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Downscaling and cross-scale integration of land use data and models for building pathways towards sustainable food and land use systems

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  • Full or part time
    Prof P Atkinson
    Dr P Harrison
    Dr P Henrys
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship in which you will learn to develop cutting-edge data science approaches to address a key environmental science challenge related to sustainable land use. The studentship is part of the EPSRC-funded Data Science for the Natural Environment (DSNE), a joint project between Lancaster University and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. This is an exciting opportunity to work at the heart of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers consisting of environmental scientists, computer scientists, statisticians and stakeholder organisations, working together to deliver methodological innovation in data science to tackle grand challenges around environmental change. The student will be registered at Lancaster University. The studentship covers the full fees and stipend of UK/EU applicants only (i.e. does not cover the full fees of non-EU applicants).

Food and land use systems are unsustainable in every part of the world. Today’s practices drive biodiversity, forest, and other ecosystem losses; cause water scarcity; and threaten the health of freshwater ecosystems through chemical and fertilizer run-off. From a climate change perspective, food systems and land use are crucial. They account for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and unprecedented biodiversity loss. However, better land- and water-use planning, strengthened governance, policy reform, technological innovation and investment could deliver around a third of the mitigation the world needs by 2030 and help achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping the rise of average global temperatures to “well below 2°C”.
Most countries lack tools for integrated land use planning that take account of the complex synergies and trade-offs between agriculture, water, land use, biodiversity, healthy diets, and greenhouse gas emissions. Integrated assessment models which couple together multiple sectoral models to simulate some of these interdependencies have been developed at the global and European levels. However, such models are generally applied at very coarse spatial resolutions whereas land management decisions are taken at finer spatial scales.

This PhD will develop methods for downscaling a global/European integrated assessment model to the UK. This could include integrating it with other land use modelling approaches more appropriate to capturing fine resolution processes and interactions. It could also include testing new machine learning techniques that automatically refine or improve fine resolution simulations based on new land use data. Propagation of uncertainty across model components and scales could also be investigated. The PhD will also contribute to the development of methods to interface the UK model with similar models from 22 countries (through collaboration with the FABLE Consortium: https://www.foodandlandusecoalition.org/global-initiatives/fable/). The interfaced multi-scale models will be used to explore whether national pathways for achieving sustainable food and land use systems collectively achieve global targets, such as the Paris Agreement, whilst balancing international trade.

Applicants are encouraged to contact Prof. Pete Atkinson ([Email Address Removed]) or Prof. Paula Harrison ([Email Address Removed]) before making an application.


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