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PhD Studentship: Integrating Modern and Long-Term Ecology to Inform UK Peatland Fire Management in a Changing Climate

University of Plymouth

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes a stipend from £18,622 per annum (2023-24 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th October 2023
Closes: 10th January 2024

DoS: Dr Jessie Woodbridge (jessie.woodbridge@plymouth.ac.uk)

2nd Supervisor: Dr Scott Davidson (scott.davidson@plymouth.ac.uk)

3rd Supervisor: Dr Gareth Clay, University of Manchester (gareth.clay@manchester.ac.uk)

4th Supervisor: Professor Ralph Fyfe (ralph.fyfe@plymouth.ac.uk)

Applications are invited for a 3.5 year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 01 October 2024

Project Description

Scientific background:

Climate change is increasing wildfire risk globally. In the UK, peatland wildfires have been frequent and severe in recent years (1). Peatlands are important carbon-rich biodiverse ecosystems and wildfire can severely damage these ecosystems with significant environmental impacts (2). Fire has played an important role in shaping landscapes historically (3), but uncontrolled fires lead to loss of ecosystem function and reduced peatland carbon storage capacity (2). This research aims to inform future peatland fire management strategies and improve understanding of carbon loss following fire events. Information about recent and long-term past (palaeo) ecological trends (4) in response to fire, climate and vegetation change will be integrated with modern ecological research.

Research methodology:

The research will be based within two National Parks (Peak District and Dartmoor) facing current and future wildfire challenges. This project will use palaeo-environmental indicators to investigate the relationships between vegetation (fossil pollen analysis (4)), fire activity (micro-charcoal analysis), climate, and carbon accumulation over centennial to millennial timescales to understand long-term patterns of change that lead to greater ecosystem resilience to fire (3). Remote-sensing maps will be used to evaluate patterns of peatland disturbance, vegetation loss and post-disturbance recovery. Fire modelling techniques (5) will be used to predict biomass and burned areas under different climate and fire frequency scenarios integrating past and modern ecological data. Post-fire carbon exchange will be evaluated through measuring CO2 flux in areas where wildfires have previously taken place. Spatial analysis and mapping techniques will be used to generate outputs with ArcGIS Online.

Training:

The supervisory team will provide training in microscopic pollen and charcoal analysis, carbon flux monitoring and data analysis. You will attend training courses on vegetation, climatic and fire modelling. Time will be spent with a partner organisation (Natural England) developing multidisciplinary skills. You will learn to use a range of computer software (e.g. GIS) and R programming.

Person specification:

We seek an enthusiastic individual with a 2:1 degree grade or above within Geography, Environmental Science and related disciplines. Students from numerical disciplines are also encouraged to apply. Experience of long-term ecology, programming and/or fieldwork is desirable.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Jessie Woodbridge, jessie.woodbridge@plymouth.ac.uk .

Eligibility and Funding

For further information on Eligibility and Funding, please click on the links below: 

To apply for this position please click the 'Apply' button.

Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on the top of your personal statement.

Please see here for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please visit our How to Apply for a Research Degree webpage or contact the Doctoral College.

The closing date for applications on 10th January 2024. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview after the deadline.

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