Back to search results

PhD Studentship in Environmental Science

University of Reading

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Reading
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Tuition fees plus stipend for 3.5 years.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th December 2018
Closes: 1st March 2019

Project title:  Understanding vegetation response to fire during glacial and interglacial states

Department/School: Geography & Environmental Science

Supervisor:  Professor Sandy Harrison

Project Overview: Fire is highly sensitive to changes in climate, which affects both fuel availability and on the suitability of conditions allowing fire spread. Changes in fire regime in turn affect vegetation structure and dynamics, and both changes in fire itself and fire-induced changes in vegetation have feedbacks through the carbon cycle on climate. However, the magnitude of these feedbacks is as yet poorly constrained. The goal of this project is to explore how fire has changed during past climate states, how this has impacted vegetation, and how these changes may have affected the carbon cycle using sedimentary charcoal records of past fire regime, advanced statistical analysis, and fire modelling tools. The project will draw on an existing global compilation of sedimentary charcoal records (Global Charcoal Database) to analyse the controls on fire in warm, interglacial and cold glacial climates over the past 130,000 years. Model simulations using a fire-enabled vegetation model will be used to explore the potential causes of these changes and their implications for fire emissions and carbon-cycle feedbacks.

Specific training opportunities

  • Statistical, analytical and programming skills through the manipulation and analysis of complex palaeo data sets
  • Modelling skills through working with simple vegetation-fire models
  • An understanding of theoretical developments in ecology
  • An understanding of the application of palaeoenvironmental data to understanding fire dynamics
  • Science communication skills including communication across disciplines and to policy-oriented stakeholders.

The project is designed as a thesis-by-papers. The student will work with colleagues from Imperial College London as part of the QMEE (Quantitative Methods in Ecology and Evolution) doctoral training scheme. The will also have the opportunity to become involved in the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project, an international research initiative to use palaeoclimate modeling and model evaluation to understand the mechanisms of past climate and environmental change and evaluate our ability to simulate future climates and environments.


  • Applicants should hold a 1st or upper 2nd class degree (or equivalent) in physical geography, quantitative biology or environmental science.
  • Good quantitative & analytical skills required
  • Experience in database software (Access, mqSQL) and programming (R, Fortran, r Python) highly recommended.

Funding Details:  

  • Tuition fees plus stipend for 3.5 years. 
  • Starts no later than October 2019.

How to apply:    

Please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science at quoting the reference GS18-210 in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding section.

Application Deadline:  1st March 2019

Further Enquiries:  Email:

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. 

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:

Subject Area(s):


PhD tools
More PhDs from University of Reading

Show all PhDs for this organisation …

More PhDs like this
Join in and follow us

Browser Upgrade Recommended has been optimised for the latest browsers.

For the best user experience, we recommend viewing on one of the following:

Google Chrome Firefox Microsoft Edge