13 October 2014 13:03

Lancaster University will lead on training scientists of the future who will improve our understanding of soils, which are key to tackling many of today’s global challenges, including food, water and energy security.

This follows major funding to launch a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in soil science. It has been awarded to the Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS) consortium led by Professor Phil Haygarth.  The other members of the consortium are the Universities of Bangor, Cranfield, Nottingham, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Rothamsted Research, the British Geological Survey and the James Hutton Institute.

This £3.8M Centre #starsoil aims to create a new generation of highly-skilled soil scientists who understand the soil ecosystem from both environmental and biological viewpoints. It’s been made possible with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with contributions from the STARS consortium. 

The programme will provide funding for a minimum of 11 studentships each year for three years, giving the researchers access to expertise, equipment and training so they can address globally important issues such as climate change, sustainable food-energy-water provision and the conservation of biodiversity. 

There is a need for a new generation of scientists with ‘state-of-the-art’ skills who are able to understand the complexity of the soil ecosystem and the role it plays in the wider environment. The STARS Centre for Doctoral Training addresses this with a multi-disciplinary approach to give researchers a wide breadth of skills and knowledge. 

This is one of three soil science initiatives launched by BBSRC and NERC. The funding of the Global Food Security 'Soil and Rhizosphere Interactions for Sustainable Agri-ecosystems’ (SARISA) programme and the appointment of a Soil Co-ordinator (Professor Chris Collins of Reading University) bring together organisations with a shared interest in developing a new generation of highly-skilled scientists. 

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities Greg Clark said: “Forging these strong partnerships between research councils and the three innovative new initiatives announced today are vital in addressing major challenges facing our society like feeding a growing population. By working together, the research councils can bring a range of perspectives to bear on these issues, ensuring that that excellent UK research is translated into tangible economic and societal benefits." 

Professor Phil Haygarth said:  “Our vision is to create a unique national training experience for the next generation of soil scientists. 

“The new centre presents great potential for the future of soil science in the UK, as it is a truly interdisciplinary subject. It’s really exciting to bring the top academic organisations and research institutes from across the country together under one virtual roof for the first time.  This will make a difference.”