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KESS2 Scholarship: Climate hardening of tree saplings for outdoor planting.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, November 22, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A major economic barrier to establishing spruce propagation is the high level of mortality incurred when transplanting juvenile tree saplings from the glasshouse or field back into the field environment. For glasshouse adapted plants sapling loss may arise from several interacting processes resulting from being rapidly exposed to different and more challenging growth conditions. A common spring and autumn seasonal combination of low temperature and high light can cause phototoxicity and leaf burn. When transplanting bare root plants back into the field problems may arise because root systems must establish and function in new soils and saplings initially lack full hydraulic contact resulting in drought events in the absence of irrigation.
Plants are typically cold-hardened prior to planting in spring or autumn. However, there is considerable potential to employ different treatments to better adapt saplings to their new field environments. This project will explore the use of a range of stress exposures and exploit knowledge of stress signals to better establish saplings in the field. It embraces the concept of Eustress where optimal levels of stress can induce positive plant impacts (Velazquez-Herenandez et al., 2019 Scientia Horticulturae 250: 223–229). Of particular importance will be manipulating how saplings partition newly fixed carbohydrates into the root system.
The project aims to apply fundamental research that can ultimately lead to the delivery of high throughput tools and systems to cheaply and rapidly harden saplings and consequently enhance the success of field establishment. The company partner Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd seeks to develop large scale systems as it markets approximately 30 million trees a year to customers throughout the UK and Europe. Based in Bronington the company engages in research and has a history of successful partnerships with other Universities in the UK.
The prospective applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2:1 in a relevant degree, and be available to take up the studentship by January 2020. The project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government. KESS II PhD scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners. (Applicants need to only apply, they do not need to search for partners.)
If you would like to discuss this position before application, you are welcome to contact the Principal supervisor Dr. Dylan Gwynn-Jones E-mail:

How to Apply

To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by Friday 22nd November 2019:
1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from
2. A completed KESS II Participant proposal form (put the reference number AUE10007 in the top right hand box of the application form) and an up-to-date CV. KESS II application forms are available to download at the link below.
3. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Dylan Gwynn-Jones at or 01970 622318
Quote Reference: AUE10007
Closing date for applications: 22nd November 2019

Funding Notes

A stipend of £14,628 (rising in accordance with inflation for the remaining two years). Each scholarship has an additional budget for travel, equipment/consumables and training to support your research. KESS II PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees. Full-time for 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be an EU national and resident in East Wales on University registration, and must also have the right to work in the region on qualification.

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