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.

Applications are now open for business-funded PhD and Masters projects starting between October 20 and January 21. These are cross-disciplinary research projects which contribute to changing business practices and carbon savings. Successful candidates have UK/EU tuition fees funded and receive a monthly stipend payment.

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


  • Fishy Food: The power and politics of food systems

    Supervisors: Professor Christina Hicks, Dr Giovanni Bettini, Dr Philippa Cohen (WorldFish)


    The rationale:

    Food Security is a grand challenge of our time, but the combination of often missing or overlooked factors, inhibit our ability to meet global food security targets (e.g. Sustainable Development Goal 2). Food security research and policy disproportionally focus on the quantities of food available, underplaying who can access food, how (Sen 1981), and whether they can utilize it adequately (Barrett 2010). Consequently, policy can exacerbate the socially inequitable conditions and relations it seeks to address (Cadieux & Slocum 2015).

    Marine fisheries support over 260 million people (Sumaila & Teh), and aquatic foods provide an irreplaceable source of nutrition to vulnerable populations, many of whom live on under $2/day (Kelleher et al 2012). But, a focus on terrestrial systems overshadows and risks undermining the considerable potential of aquatic systems to deliver food security benefits. Consequently, aquatic foods are increasingly promoted as a healthy and sustainable alternative to meat (Willett et al 2019). Such ‘gentrification’ of aquatic foods risks marginalizing economically and politically vulnerable people. A cross-scale analyses of how politics and power shapes access to nutritious food is therefore critical to the design of effective and durable food security policy.

    The focus: This project will take fishing as a starting point from which the policies, practices, structures, and power dynamic’s that shape systems of food production, distribution, and consumption will be analysed at local, national, and international scales. Focal countries will be Kenya and/or Ghana. The specific focus of the project will be developed by the PhD student in dialogue with supervisors, and possible themes / angles include: gender and intersectional perspectives, mobilities and the politics of fisheries, alternative discourses and initiatives (e.g. food sovereignty movements), the intersections between fisheries and climate change adaptation / vulnerability / resilience.

    The candidate: We are looking for a motivated student interested in examining the politics of food systems. They will benefit from transferable and research specific training in LEC and through close collaborations with project partner institutions including World Fish.


    Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in geography, development studies, sociology, public health, environmental social science or related disciplines.


    Please contact with Christina Hicks ( with any questions.

    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 for International (non EU) students. 

    Deadline for applications: 23 November 2020

    Provisional Interview Date: TBC

    Start Date: January 2021

    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:

    Relevant Reading

    Bettini, G., Nash, S.L. and Gioli, G., 2017. One step forward, two steps back? The fading contours of (in) justice in competing discourses on climate migration. The Geographical Journal183(4), pp.348-358.

    Cadieux, K.V. and Slocum, R., 2015. What does it mean to do food justice?. Journal of political ecology22, p.1.

    Cohen, P.J., Allison, E.H., Andrew, N.L., Cinner, J., Evans, L.S., Fabinyi, M., Garces, L.R., Hall, S.J., Hicks, C.C., Hughes, T.P. and Jentoft, S., 2019. Securing a just space for small-scale fisheries in the blue economy. Frontiers in Marine Science6, p.171.

    Hicks, C.C., Cohen, P.J., Graham, N.A., Nash, K.L., Allison, E.H., D’Lima, C., Mills, D.J., Roscher, M., Thilsted, S.H., Thorne-Lyman, A.L. and MacNeil, M.A., 2019. Harnessing global fisheries to tackle micronutrient deficiencies. Nature574(7776), pp.95-98.

    Sen, A., 1981. Poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation. Oxford university press.

    Thilsted, S.H., Thorne-Lyman, A., Webb, P., Bogard, J.R., Subasinghe, R., Phillips, M.J. and Allison, E.H., 2016. Sustaining healthy diets: The role of capture fisheries and aquaculture for improving nutrition in the post-2015 era. Food Policy61, pp.126-131.

    Willett, W., Rockström, J., Loken, B., Springmann, M., Lang, T., Vermeulen, S., Garnett, T., Tilman, D., DeClerck, F., Wood, A. and Jonell, M., 2019. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet393(10170), pp.447-492.


  • 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.


    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.



    Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Mal McMillan,


    To apply please visit

  • 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.


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


    Please contact Peter Wynn


    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    For further details please contact Dr Stuart Sharp ( or Dr Richard Broughton (


    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    For further details please contact Paul Young (


    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    For further information or informal discussion, please contact Dr Luke Parry ( or Dr Chris Ives (


    To apply please visit

  • 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.  


    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


    For further details please contact Professor Andrew Binley (

    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    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

    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    For further enquiries please contact James Sorensen (

    To apply please visit

  • 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.


    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.


    For further information, contact Dr Christopher Marston (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)

    To apply please visit

  • 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).


    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.


    For further details please contact Dr Felicity Hayes or Dr Kirsti Ashworth

    To apply please visit

  • 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 Prof 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 post-graduate community at Rothamsted, you will benefit from an extensive programme of training and benefit from the experience of working in an inter-disciplinary research environment with clear routes to impact in the farming industry.


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


    Please contact Jon Storkey at for more information.

    To apply please visit

  • 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.     


    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. 


    For further details and informal queries, please contact Dr Kirsty Hassall (


    To apply please visit

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.