NWSSDTP). It covers tuition fees for UK or international students, and a stipend. In 2020/21 this was £15,285 (tax free); rates for future years will be confirmed shortly. A research and training support grant will cover relevant expenses.

    Deadline for applications: 15 March 2021

    Provisional Interview Date: to be confirmed

    Start Date: April - October 2021 (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 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

  • A New Framework for Measuring Uncertainty in Satellite Observations of Climate Change

    This project offers the exciting opportunity to develop fundamental new insight into the certainty of satellite estimates of climate change, with a focus on Earth’s polar ice sheets.

    The melting of ice from Greenland and Antarctica contributes more than one third of global sea level rise. Satellites provide a unique tool for systematically monitoring the response of these vast ice sheets to climate change, yet comprehensive estimates of the uncertainty associated with these measurements is challenging. This complicates their interpretation by end-users such as climate modellers and policy makers.

    The project aims to address this challenge, by developing a fundamental new approach to estimating the uncertainty of satellite altimetry measurements of ice sheet change. This will be achieved by bringing together the disciplines of Earth Observation and metrology (the science of measurement). Specifically, you will (1) work to develop a framework to characterise end-to-end uncertainty in satellite altimetry estimates of ice sheet change, (2) use this new framework to estimate the certainty with which we can derive long-term trends in the contribution of ice sheets to sea level, and (3) explore how this approach can be applied to other sources of satellite data, such as optical and radar imagery.

    This PhD project benefits from being a CASE studentship, meaning that the successful student will have the opportunity to work with experts in both metrology and satellite Earth Observation, and to undertake a secondment at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. You will also become a member of the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (a national Centre of expertise in polar remote sensing) and the new Lancaster University-CEH Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science. There will be extensive opportunities to collaborate with glaciologists, climate scientists, data scientists and statisticians, and to work closely with the European Space Agency.

    Eligibility

    This project is particularly well-suited to applicants with a background in physics, mathematics, computer science, data science, or engineering, who would like to use numeric techniques to study environmental science and climate change. Applications should hold the minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent.

    This project is particularly well-suited to applicants with a background in physics, mathematics, computer science, data science, or engineering, who would like to use numeric techniques to study environmental science and climate change. Applications should hold the minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent.

    Contact

    Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Mal McMillan, m.mcmillan@lancaster.ac.uk

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Stalagmite capture of groundwater nitrogen

    The world’s population relies on using nitrogen to boost crop yields and ensure sufficient food production. However, application of nitrogen fertilizer in excess of that taken up by plants and animals causes contamination of soils, surface waters and groundwater reserves. This has major implications for environmental and human health, causing eutrophication of surface water bodies and toxicity to drinking water supplies. These environmental and health concerns are of global significance for karstic landscapes (carbonate bedrock) where a dual permeability enables nitrogen to be transferred rapidly into the groundwater and then retained for extensive periods of time (decades). This creates a legacy of nitrogen contamination for future generations, directly affecting over a quarter of the World’s population which are dependent upon karst groundwater for consumption. Scientists require a tool to facilitate measurement of groundwater nitrogen contamination in karst terrain and prediction of contamination levels into the future to help determine the longterm safety of drinking water supplies. Here, we propose to use cave stalagmites as a time-constrained record of nitrogen contamination in the karst vadose zone. Stalagmites from selected cave sites in N. Spain and the UK, beneath pastoral and arable ecosystems respectively, will be used to generate time-series’ of nitrogen pollution dynamics throughout the industrial era and establish a baseline from which to contextualise current pollution levels. The generated datasets will then be used to validate predictive models of nitrogen dynamics in karst. This PhD project should appeal to applicants with an interest in biogeochemistry and groundwater hydrology, requiring skills in field and laboratory chemical analysis, as well as numerical modelling. The project will offer a comprehensive training program to enable successful applicants to develop these skill sets to the level required for successful completion of the PhD program.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should have a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or equivalent, in geology / earth science / environmental science / physical Geography.

    Contact

    Please contact Peter Wynn p.wynn@lancaster.ac.uk.

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

    http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Understanding how habitat quality, insect abundance and aquatic subsidies impact population change in a rapidly declining bird

    Global declines in migrant bird populations are a major threat to the world’s ecosystems. Migrants provide vital ecosystem services at large spatial scales, and avian population trends are key indicators of environmental change. Understanding and reversing the declines in migrant populations is, therefore, a conservation priority, but the underlying causes are unclear. While a growing body of evidence suggests that climate change is influential, the importance of other aspects of environmental change are often overlooked. For example, widely reported collapses in insect numbers may severely affect insectivorous migrants, but this has rarely been investigated. This project addresses these issues by focussing on the spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), one of the UK’s most rapidly declining birds. An obligate insectivore, this species is an important indicator of environmental health and an ideal model for studying the link between declines in insects and migrant birds. The project combines analyses of long-term data with fieldwork, spatial analysis, labwork and population modelling in order to: (1) investigate the impact of habitat change and invertebrate abundance on national population trends; (2) determine how habitat quality and food availability affect breeding success in a local population; and (3) develop a model of population change. The results will provide critical information to the conservation of spotted flycatchers, but will also offer unique insights into the decline of migratory species more generally. The research includes exciting fieldwork in Yorkshire Dales National Park, cutting-edge laboratory techniques (e.g. eDNA and stable isotope analyses) and the analysis of exceptional long-term data sets on birds and insects. Full training will be provided for all of these elements, giving the student a diverse skill set for a career in ecology or conservation. The student will work alongside researchers from the host institutions and from the British Trust for Ornithology and Natural England.

    Eligibility

    We are looking for applicants with a strong interest in avian ecology and conservation, good ecological field experience and a willingness to work alongside a diverse range of partners. Applicants must also hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant discipline and a valid driving licence. Experience with bird ringing, GIS, lab work and mathematical modelling are all advantageous but not essential.

    Contact

    For further details please contact Dr Stuart Sharp (s.sharp2@lancaster.ac.uk) or Dr Richard Broughton (rbrou@ceh.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • UK air pollution futures and their health impacts

    Poor air quality is the number one environmental health threat in the UK, contributing to ~30,000 deaths per year, while also exacerbating several health conditions. Air quality depends on the amount of pollutant emissions and the prevailing weather conditions. This means that we expect it to be different in the future, both due to changes in emitting activity (e.g., more/fewer cars, different methods of power/heat generation) and climate (e.g., increased propensity for stagnant air conditions and heat waves). Projections of air quality and its health impacts are an important part of evaluating risks for different plausible futures, yet this is typically done by presenting multi-year average results for a limited set of socioeconomic scenarios. Moreover, these scenarios are formulated at a global scale and seldom account for local scale emission patterns nor air quality management possibilities.

    In this project, you will address these shortcomings. Working with researchers from Lancaster, the JBA Trust and Public Health England (PHE), you will develop locally appropriate and relatable future air quality “storylines”, which are more grounded in the lived experience of local stakeholders (policymakers and communities) compared to typical future projections. To do this, you will use learn to analyse large environment datasets, adapt and run environmental models, and assess the health impacts of the different futures. You will also develop allied skills in communicating your work to varied audiences, writing scientific code and visualizing complex data.

    You will sit within a thriving research environment interested in better understanding future global change. This includes the joint Lancaster-CEH Centre of Excellence for Environmental Data Science and Lancaster’s Institute for Social Futures, where environmental science respectively meets data science, and the social sciences and humanities. Overall, you will gain enviable experience of how impactful environmental science is done in academic, commercial and public sector contexts.

    Eligibility

    We are looking for a self-motivated candidate with an interest in atmospheric science, air pollution or climate. Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Natural or Environmental Science, or a related discipline. As the project involves the use of atmospheric models and large observational datasets, it is well suited towards numerate candidates with an interest in scientific computing. We don’t expect you to have these skills on day one (although that would be an advantage), but you will have to demonstrate to us that you will be able to learn and develop them yourself. You must have demonstrable potential and enthusiasm for creative, high-quality PhD research in environmental science and health.

    Contact

    For further details please contact Paul Young (paul.j.young@lancaster.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Country, calypso or carimbó? The role of cultural value shifts in advancing Amazonian deforestation frontiers

    This inter-disciplinary project addresses the intractable problem of how to reduce tropical deforestation. Current strategies such as REDD+ are failing and rooted in assumptions of rational economic decision-making. However, emerging research highlights the socio-cultural roots of environmental problems and solution pathways (e.g. Chan et al. 2020, People & Nature). Understanding people’s environmental values is increasingly recognised as central to achieving sustainability and reducing biodiversity loss. Kendal & Raymond (2019, Sustainability Science) propose a conceptual model for understanding social-ecological value change, but this requires empirical testing. Interestingly, ethnographic work in Amazonia suggests that diffusion of ‘cattle culture’ (e.g. fashion, music, cultural events) causes Amazonians to become less attached to forests.

    This project aims to understand whether migration to deforestation frontiers leads to local cultural value shifts and increased deforestation. It addresses three questions:

    1. Does in-migration of cattle-ranchers lead to cultural value shifts among Amazonian populations?
    2. Do cultural value shifts accelerate deforestation?
    3. Are there ecological-cultural tipping points (see Fernández-Giménez et al. 2017, Anthropocene) in Amazonia which cause or follow rapid environmental change?

    Answering these requires drawing on concepts and methods from sustainability science, demography and environmental psychology. For example, using demographic data and Facebook markets data to examine whether in-migration of cattle-ranchers causes a shift from Amazonian carimbó, towards Country music. You will conduct a mixture of large-scale data analysis (demographic, cultural, environmental data) and field-work (e.g. conducting surveys) in the Brazilian Amazon. You will have a co-supervisor at the Federal University of Pará in Amazonia, and learn Brazilian Portuguese.

    You’ll be part of the postgraduate community in the Lancaster Environment Centre and Nottingham’s School of Geography. In addition to ‘in-house’ training, you’ll be encouraged and supported to attend summer schools in Europe and conduct overseas research internships where you’ll further develop inter-disciplinary skills and collaborations.

    Eligibility

    First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, with a Masters degree in an appropriate subject. For instance, you would benefit from a background in geography, demography, psychology, conservation social science, environmental studies or cognate discipline. Preference will be given to candidates that can show evidence of interdisciplinary interest, training and working. Some experience of statistical analysis (e.g. in R) would be advantageous. Can be completed on a full or part-time basis.

    Contact

    For further information or informal discussion, please contact Dr Luke Parry (luke.parry@lancaster.ac.uk) or Dr Chris Ives (Chris.Ives@nottingham.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Seeing into the subsurface – next generation geophysical imaging for environmental and engineering hazard monitoring

    Are you looking to transfer your experience of computational methods to tackling some important Earth science problems? We are interested in imaging the shallow subsurface (the top 100m of the Earth’s crust – the bit we rely on for water and many other resources and the bit that can change rapidly, e.g. a landslide, and have a huge impact on society). We are looking for a graduate with quantitative skills to help develop a new generation of 4D (space and time) geophysical simulators to allow us to image the subsurface at new scales. Geophysical techniques now offer the potential to image complex large scale subsurface structures and processes, helping us improve our understanding of, for example, landslides, volcanoes, thawing of permafrost, groundwater contamination, and consequently the threats they pose on society. We are, however, at present constrained by the size of problem we can investigate with such techniques because of available computational power and computing approaches.

    You will explore the potential of emerging computational approaches to transform our ability to image the Earth’s subsurface and quantify the model uncertainty. We envisage a new generation geophysical simulator, that may be based on machine learning approaches, allowing us to study the Earth’s dynamic subsurface at a scale that is an order of magnitude above what we can presently do. Once developed, you will test the new approach on rich datasets such as those obtained from monitoring landslides and earth dams.

    You will work within a team from the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), British Geological Survey (BGS), UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and Nottingham University, with CASE industrial partner Socotec. You will have access to state-of-the-art measurement systems (and their data) along with existing software used to analyse such data.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent. They should have studied to degree level subjects such as Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Computational Physics, Engineering, or Earth Science with strong numerical elements

    Contact

    For further details please contact Professor Andrew Binley (a.binley@lancaster.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Confronting the Changing Diversity Patterns of Coral Reefs

    Coral reef ecosystems are in a state of change. Increasingly frequent and severe disturbances, and escalation of human interactions, are transforming many tropical coral reefs. At the same time, species are extending their ranges toward higher latitudes at remarkable pace, with tropical species encroaching temperate rocky reef environments. Despite these changes to the organisation of these critical ecosystems, we still rely on classic ecological theories of diversity patterns that were developed in more stable conditions. These theories focus on biophysical processes, yet environmental extremes (e.g. heat waves) and social factors (e.g. distance to markets) have come to dominate ecological communities on many of the world’s coastlines. This project will test if latitudinal diversity gradients are changing on coastal reef ecosystems, with major implications for ecology and conservation. Classic ecological theories will be confronted with contemporary diversity patterns, and new theories of diversity patterns will be developed that incorporate social and environmental variables. By tackling the topic using a multidisciplinary approach, the project aims to better capture ecological organisation on contemporary coral reefs. The PhD will provide training in independent thinking, field techniques, statistical modelling, social-ecological systems thinking, and scientific writing. With supervisory and project support at Lancaster University and Bangor University, UK, and James Cook University, Australia, the project offers unique opportunities for research and training in coral reef science.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of an Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Ecology, or Geography. Applicants with Masters degrees, relevant research experience, or publications will be highly competitive. Exposure to statistical analyses and social-ecological data desirable.

    Contact

    For further details, or to enquire about eligibility please send a short statement regarding your background and interest in the project, and a CV to Professor. Nick Graham nick.graham@lancaster.ac.uk

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • The mysterious microbial ecosystem beneath our feet: Unravelling groundwater microbiology

    Hosted at BGS

    Groundwater constitutes 99% of accessible freshwater on the planet and is a vital resource for public water supply in the UK. It contains a little-studied indigenous microbial ecosystem responsible for the cycling of nutrients and a food-source for blind subterranean macroinvertebrates. These ecosystems are increasingly under pressure due to population growth, urbanisation, and climate change, which can modify the assemblage. There is also the potential that groundwater ecological monitoring could become mandated in the UK, with it already enshrined in legislation in Australia and Switzerland. We need to undertake the first investigation of the UK’s subterranean microbial ecosystem to understand its current status and controls.

    This project aims to explore the:

    • The abundance of microbes and their activity within our UK aquifers;
    • Investigate the range of microbial diversity; and
    • Understand environmental controls on both bacterial abundance and diversity.

    The student, collaborating with partners (including Thames Water), will collect samples from a representative range of UK groundwater supplies. Samples will be analysed using flow cytometry for microbial cell abundance and activity. These data can then be scaled up using our hydrogeological understanding to provide abundance and activity estimates at the aquifer and national scale.

    High throughout sequencing of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes will be used to characterise the molecular diversity of the various types of microbes. Linkages to environmental variables will be assessed using existing national groundwater hydrochemical datasets and analysis of new samples. Groundwater age will also be investigated as an environmental control as we have groundwater ranging from modern to many thousands of years old in the UK.

    The research student will integrate into the BGS/CEH research teams in Wallingford, Oxfordshire where they will work alongside a broad spectrum of scientists and other students, have access to excellent research infrastructure, and be eligible for UKRI training.

    Eligibility

    Applicants must have a minimum of a 2:1 class degree in geography, geology, microbiology or environmental sciences or a masters degree in a relevant field.

    Contact

    For further enquiries please contact James Sorensen (jare1@bgs.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Multi-scale modelling of invasive mosquito disease vector establishment in the UK under future climate change scenarios

    Hosted at UKCEH

    Aedes albopictus, a highly invasive mosquito species and important transmission vector of dengue, zika, yellow fever, dirofilaria and chikungunya, has spread rapidly from Asia and is now established across Europe. It poses a serious public health threat and has recently led to the transmission of dengue fever in Europe. Ongoing UK-wide surveillance recently detected this species in Kent in 2016-2019 and London (2019), raising the possibility of A. albopictus establishing in the UK and posing a new, significant risk for disease transmission.

    This PhD project is an exciting opportunity to utilise in-situ mosquito monitoring alongside satellite, drone and LiDAR earth observation datasets to model potential establishment of Aedes invasive Mosquito species (AIMs) under a range of climate change forecasts, advancing our knowledge of potential future mosquito-borne disease transmission in the UK. It will model relationships between key landscape characteristics and mosquito populations at multiple local to national scales to establish the key variables driving AIMs abundance and distribution, identify respective risk areas for AIMs establishment around UK ports-of-entry, and predicted UK-wide AIM distributions and identify at-risk populations under different climatic scenarios. This project provides opportunities for varied fieldwork and training in the acquisition of mosquito survey data, alongside satellite and drone data collection and analysis.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects including (but not limited to) Environmental Science, Geography, Ecology or Epidemiology. MSc’s in relevant subjects such as Remote Sensing or Environmental Modelling would be advantageous, although not essential.

    Contact

    For further information, contact Dr Christopher Marston (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) cmarston@ceh.ac.uk.

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • The impact of ozone and climate change on floral VOC signalling in beans, with a focus on subsistence agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Hosted at UKCEH

    Bean yields are significantly affected by pollinator visitation, a visitation which can be heavily influenced by the release of floral volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ozone pollution and climate change, in isolation or through their interaction, could disrupt these vital pollinator cues. Until recently though, it has not been possible to assess the combined impacts of climate change and ozone on floral VOC signal strength and composition, and subsequent effects on yield. This knowledge gap is particularly concerning in subsistence areas reliant on beans, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Using state-of-the art experimental facilities and atmospheric gas sampling, you will quantify the change in signal strength and composition of floral VOC emissions in response to ozone pollution and climate change (warming and drought). You will then use a simple chemistry box model to simulate the loss of signal around plants due to changes in VOC emissions and subsequent photochemistry. Finally, results on modelled signal loss will be combined with existing data on air pollutant concentrations, and bean production distribution, to identify the potential locations of largest risk of additional yield losses in Sub-Saharan Africa due to reductions in pollination by insects. You will work in dynamic teams in both Bangor and Lancaster, and collaborate with European, African and American researchers, gaining inter-disciplinary skills in experimental design; ecophysiology, biochemical and data analyses; GIS mapping; and, mathematical (computer) modelling. Postgraduate training, including through Royal Society and RCUK courses, will be available.

    This project will be based in UKCEH (Bangor).

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant subject such as Environmental Science or Natural Sciences.

    Contact

    For further details please contact Dr Felicity Hayes fhay@ceh.ac.uk or Dr Kirsti Ashworth k.s.ashworth1@lancaster.ac.uk.

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Exploring drivers of rarity in the arable weed flora

    Hosted at Rothamsted Research

    Several iconic plant species that used to be common in cropped fields, including corncockle and corn marigold have dramatically decreased in frequency and abundance since the 1960s due to the intensification of agricultural production. In contrast, other species have remained common or even increased in abundance. Can we explain the contrasting response of plant species to changes in management based on fundamental principles of community ecology?

    You will explore alternative hypothesis for the shifts in arable plant composition and reasons for the decline species that have now become rare including the possibility of a rare weed trait syndrome and contrasts between specialist and generalist life history strategies. You will be based at Rothamsted Research and will also benefit from supervision by Professor Stevens at Lancaster and Dr Phil Wilson, an independent ecologist and national expert on rare arable weeds. You will use a combination of manipulative experiments, field surveys of rare weed communities and analysis of trait databases to elucidate the ecology of this important group of plants and contribute to strategies for their conservation.

    As part of a vibrant postgraduate community at Rothamsted, you will benefit from an extensive programme of training and benefit from the experience of working in an interdisciplinary research environment with clear routes to impact in the farming industry.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a 2:1 degree or above in a subject related to this PhD project.

    Enquiries

    Please contact Jon Storkey at jonathan.storkey@rothamsted.ac.uk for more information.

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Understanding and monitoring insect pest dispersal within a changing environment

    Hosted at Rothamsted Research

    This exciting PhD project will work at the cutting edge of mathematical and statistical sciences to deliver automatic insect pest detection. Whilst the focus is on developing and applying data science techniques, you will also seek to understand complementary disciplines in biomechanics, insect behaviour and phenology.

    You will develop a “digital twin” for the flight of insect pests by integrating state-of-the-art statistical methods with data obtained from opto-acoustic sensors, high-speed cameras and video tracking technology to associate audio signals with insect morphology. This digital twin will sit in the interface between statistics, mathematical biology and the life sciences and will be used to investigate how changing flight behaviour impacts detectable audio signals. Throughout the project, you will explore which environmental and biological factors are causing changes in flight behaviour and how this impacts the performance of machine-learning algorithms for insect classification. You will investigate methods for upscaling insect detection models for deployment in field. This research will directly contribute to the ongoing fight against vector-borne agricultural diseases, aiming to improve worldwide food security.

    You will be working as part of multi-disciplinary team crossing the mathematical, statistical, ecological and biomechanical sciences. The PhD will largely be based at Rothamsted Research (Harpenden) with regular travel to and from Lancaster University and occasional travel to Bangor University.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a quantitative subject such as mathematics or statistics. Applicants will be considered if they hold a degree in a subject such as biology or ecology with a strong quantitative component.

    Candidates should, ideally, have some experience in mathematical/statistical modelling and a willingness to undertake experiments. An interest in natural history and entomology would be an advantage.

    Contact

    For further details and informal queries, please contact Dr Kirsty Hassall (kirsty.hassall@rothamsted.ac.uk).

    To apply please visit http://www.envision-dtp.org/projects/apply/.

  • Transport of microplastics in overland flow

    Supervisors: Professor John Quinton

    Overview

    The Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, UK, is offering two fully funded PhD positions as part of the Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Network ‘SOPLAS: Macro and microplastic (MiP) in agricultural soil systems.’ The successful students will be part of a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team and will spend periods of time at partner institutions. SOPLAS is one of the largest EU funded projects focusing on the sustainability of plastic use in agriculture. Overall there will be 14 PhD students, hosted by 11 research institutions, in the programme. The cohort will attend a series of training events hosted by the consortium members.

    The potential pathways of MiPs from soils to aquatic systems have yet to be addressed in the scientific literature. Therefore, we will be among the first to work in this area. In SOPLAS we will use advanced techniques from hydrology and erosion research to estimate the potential fluxes of MiP into aquatic systems coming from soils. Three critical pathways will be investigated: transport to groundwater via the subsurface; the mixing and movement of plastics in the soil due to tillage and bioturbation and the movement of plastics to surface waters in overland flow (the focus of this PhD).

    This PhD will focus on the processes governing transport of MiP which will first be studied in laboratory flume experiments utilising high resolution particle tracking and tracing methods. These experiments will subsequently be upscaled to the field and small catchment scale using traceable MiP.

    Specifically the studentship will:

    • Develop a methodology for tracing MiP in overland flow
    • Carry out laboratory experiments investigating the controls on the detachment of MiP and its transport during rainstorms in the laboratory
    • Collect evidence of MiP transport from soils to water in the field

    Full details of this studentship opportunity can be found at

    https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A3258

  • Development and application of fluorescence-based techniques to quantify microplastic pollution in soils

    Supervisors: Dr Cris Halsall

    Overview

    The Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, UK, is offering two fully funded PhD positions as part of the Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Network ‘SOPLAS: Macro and microplastic (MiP) in agricultural soil systems.’ The successful students will be part of a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team and will spend periods of time at partner institutions. SOPLAS is one of the largest EU funded projects focusing on the sustainability of plastic use in agriculture. Overall there will be 14 PhD students, hosted by 11 research institutions, in the programme. The cohort will attend a series of training events hosted by the consortium members.

    The detection and quantification of primary and secondary MiP in soil amendments and in soils will build on recent advances in analytical methodologies for MiP (e.g. FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy, pyrolysis-GC-MS). Based on earlier studies with soil amendments, SOPLAS will be the first to adapt the different methodologies to accurately isolate, identify and quantify MiP in a range of soil matrices and subsequently compare the results obtained using different methodologies. Since the isolation of MiPs from soil and soil amendments is still unsatisfactory (particularly for small MiP particles), we will first work towards optimizing protocols to isolate MiPs from soil and soil amendments. This work will involve optimizing filtration, oxidative and enzymatic degradation protocols.

    This PhD project has three main objectives:

    • Optimize protocols for isolation of MiPs from a range of soil matrices
    • Develop fluorescence microscopy-based techniques for quantification of MiPs in soils, allowing high sample throughput;
    • Establish a baseline quantification of MiP pollution across a wide range of European soils, using fluorescence-based techniques and comparing these to other spectroscopy-based microscopy techniques.

    Full details of this studentship opportunity can be found at

    https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A3258

  • 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) and Dr. Alison Hoyt (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany)

    Overview

    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 know 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 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 water courses 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 the candidate: 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 Stanford University and receive extensive training to develop and refine a methane transport and emission model.

    The candidate: 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.

    Eligibility

    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 Sunitha Pangala @ s.pangala@lancaster.ac.uk, to discuss the PhD further.

    Studentship funding: Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£15,285 2020/21 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years. Unfortunately, funding is not available to cover fees for non-EU students.

    Dates

    Deadline for applications: 28 February 2021

    Provisional Interview Date: to be confirmed

    Start Date: April - October 2021 (early start is an option for interested students)

    Application process

    1. Download theLEC Funded PhD Application Formand 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 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

  • Using deliberative methods to explore citizen engagement in energy and climate governance

    Supervisors:

    Professor Rebecca Willis and Professor David Tyfield

    Overview

    The UK has committed to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. How will people respond to this challenge? What scope is there for people to live their lives differently, and how can government enable this shift? How can citizens work with government, to shape a climate strategy that works for them?

    The student will play a key role in a new research initiative investigating these questions, led by Professor Rebecca Willis (see the project website here) following on from her contribution to Climate Assembly UK. The student will work with the project team, consisting of Professor Willis, a Senior Research Associate, and one further PhD student, to develop new understandings of the role of the individual in governance, use deliberative methodologies to bring citizens together with experts, and co-design policy and strategy recommendations. This project is a partnership between Lancaster University, the Climate Change Committee, the Energy Systems Catapult, the UK Energy Research Centre and the Centre for Climate and Social Transformations, and the student will interact with, and learn from, these organisations, as well as a wider community of researchers and policy analysts in government and other organisations.

    The focus of this studentship

    The student will take responsibility for one strand of research within this project. This will involve leading a piece of deliberative research, working closely with Professor Willis and project partners, carrying out empirical research into one aspect of energy and climate governance, such as policies for heat decarbonisation, or ICT-enabled energy services. The scope of the research will be developed through negotiation between the successful candidate, the other team members, and the project partners. The student will have the opportunity to develop their own PhD pathway as part of the team. The possibility of a PhD by ‘alternative format’, i.e. a portfolio of published papers or other writings as opposed to a final thesis, may be considered as an option.

    Benefits of the studentship

    The student will join a lively, interdisciplinary department, Lancaster Environment Centre, with a strong tradition of quality research and impact with government and business, and a vibrant postgraduate community. A full range of training is available, both through Lancaster University’s training programme, bespoke training as part of the project team, and external opportunities. Funding is available to cover travel and other expenses as appropriate. The student will have the opportunity to take part in project meetings and events, as well as conferences and events run by external partners. There may be an opportunity for a secondment with one of the partner organisations for this project, the Climate Change Committee or the Energy Systems Catapult.

    The candidate

    We are looking for a candidate with a relevant first degree (see below), an excellent academic record, and a demonstrable interest in energy and climate governance and the issues addressed by this research programme. The student will be able to demonstrate this interest from study at undergraduate or masters level, work experience or voluntary work. Experience of qualitative research methodologies, or deliberative research, would be an advantage. This is very much a team project, so the student will be expected to contribute to the work of the team as a whole. The student will be given responsibility for managing aspects of the joint research project, and must have good project management and organisational skills or aptitude. Training will also be provided. The student will be expected to travel to meetings, mostly in the UK but possibly elsewhere.

    We welcome applications from people in all diversity groups. We are committed to family-friendly and flexible policies on an individual basis. The department holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, which recognises and celebrates good employment practice undertaken to address gender equality in Higher Education and research.

    Eligibility

    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant discipline, such as geography, sociology, environmental social science, political science or related disciplines. A Masters degree and / or relevant work experience is desirable.

    Enquiries

    Please contact Rebecca Willis (r.willis@lancaster.ac.uk) with any questions.

    Studentship funding: This is a full studentship for UK students, covering tuition fees and a stipend. In 2020/21 this was £15,285 (tax free); rates for future years will be confirmed shortly. A research and training support grant will cover relevant expenses.

    Deadline for applications: 15 March 2021

    Provisional Interview Date: to be confirmed

    Start Date: April - October 2021 (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 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.