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PhD Studentship: What can the paleo-record tell us about tropical peatlands?

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: EU Students, International Students, Self-funded Students, UK Students
Funding amount: From £15,609 For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th July 2022
Closes: 14th August 2022
Reference: 4428

Project Title: What can the paleo-record tell us about tropical peatlands?

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.  The studentship will cover Home or International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student will be based in Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Project Description:

Tropical peatlands are the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world and they store the equivalent of ~10 years of global fossil fuel emissions in their soils (Page et al., 2011). They also provide important ecosystem services to the people living near them. Despite their importance, crucial questions remain about how they may respond to environmental and climate changes (Sjögersten et al., 2014). Improving our understanding of these ecosystems is critical as they are at high risk from both climate change and land use change. Protection and improved management of tropical peatlands can also play an important role in meeting the greenhouse gas emissions targets set out under the Paris and Glasgow Agreements.

Project Aims and Methods

The project aims to understand how past environmental and climatic drivers have affected peatland functioning in the past. This will inform how best to include peatlands in land-surface models and will allow us to better predict how the peatlands will respond to present and future climate change. Using samples collected in the Peruvian Amazon Basin (and complemented with cores from other tropical areas of the world), this PhD will investigate:

  • How has peatland hydrology affected carbon cycling during the Holocene?
  • How has peatland vegetation responded to climate changes in the past?

Answering these questions will involve querying the paleo-archive that is contained in peatlands. To this end, you will have access to cores from different sites in Peru and across the tropics. The PhD will train you in paleo-methods, including macrofossil analysis and testate amoeba (Swindles et al., 2018). There is also the possibility of examining the distribution of hopane isotopes and plant biomarkers to learn more about precipitation and hydrology in these as yet unexplored ecosystems. There is considerable flexibility for you to pursue different research avenues dependent on their interests.

Training:

This project will provide training in cutting-edge laboratory methods including biomarkers, testate amoeba, pollen, macrofossils and geochemistry. You will also be provided with training in field skills. You will be encouraged to participate in training courses to develop both technical and personal skills essential for a successful scientific career, including the opportunity to present your research at a major international conference.

Award Provision:

The “Grupo GGF scholarship” has been generously donated by the Peruvian Grupo GGF company. This award provides annual funding to cover Home or International tuition fees and a tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 per year tax-free stipend.

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

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