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ACCE DTP project: Severe wildfires and plant-soil interactions

Department of Biology

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Dr E Wandrag , Dr T Helgason , Dr Lindsay Banin No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
York United Kingdom Ecology Microbiology Plant Biology

About the Project

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and more intense. Evidence suggests that this is irrevocably altering plant communities and the soils they inhabit. Such alterations could affect interactions between plants and soil microbes. Plant-soil interactions influence important ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling, soil carbon storage and plant growth. Consequently, they drive both above- and below-ground biodiversity. However, the effects of changing fire regimes on plant-soil interactions remains a significant research gap.

The project will focus on Australian forests, where several major tree and shrub taxa form specialised symbioses with soil microbes. It will examine interactions between focal plant species and their associated soil microbes across sites with varying fire histories to examine: 1) how fires of varying severity affect plant-soil interactions; and 2) the ecological and/or functional consequences of any changes.

This is a collaborative project among researchers at the University of York, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh, and the Australian National University, Canberra. Depending on the interests of the student, possible techniques to tackle these questions include field and glasshouse experiments, molecular techniques and statistical modelling. Training in these techniques will be provided where relevant, along with opportunities for local and/or international fieldwork. We encourage students to develop the project in line with their own research interests. It would suit those with interests in global change biology, conservation, plant community or microbial ecology, or nutrient cycling.

The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ACCE Doctoral Training Programme. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 3.5 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)

International candidates (including EU) will be considered however they will need to have adequate funds to meet the difference in tuition fees. International tuition fees for 2021 entry is £22,250.

Not all projects will be funded; a limited number of candidates will be appointed via a competitive process.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing ecology and evolution questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021
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