FREE Virtual Study Fair | 1 - 2 March | REGISTER NOW FREE Virtual Study Fair | 1 - 2 March | REGISTER NOW

Climate change reduces the nutritional value of food crops


   Faculty of Science

This project is no longer listed on FindAPhD.com and may not be available.

Click here to search FindAPhD.com for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Rachael Symonds, Dr F Perez de Heredia, Dr Richard Webster  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations and increasing temperatures are causing physiological responses in crops, which lead to them having reduced protein and micronutrient contents. This research aims to quantify these nutritional changes and directly investigate the consequences to human health.

Climate change is well established as a major threat to global food security. Worldwide temperatures are expected to continue increasing, along with an increase in CO2, within the next 30 years. Heat stress, particularly heat shock and high night-time temperatures are already a major cause of global crop yield reduction. The effects of elevated temperatures on crop growth and yield in current atmospheric levels of CO2 are well known. What is less well understood is what happens to crop yield and especially nutritional quality during heat stress and with the higher CO2 levels predicted for 20-30 years' time. Elevated CO2 (eCO2) increases yields in many crop plants, but it also changes their phytochemical and nutritional content by changing how plants photosynthesise. Although this seems like a positive consequence in a world with an ever-growing population, eCO2 can have a counterproductive action. eCO2 leads to increased carbon assimilation and carbohydrate storage in the plant structures. This results in a lower nitrogen-to-carbon (N:C) ratio affecting crop nutritional quality through altered synthesis of different nutrients (e.g., amino acids, vitamins), phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols) or matrix components (e.g., non-digestible components – aka dietary fibre) required for adequate nutrition in humans and animals. Additionally, variations in food composition can have a direct impact on nutrient bioavailability and utilization within the body and as a result, we may need to consume higher amounts of vegetables to maintain the required nutrient and phytochemical intakes.

This research will incorporate a novel cross disciplinary approach that combines plant physiology, biochemistry, and human nutrition to investigate the nutritional quality of these stressed plants from quantification of the changes to the quality of the leaves, yield, and photosynthetic performance, to how these components can be digested by the human body, using a novel artificial digestion system. We will also investigate how climate induced changes to plant nutritional quality affect our cells using an animal free, cell culture model. We will develop a system to model climate change-derived stress conditions for vegetable crops widely grown in the UK (e.g., spinach, rocket, kale), coupled with in vitro model of mammalian digestion, absorption, and metabolic function. Plants will be grown under combined eCO2 and temperature stress conditions at levels predicted to occur in the UK in the next 20-30 years. Phytochemicals, macronutrients, micronutrients, along with the bioavailability and absorption rates of biomolecules of interest present will be analysed in the enzymatically digested crops, using intestinal cells in vitro, co-cultured with preadipocytes, adipocytes, and immune cells, to study the metabolic and physiological impact of the crops. Developing a system to model the physiological impact of crop composition in response to different environmental conditions will help to determine the best conditions and mitigations for optimising crop yields qualitatively and quantitatively.

The PhD student will join our flourishing School of Biological & Environmental Sciences (BES), at Liverpool John Moores University and work under the supervisory team of Dr Rachael Symonds, Dr Fatima Perez De Heredia Benedicte and Dr Richard Webster (BES), and Dr Katie Lane and Dr Fadel Abdulmannan (Sports and Exercise Sciences). The PhD research will involve a cross disciplinary approach to identifying the effects of climate change on our diet.


Funding Notes

This is a fully funded PhD studentship (consisting of full UK tuition fees for three years and student stipend at UK Research Council rates). The nature of the funding means only UK/Home students are eligible to apply for this studentship.

References

In addition to holding a masters or strong (2:1 or above) first degree in Biological or Nutritional Sciences or equivalent field, the ideal applicant will be able to demonstrate significant interest in and prior experience of biology, plant sciences, human physiology /nutrition. A good working knowledge of statistical analysis, strong organisational skills and the ability to work both independently and collaboratively with a team would be advantageous. Full training in plant growth analysis, enzymatic digestion, cell culture techniques, advanced statistical analysis and appropriate research methodologies will be provided by the supervisory team and through our Doctoral Academy. For an informal discussion or to enquire about this opportunity please email Dr Rachael Symonds r.c.symonds@ljmu.ac.uk for more information.

We are committed to make biological/environmental research more inclusive and are therefore keen to support candidates from groups that have long been underrepresented and/or marginalised. If you belong to such groups, we would like to offer dedicated pre-application advice and mentorship, so that you can prepare the strongest possible application. Please contact Dr Nicola Koyama or Prof Stefano Mariani.

Both the Faculty of Science and the School of Biological & Environmental Sciences have dedicated Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Groups, with the School EDI Coordinator leading collective action to promote and embed a culture of equity, diversity and inclusivity. We have a proactive Student EDI group, a Cultural Diversity Student network for ethnic minority students, and a group of Inclusion Ambassadors, who are staff trained to deal with micro-aggression and harassment. As a School, we embarked upon activities to begin to decolonise programme curricula almost two years ago: https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/faculties/faculty-of-science/school-of-biological-and-environmental-sciences/equity-diversity-and-inclusion/decoloniality and earlier this year were awarded an Athena Swan Bronze award in recognition of our equality initiatives and action plan.

To apply, email a CV and covering letter detailing your suitability for the project and contact details of two referees to Dr Rachael Symonds r.c.symonds@ljmu.ac.uk . Applicants need to be available for interview (by video) on January the 12th and able to start at short notice (in February 2023 intake)
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs