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How can sustainable soil carbon management be improved using river biogeochemical signals?

School of Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Carbon sequestration in soils is crucial for mitigating climate breakdown. Retaining soil carbon is thus a key component of sustainable soil management. Soil carbon stores are at risk of destabilisation due to human activity and climate change but assessing the stability of soil carbon at large scales is highly challenging. This project will use river biogeochemical signals (e.g. radiocarbon isotopes) and Earth Observation to assess soil carbon stability under different management practices at large scales. The project includes three elements, depending on the PhD candidate’s interests:

1) Identify soil carbon (in)stability by building a database of river carbon isotope signals linked to landscape management practices.
2) Link the database to soil and vegetation using Earth Observation.
3) Apply this approach to assess carbon stability under different landscape management practices in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) estate management.

Training will be provided in a wide range of technical, geospatial and quantitative skills, equipping you for a career in science and beyond. The candidate will gain training in lab and field work, Python/R/Google Earth Engine, and linking fundamental research questions to landscape management and policy/decision making.

The candidate will be based in Liverpool within the School of Environmental Sciences, which has a strong track record and state-of-the-art facilities for ecology, aquatic biogeochemistry, and conservation research.

The supervisory team provides leading expertise in water quality, landscape ecology, and conservation. The project will form part of a larger collaboration with prominent researchers in the USA and Europe; the PhD candidate will have the chance to engage with these partners extensively throughout the project.

This project would suit candidates with a strong interest in linking fundamental science, such as lab work, fieldwork and data synthesis, to practical landscape management and broader societal issues related to reducing carbon emissions.

Notes and how to apply are available here:
Apply at:

For any enquiries please contact the SoES PGR enquiries/ACCE DTP team on

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)
A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2021/22 entry are not yet fixed, but as a guide fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.

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