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Harnessing enhanced rock weathering for greenhouse gas removal

   Department of Life Sciences

  Dr Bonnie Waring, Dr A Paschalis  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

To stabilize the planet’s climate and provide a safe future for humanity, we must not only sharply reduce emissions but also remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. However, there are currently very few scalable, cost-effective strategies for greenhouse gas removal. One of the few technologies ready for immediate deployment is enhanced rock weathering (ERW): when applied over large land areas, crushed silicate rocks react with atmospheric CO2, and the resultant weathering products are transferred to the ocean for long-term storage.  

 Although the ERW mechanism has been observed over geologic timescales, there are very few data to address its efficacy in contemporary ecosystems at timescales relevant to climate mitigation. Also, there are large differences between efficacies observed in the lab and the field. Thus, this project will address three research objectives:

1)    Measure parameters related to rock weathering and nutrient cycling in one of the world’s first large-scale ERW field trials

2)    Develop eco-hydrological models to explore the processes that impact transport of weathering products from land to sea  

3)    Synthesize these findings to inform global-scale predictions of the ecosystems where ERW is likely to be most effective in carbon capture    

This work will take place in the world’s first large-scale field trial of ERW in a forestry context, within a ~50 ha afforestation experiment in mid-Wales. The PhD student will be based in the lab of Dr. Athanasios Paschalis at Imperial College London’s South Kensington campus in the heart of London, where his research group develops ecohydrological and ecosystem models. The student will be co-advised by Dr. Bonnie Waring, whose research group examines ecological constraints on carbon cycling in plants and soils, and be externally advised by Dr. Averill (ETH Zurich). Drs. Paschalis and Waring are closely affiliated with the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, a world leader in the development of climate science and policy. 

Through this research, the PhD student will hone quantitative skills, develop experience collecting biogeochemical data in the lab and in the field, and interact with multiple stakeholders in the natural climate solutions space, from environmental charities to policy makers. We expect this research to result in multiple high-profile publications as well as actionable guidance for land managers. Therefore, this PhD research will make an immediate and substantial impact on the development of viable natural climate solutions to our planet’s most pressing environmental emergency.  

How to apply: Please send a CV (with contact details for two references) and covering letter to  AND   with ‘ERW PhD’ in the subject line.

About the candidate: Candidates should have or be expected to gain a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree in a relevant subject (Biological or Environmental Sciences, Engineering, Physical Geography). Experience with ecosystem modelling and knowledge of coding (e.g., MATLAB, Python, R) is highly desirable but not necessary. Candidates from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply. 

Funding: This PhD is supported by the Grantham Foundation

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