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KESS2 Scholarship: The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics of higher delta-plain carboniferous swamps.

Project Description

This a unique opportunity to conduct evolutionary and paleoecological research on one of the UK’s most well-preserved fossil forests at Brymbo, Wrexham. Studying a diverse array of micro- and macrofossils at the site will allow us to investigate ecological and evolutionary change in a carboniferous swamp over 40,000 years of geologic history. The successful applicant will develop a thesis investigating how the ecological and biological evolution of higher delta-plain carboniferous swamps differ from other contemporaneous and current analogous environments and what are the implications for global environmental patterns during the late carboniferous? While the evolution of lower-delta and alluvial coal-swamps are well studied, higher-delta ecosystems of similar ages are less well preserved and studied. The flora, fauna and sediments preserved within the Brymbo Fossil Forest present an excellent opportunity for us to expand our knowledge of local and global ecosystem dynamics during this important period in the evolution of the planetary biosphere. Understanding how organisms respond to local and global shifts in environmental conditions, both gradual and rapid, will help us understand how the modern biosphere may react to the contemporary, anthropogenically-induced climate crisis. The combination of types of preservation at the site captures both gradual changes in community composition over tens of thousands of years (coal seams and associated strata) and exceptional preservation of a community at a single point in time. Furthermore, preservation of coalified bark on lycopod trunks and exceptional preservation of tissues allows us to address fundamental questions about the types of photosynthetic pathways exploited by extinct lycopods - a controversial topic with significant implications for our understanding of coal sequestration. The successful applicant will acquire skills in contemporary analytical techniques, sedimentology, palynology, palaeobotany, palaeoecology and palaeobiology as well as science communication, fieldwork, project management and integrative techniques.

The project will be supervised by Dr Alex Papadopulos (Bangor University;; evolution, speciation and adaptation in plants), Dr Tim Astrop (Brymbo Heritage Trust; palaeobiology & evolution) and Prof. Si Creer (Bangor University; Pollen/molecular ecology). The student will be hosted in the vibrant Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory in Bangor ( and will spend substantial portions of their time working with Dr Astrop’s team on site with the unique and exciting Brymbo Fossil Forest Project (
Expected start date is 20th January 2020.


To apply please send a CV and covering letter to Dr Alex Papadopulos (), cc to Penny Dowdney ().

Funding Notes

KESS 2 East is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.

How good is research at Bangor University in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with Aberystwyth University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.20

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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