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Grazing and disturbance as management tools in coastal wetlands: consequences for soil organic matter, biodiversity and functional resilience

Project Description

Reference number: CENTA20-LU20
Start date: 1 October 2020
Closing date: 10 January 2020
Interview date: Week beginning 3 February 2020

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014). In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is a world-class research organisation focusing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH's Lancaster site is based within the campus of Lancaster University and forms part of the Lancaster Environment Centre.

Find out more:

Project Detail:

Sand dune wetlands or slacks are biodiverse habitats supporting many rare UK plant, invertebrate and vertebrate species. They are a priority habitat for nature conservation in Europe. Grazing and disturbance are important for maintaining this conservation value. Our knowledge, however, of belowground biodiversity in these systems is limited, particularly in the context of interactions between plants and soil components and consequences for biogeochemical functioning.

This PhD will investigate soil organic matter, microbial and faunal communities in coastal dune slacks to determine change over time and the impacts of disturbance and grazing. Using an established long-term experiment ( and wider network of study sites, this research will test links between organic matter quality, soil biodiversity and functional resilience in coastal systems, and provide unique belowground evidence to help optimise conservation management strategies. There is also the possibility of contributing to the DRAGNet global research network ( by being involved in the initiation of a new long-term experiment.

The PhD student will be based at CEH Lancaster and registered at Loughborough University, so will benefit fully from being part of both institutions.

Find out more:

For further information on this project, please see the main CENTA website ( or contact Dr Aidan Keith () or Dr Jonathan Millett ().

Entry requirements:

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Biology, Earth Science or Environmental Science. A Master’s degree and/or experience in a related area associated with the research will be an advantage.

How to apply:

To apply:

1. Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format (available from or here).
2. All applications should be made online at Under programme name, select “Geography and Environment”. During the online application process, upload the CENTA studentship application form as a supporting document.

Please quote CENTA20-LU20 when completing your online application.

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded for 3.5 years and is intended to start in October 2020. The studentship provides a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per annum (in 2019/20) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (£4,327 in 2019/20) and a research training support grant of £8,000 Please note that due to restrictions imposed by the funder, only students with a UK/EU fee status will initially be considered for this position.

Further guidance about eligibility is available at UKRI Terms and Conditions: View Website

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