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PhD in Environmental Sciences: Regenerative Agriculture on Lowland Peat; An Oxymoron?”

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: Professor Will Blake (william.blake@plymouth.ac.uk)

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

3rd Supervisor: Dr Jennifer Rowntree (jennifer.rowntree@plymouth.ac.uk)

4th Supervisor: Professor Brian Reid, University of East Anglia (B.Reid@uea.ac.uk)

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

Project Description

Sustainably intensifying agricultural production and meeting UK targets for net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions requires a detailed understanding of GHG sources and sinks. In the UK, drainage of lowland peatlands (waterlogged, high carbon soils) to sustain highly productive agriculture is important for UK food security, but drying peatland causes peat degradation. While intact peatlands are long-term carbon stores they also emit GHGs. Drained peatlands, for different reasons are also GHG sources (Evans et al., 2022). This project aims to unravel the complex trade-offs linked to peatland management and sustainable food production. 

To achieve this, you will quantify the influence of rapid transition to regenerative farming principles on exemplar high carbon peat soils (Cambridgeshire Fens) on soils properties, GHGs and yields. Using regenerative farming trials, led by G’s Fresh Ltd, as an experimental living lab, you will develop and apply novel tools to track change in soil biology, chemistry and physical states before, during and after transition. With specific attention to carbon, your research will provide important evidence to inform future adoption and debates on the role of regenerative methods to leverage green financing (Keenor et al., 2021). 

Training will be provided in field survey and sampling techniques, experimental design, statistics and data manipulation/presentation. In terms of analytical skills, soil microbial assessment (e.g. microbial biomass, metabarcoding; Craig et al., 2021) and assessments of soil biological activity (e.g. enzyme assays), quantification of GHG flux (Davidson et al., 2023), soil nutrient and carbon assessment including evaluation of sensor (near infra red spectroscopy and proximal gamma spectrometry) technology as rapid on-site screening tools (Taylor et al., 2023).

Applicants should hold a BSc in a suitable discipline to develop required field and laboratory activities e.g., environmental sciences, geography, biology. A proven commitment to evaluating potential for land management innovation to support sustainability goals will be an advantage.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Professor Will Blake, william.blake@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. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications.  Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

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