PhD Studentship in Earth Observation

Open University - Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Stipend: c. £14,533 per year and tuition fee covered. Three separate fully funded fieldworks in Peru.

Project title: Improving agriculture in Peru and Colombia using radar satellite images

The School of Engineering and Innovation, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics invites applications for this three-year full-time PhD studentship starting in October 2017. This project is fully funded by the UK Space Agency and is supervised by Dr Armando Marino (The Open University). The studentship is fully funded for 3 years, covering tuition fees and provides a stipend of c. £14,533 per year. You would be required to live in the UK and within commuting distance of the Milton Keynes Open University campus.

Project Description
The goal of this research is to improve food security and precise agriculture in South America using radar satellite images. Optical Earth Observation has been demonstrated to improve crop yield, however cloud cover excludes the use of optical images. The advantage of radar is that it can acquire images with any weather conditions increasing significantly the temporal resolution and eventually providing a ground breaking innovation in agricultural Earth Observation.

The project will use freely available Sentinel-1 radar images (i.e. Synthetic Aperture Radar). Radar can penetrate through vegetation and provide information regarding plant structure. Over agricultural fields the backscattering (brightness of the image) can be separated into two major contributions: one coming from plants and another coming from the ground underneath. The plant backscattering is influenced by leaf area index and plant water content. We therefore observe a variation of the backscattering while the plant goes through its maturation stages. We will analyse the temporal trend to separate plant and ground contributions to improve the extraction of information regarding crop growth and detect plant stresses. Machine learning tools using radar together with ground data from local farms will be exploited to build temporal models of backscatter. Statistical signal processing and adaptive filters will be developed to identify divergences from the model.

The student will join an international well-established team researching Earth Observation with radar data. There will also be the opportunity to collaborate with other UK and EU universities working on this project.

A first or upper second class degree in Electrical Engineering, Geosciences, Mathematics or in closely related areas, and enthusiasm for innovation.

It would be beneficial for applicants to have experience with a programming language (eg Python, Matlab, C).

How to Apply
Please send an email with your CV, a completed application form and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date) to

Please visit the following web site for the application form and further information:

Informal enquiries about this studentship may be directed to Dr Marino at

Due to the nature of the fieldworks, we welcome applicants with Spanish language proficiency.

Interviews: Week beginning 8 May 2017

Equal Opportunity is University Policy

Share this PhD
  Share by Email   Print this job   More sharing options
We value your feedback on the quality of our adverts. If you have a comment to make about the overall quality of this advert, or its categorisation then please send us your feedback
Advert information

Type / Role:



South East England