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From anther to atmosphere: building a better pollen forecast for human health, NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship for 2022 Entry, PhD in Geography

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Studies

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cornwall, Penryn
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £15,609 per year for 2022-23
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd October 2021
Closes: 10th January 2022
Reference: 4250

Approximately ten million people in the UK suffer from hay fever and pollen allergies. The UK pollen forecast provided by the Met Office is used by millions of hay fever sufferers to manage the impact of allergenic pollen on their lives.  As our climate and land use changes, so will the distribution and timing of pollen released to the atmosphere, and so understanding what triggers the onset of pollen allergies is critical.  Based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus in Cornwall, this exciting project involves working with scientists from the Met Office and the University to develop and validate new biological and atmospheric models to improve the operational pollen forecast in the future and make a real difference to the quality of life of hay fever sufferers. You will have a unique opportunity to work in interdisciplinary science at the interface between biology, ecology, meteorology and human health, and to be trained in a wide range of skills, from field biology to atmospheric modelling.

Project Aims and Methods:

This project aims to improve our ability to forecast pollen concentrations by developing our understanding of when and where wind-borne pollen is released into the atmosphere by plants and how and where it is dispersed.  It will involve both collecting ecological observations and mathematical modelling, with the aim of understanding processes across spatial scales from pollen release from a single flower head, and the density of flowers within rural and urban landscapes, to the movement of pollen over large distances in the atmosphere.  Key methods will involve: setting up and running controlled field experiments to measure the daily and seasonal cycles of pollen release in a range of species of plants and their response to weather and climate; carrying out field surveys and developing species distribution models (SDMs) to estimate the changing density of key pollen-producing species within rural and urban landscapes; implementing and validating the Met Office numerical dispersion model (NAME) to predict long-distance transport of pollen grains.  It is expected that you will develop skills in both biological field work and mathematical modelling, but there is scope for you to develop the project to suit your existing skills and areas of interest.

Candidate Requirements:

The successful candidate should have a degree in a science subject, physical geography or mathematics, have good numerical skills and an interest in biology and ecology.  Experience in carrying out ecological fieldwork and/or working with mathematical models of physical or biological systems would be an advantage, as well as enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new skills.

Project Partners:

The student will be co-supervised by scientists at the Met Office, and will have regular supervisory meetings with Met Office staff. They will also spend six months working at the Met Office in Exeter, working closely with scientists in the Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Quality group for the atmospheric dispersion modelling component of the PhD.

Useful Links:

For information relating to the research project please contact the lead Supervisor, Jon Bennie at j.j.bennie@exeter.ac.uk. Webpage here

For information about the application process please contact the Admissions team via pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk. 

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