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Modelling waterborne pollen transport to improve vegetation reconstructions from lake pollen records

   Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience

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  Dr Michelle Farrell, Dr M Van De Wiel, Dr Matteo Rubinato  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from highly motivated, suitably qualified graduates for a fully funded PhD studentship in modelling of waterborne pollen transport.

Pollen grains preserved in sedimentary archives such as peat bogs and lake sediments offer insights into how ecosystems and human societies have responded to past climatic and environmental changes, and hence how resilient they may be to future changes.

Current pollen dispersal models, used for quantitative reconstruction of past vegetation cover based on pollen assemblages, assume that the dominant mechanism by which pollen is transported to sedimentary archives is aerial, by wind. However, the assumption of dominant aerial transport is unlikely to hold true for many lacustrine sites, particularly those with inflowing streams or substantial input from surface runoff. Vegetation reconstructions from such sites may be distorted by waterborne pollen, as these transport pathways are not currently accounted for in pollen dispersal models.

Hence, the contribution of waterborne pollen to lake pollen records, and its impact on the reliability of resulting vegetation reconstructions, is currently unclear. This PhD will combine laboratory experiments, computer simulations and empirical field data collection to develop the first ever method for quantifying waterborne pollen transport that can be incorporated into pollen dispersal models, enabling more robust vegetation reconstructions from lacustrine pollen assemblages.

Academic Environment

Established in 2014 through substantial university investment, the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience (CAWR) is rapidly building a global reputation for transdisciplinary research into processes of resilience in social-ecological systems. Among its key lines of research is work focusing on modelling of water and food systems, aided by high performance computing facilities. The Centre also houses a number of state-of-the-art laboratories ( which are available for use by the successful candidate.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills. The supervisory team can provide training in palaeoecology and pollen analysis, hydraulics, and physical and numerical environmental modelling. All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD 

  • A bachelor’s (honours) degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum classification of 2:1 and a minimum mark of 60% in the project element (or equivalent), or an equivalent award from an overseas institution.


  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • An adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by applicants whose first language is not English. The general requirement is a minimum overall IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four sections, or the TOEFL iBT test with a minimum overall score of 95 with a minimum of 21 in each of the four sections.

For further details please visit:

Additional items for candidate specification:

Essential criteria:

  • Knowledge of at least one of the following subject areas: palaeoecology, pollen analysis, hydraulics, sediment transport
  • Experience with at least one of the following: environmental modelling, numerical modelling, GIS
  • Good knowledge of: basic statistical techniques, Excel, quantitative data analysis, experimental data analysis
  • Excellent written and spoken language skills (e.g. effective presentation skills, writing technical/scientific reports)
  • Creativity in problem solving
  • Strong research ethic
  • Proven ability to undertake independent study

Desirable criteria:

  •  Experience with any of the following: advanced statistical techniques, computational fluid dynamics, high-level programming languages, flume-based hydraulic modelling

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Michelle Farrell ([Email Address Removed])

To apply on line please visit:

The PGR+ Link for this project is

All applications require full supporting documentation, including a covering letter and an up-to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.


UK/International (including EU) graduates who meet the specified entry requirements.

Start date: September 2022

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline date: 14th March 2022

Interview dates: April 2022 – details will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Enquiries to be addressed to: Dr Michelle Farrell ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded position. Funding covers tuition fees and a stipend for 3.5 years. An additional research allowance is available over the duration of the project for research-related travel, equipment and consumables. A further allowance of is also available to support the candidate’s personal and professional development as researchers.
Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/International including EU)
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