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Landscape change in Northern Norway: impacts of climate, biotic interactions and anthropogenic disturbance

Project Description

Humans arrived early into arctic Fennoscandia, and their actions have subtly shaped the landscape for thousands of years. At the same time, climate variations and natural biotic processes (such as herbivory, competition, and soil development) have also driven change. Of particular interest is how grazing, particularly of domestic reindeer, and alleopathy (chemically based plant competition) are determining the recent development and current status of northern tundra ecosystems.

To determine how these different drivers of change have interacted over time, and to establish a background against which assess response to current arctic warming, a multi-proxy approach is needed. In this project you will use techniques such as pollen analysis, charcoal analysis and biomarker studies, plus application of models to establish past land-cover changes. The work will be done in collaboration with other researchers based at the University of Tromsø, Norway, who are examining changes in plant and animal taxa via ancient DNA. The study system uses dated lake-sediment cores, and the locations include areas where there are key archaeological finds, sites near the dynamic forest-tundra boundary, and areas that are critical grazing regions. There would be opportunities for fieldwork and to participate in one or more research visits to the University Museum in Tromsø.

Past experience with Quaternary proxy methods would be an advantage, but all methods can be acquired through training at the University of Southampton. Interest in ecological processes and landscape dynamics is important, as is a willingness to carry out laboratory analyses.

Prof Mary Edwards is a palaeoecologist and biogeographer with extensive experience in northern regions; Prof Tony Brown is an expert in Quaternary stratigraphy and environmental archaeology; Prof. Inger Alsos (University of Tromsø) is an expert in the application of ancient DNA techniques to Quaternary sediments. The University of Southampton palaeoenvironmental research group (PLUS) has strong links with the University of Tromsø Museum, and staff currently collaborate on a funded project (Ecogen).

The research student will join Southampton’s Landscape Dynamics and Ecology group, which focuses on physical landscape processes, Quaternary Science and biodiversity. The group is equipped with a range of analytic equipment and facilities for surveying (e.g., dGPS, Terrestrial Laser Scanners, UAVs, Ground Penetrating Radar), sediment analysis (e.g., XRF, C-N analyzer), and microscopy (optical and petrographic microscopes and SEM). Additionally its labs are equipped for a range of palaeoecological analyses, and there is a clean lab for tephra analysis and an ancient DNA extraction facility. Recent investment has provided a state-of-the-art computer cluster for landscape modelling, SfM analysis, as well as GIS and remote sensing. Full training in all necessary techniques will be given.

Candidates must have or expect to gain a first or strong upper second class degree, in an appropriate discipline, not necessarily Geography.

Funding Notes

The PhD project will commence September 2019.

This is one of a range of topics currently being advertised. Funding will go to the project(s) with the best applicant(s). The studentship is
to be funded at UKRI level, currently £14,777 per annum, with an RTSG of £750. The studentship will fully support British and EU nationals only. International students can apply but they must be able to meet the difference between home/EU and International tuition fees themselves.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Southampton in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 32.00

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

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