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BBSRC CASE PhD Studentship in High Resolution (UAV) Remote Sensing for Improving Crop Field Trials (“Field Phenotyping”)

   Department of Geography

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  Prof M Wooster  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A four year, fully funded BBSRC CASE Phd Studentship is available in the area of remote sensing for improved phenotyping of wheat (i.e. the field-trialling of new wheat strains). Wheat is one of our most important and widespread food crops, grown on more land area worldwide than any other. Thousands of different strains of wheat currently exist, and to feed increasing world populations, whilst minimising adverse environmental impacts, crop breeding programmes breed new strains to try to further increase yields even under demanding environmental (e.g. drought-prone) and management (e.g. reduced fertiliser) conditions. The effectiveness of these new strains is usually gauged via dedicated field trials where hundreds of different crop varieties are grown side-by-side to provide comparisons of canopy temperature, structure, height, greenness etc; thus helping to select the varieties with the optimum characteristics (time to maturity, yield, drought tolerance etc). At present such ‘field phenotyping’ is, however, often laborious, inefficient and somewhat subjective. The objective of this PhD is to develop the use of remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for improving field phentotyping methods, both in the UK and in more drought prone areas overseas.

The project is a BBSRC CASE PhD Studentship with King's College London, conducted in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and Bayer CropScience AG. The project will be jointly supervised by Prof. Martin Wooster (KCL), Dr Malcolm Hawkesford (Rothamsted) and Dr Juan Pedro Ruiz-Santaella (Bayer CropScience AG).

At King's College London the student will be a member of the Earth and Environmental Dynamics (EED) Research Group of the Department of Geography. Training on research methods, remote sensing, GIS, and environmental monitoring & modelling will be available, and they will attend appropriate national and European scientific meetings, for example the annual "Workshop on UAV-based Remote Sensing Methods for Monitoring Vegetation". Training in software development will be given as required.

At Rothamsted the student will be part of a multi-disciplinary team involved in optimising crop perfomance (gene regulation, plant physiology, genetics and crop trials). The student will be given training in the trials design and ground-based phenotyping technologies used to compare against the UAV-based methods. Rothamsted provides a range of taught courses, e.g. in Crop Protection, to which the student will have full access as required, and access will also be provided to the seminars, workshops, and open weekends covering relevant areas of biotech/agricultural sciences.

Whilst at the Bayer CropScience field station the student will be part of an interdisciplinary working team of biologists, agronomists, breeders as well as field technicians, and their work will be supervised by an experienced agronomist on farm and by a senior scientist at the headquarters in Monheim (Germany).

The project will utilise a mix of airborne remote sensing, UAVs, photogrammetry, algorithm development (computer coding in Python, IDL, or R), laboratory instrument testing, use of scene and spectral simulation models, and substantial fieldwork in the UK and later overseas. Applicants should have a 1st or 2:1 degree in a science, engineering or geographic discipline, ideally an additional relevant MSc qualification or be currently on an MSc degree, and some experience relevant to at least one of the above areas. A driving license would be useful.

The project can commence any time between 1st January and 30 September 2015, and graduates with an existing good quality MSc degree, and those currently on MSc courses, are encouraged to apply.

Application deadline is 1st December 2014. Please send your CV and cover letter via email to [Email Address Removed]

Please check that you meet BBSRC requirements for both academic qualifications and UK residential eligibility before applying: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf.

Funding Notes

Funding includes tuition fees a minimum of £15,500 per annum stipend + contribution from CASE partner, plus research expenses.


Example References [most available via Google Scholar]
• Huang, Y., Thomson, S. J., Hoffmann, W. C., Lan, Y., & Fritz, B. K. (2013). Development and prospect of unmanned aerial vehicle technologies for agricultural production management. International Journal of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, 6(3).
• Sepulcre-Cantó, G., Pablo J. Zarco-Tejada, J. A. Sobrino, José AJ Berni, J. C. Jiménez-Muñoz, and Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry (2009) Discriminating irrigated and rainfed olive orchards with thermal ASTER imagery and DART 3D simulation, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 149, 962-975.
• White, J. W., Andrade-Sanchez, P., Gore, M. A., Bronson, K. F., et al. (2012). Field-based phenomics for plant genetics research. Field Crops Research, 133, 101-112.
• Hawkesford MJ (2013) Reducing the reliance on nitrogen fertiliser for wheat production, Journal of Cereal Science, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2013.12.001.
• Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, Michael A. Gore, John T. Heun, Kelly R. Thorp, A. Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Andrew N. French, Michael E. Salvucci, Jeffrey W. White (2013) Development and evaluation of a field-based high-throughput phenotyping platform. Functional Plant Biology, 41, 68 - 79.
• http://libcatalog.cimmyt.org/download/cim/96140.pdf
• http://libcatalog.cimmyt.org/download/cim/96144.pdf
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