PhD: Application Of Plant Trait-Based Methods To Reconstruct Palaeoclimates

University of Reading - Geography & Environmental Science, SAGES

Project Overview:

The physical traits of plant leaves show considerable but predictable variation in response to gradients in temperature and moisture availability. The predictability of these trait-climate relationships can be used to infer past climate conditions from fossil leaf assemblages. Leaf size and leaf dissection have been used to reconstruct changes in temperature from fossil leaf assemblages, but there are many more leaf traits that could be used in this way and incorporating this additional information should yield more robust reconstructions of past climates. The goal of this project is to use an existing database of leaf traits from China to derive robust models of trait-climate relationships, and then to apply this model to reconstruct quantitative changes in climate at classic pre-Quaternary sites with fossil assemblages. The models will be tested against current theoretical understanding of the environmental controls on leaf form, as well as against empirical and experimental evidence. The palaeo-climate reconstructions will be evaluated using other sources of palaeoenvironmental evidence and against earth-system model simulations.


The ideal candidate for this project would have a Masters in an appropriate science, good programming and numerical skills, an understanding of the mechanisms of past climate change, and an interest in applying palaeoclimate information to improve our understanding of biosphere dynamics. Good team and communication skills are essential.

Funding Details:  

This PhD position is fully-funded by the ERC project “GC2.0: Unlocking the past for a clearer future”

How to apply:   

Please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science at: quoting the reference GS17-193 in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding section.

Application Deadline: 

31st October 2017

Further Enquiries:  


NB: Where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter which is provided separately from any Offer of Admission and which is subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria. 

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South East England