PhD: Pollen-based Reconstructions Of The Vegetation and Climate of The Circum-Mediterranean Region During The Holocene

University of Reading - Geography and Environmental Science, SAGES

Supervisor: Professor Sandy Harrison

Project Overview:

The vegetation of the circum-Mediterranean region is highly sensitive to climate changes, but the dynamics of past vegetation changes are as yet poorly understood. Pollen records from sedimentary archives provide information about vegetation changes through time. However, there is no direct relationship between pollen abundance and the abundance of particular species on the landscape, and therefore pollen data must be interpreted using through modelling tools that capture differences in pollen productivity, dispersal and deposition. There are several such modelling tools of varying levels of complexity, and it is unclear which of these are best suited to reconstructing past vegetation changes in climatically-diverse and topographically complex regions. The goal of this project is to reconstruct changes in vegetation patterns across southern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa through the Holocene using data from existing pollen databases (European Pollen Database, African Pollen Database, EMBSeCBIO data base). Several different modelling tools, including biomisation, MARCO POLO and the Landscape Reconstruction Algorithm, will be compared in order to determine an appropriate methodology. Reconstructed vegetation changes will be evaluated using other sources of palaeoenvironmental data 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 GS17-203 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