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Fusion Forest : Numerical Modelling of Air Flow in Forests to Secure Disease Resilience through Pattern Variability

Project Description


• Funded by the Global Challenges Scholarships of the University of Birmingham
• Transdisciplinary research project
• Using in-house, state-of-the-art Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models
• Possibilities for field work at the outstanding Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facilities
• Combination of Numerical Modelling, Plant Pathology and Biology
• International supervisory team

Candidate specification:

• The supervisors welcome applications from excellent students with a background in Engineering, Biosciences, Physics, or Mathematics.
• Basic coding skills (e.g. FORTRAN, C, MATLAB) are required.
• Knowledge of laboratory techniques is desirable but not essential.
• Students must have a minimum of a good (>65%) upper second-class or higher UK degree (or an equivalent EU qualification) in one of these or a closely related subject.
• Successful applicants will be creative and motivated to carry out interdisciplinary research, with an aptitude for either numerical modelling or laboratory work and a desire to undertake both.

Project Description:

Trees have proficient tools that allow them to survive biological threats. However, we have seen recent outbreaks of tree diseases that we were not prepared for. Pathogen evolution, disease movement and climate change drive disease emergence. Their rapid occurrence and the slow growth by trees puts us, and our woodlands, in a vulnerable scenario that requires careful thinking for the designing of future forests.
Monoculture plantations with regular spatial arrangements are particularly susceptible to rapid disease propagation. Moreover, same species suffer consequences of climate change in a similar way, with the potential to compromise the entire plantation. Planting of different species together and/or following complex patterns could provide effective natural barriers to prevent the speed of airborne and waterborne diseases. This project will produce, validate and calibrate models to assess the design of natural physical barriers to invasive diseases. In addition, climate change conditions (including temperature, water availability and CO2 concentrations) affecting pathogen virulence and tree growth will be taken incorporated in the project. These factors will be also able to predict the impact of climate change in the growth and development of tree species and their neighbours. These models will consequently aid forest planners when considering resilience against diseases in a context of a changing climate.
This transdisciplinary project provides a holistic research strategy for the understanding of forest resilience to invasive diseases in the context of climate change. The integration of numerical modelling with lab and field experiments offers a prodigious knowledge interphase for the designing of the forests of the future.

Funding Notes

Fully funded project for home and EU students with £14500 stipend and complete tuition fees per annum for three years.
For overseas students, the Scholarship will cover the tuition fees only, thus there need to be an evidence that either the supervisor or the candidate can provide the cost of living expenses.
All students will have the possibility of receiving up to £1500 additional income by taking part in lab demonstrations and teaching assistance.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Civil and Construction Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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