PhD Studentship - Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS; Drones) for Mapping Vegetation Patterns and Processes on Peatlands

Loughborough University

Start date: October 1st 2018

Closing date: January 22nd 2018

Interview date: Week beginning February 12th 2018


Primary supervisor: Dr Jon Millett

Secondary supervisor: Dr Dave Graham

Intro (standard):

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014). In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Graduate School, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career.

Find out more:

Project Detail:

Northern peatlands play a crucial role in terrestrial carbon storage and sequestration. They cover only 3% of the Earth’s land surface, but contain around 33% of total soil carbon. Ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling are dependent on plant community composition and function. Within peatlands, plant community composition and structure vary substantially especially at a micro-topographic scale, with associated small-scale variability in hydrological conditions (dryer hummocks, wet hollows and standing water in pools), and vegetation composition. Understanding the spatial pattern of this variation is important to link between small-scale processes and the operation of those processes at bog, regional and global scales. Mapping vegetation and other features across bogs is, however, very challenging due to the difficult nature of the terrain.

This project will use small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS, drones) to map vegetation and other features on peatlands. Small unmanned aircraft systems and SfM-MVS (Structure-from-Motion with Multi-View Stereo) are a transformative technology in ecology. They provide the unique ability to obtain extremely high-resolution aerial imagery at spatial scales of c. 1 km2, on-demand and at low cost. Loughborough University is well placed to be at the forefront of this by capitalising on our expertise in terrestrial ecology—particularly bog ecology—and geospatial technologies and sUAS. There is a large amount of scope for the student to determine the direction of the study within this project.

Find out more:

For further information on this project, please see the main CENTA website (, or contact Dr Jon Millett (

Entry requirements:

We seek applicants with a 2:1 (or better) degree/MSc in Ecology, Environmental Science, Biology or similar discipline, and experience in or a desire to learn plant identification skills. Enthusiasm for undertaking fieldwork, learning how to fly sUAS and using mapping software (e.g. ArcGIS) is also essential.

Funding information:

The studentship is for 3.5 years and is intended to start in October 2018. The studentship provides a tax free stipend of £14,553 per annum (in 2017/18) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (£4,195 in 2017/18) and a research training support grant of £8,000. Please note that due to restrictions imposed by the funder only students with a UK/EU fee status will be considered for this position. Further guidance about eligibility is available at RCUK Terms & Conditions.

Contact details:

Name: Dr Jon Millett

Email address:

Telephone number:  +44(0)1509 222739

How to apply:

  • Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format (available from or here).
  • All applications should be made online at Under programme name, select “Geography”. During the online application process, upload the CENTA studentship application form as a supporting document.

Please quote CENTA17-LU2 when completing your online application.

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Midlands of England