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ONE Planet DTP - “Quantifying the impact of artificial lawns on the structure and function of urban ecosystems” (Ref: OP20295)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project Description: Understanding how the management of urban habitats affects biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services is essential for creating sustainable and liveable cities. Lawns are a major land cover in urban ecosystems, particularly in the Global North, where they can cover over 20% of city area (Hedblom et al. 2017). Although the creation and maintenance of lawns can have harmful ecological impacts (e.g. through chemical application), they do provide a range of beneficial ecosystem services, especially relative to impermeable hard surfaces. In addition to cultural services such as recreation, lawns can mitigate flooding through rain infiltration, sequester carbon, moderate urban heat island effects, and provide habitat for biodiversity. Given these benefits, the current trend for replacing living lawns with artificial alternatives warrants urgent attention (Francis 2018). A growing desire for low-maintenance gardens and public green spaces has seen a rapid uptake in the installation of artificial lawns constructed from synthetic polymers (plastics). However, the scale of the uptake remains unquantified and the impacts on the provision of ecosystem services unknown.
The PhD project will use a range of methods to quantify the impact of artificial lawns on the structure and function of urban ecosystems. Remote sensing will assess the current distribution of artificial lawns and associated temporal changes in habitat. A combination of field observation and experiments will examine the effects on ecosystem function, to include some or all of the following: (i) soil biota and soil health; (ii) aboveground habitat and biodiversity; (iii) carbon sequestration; (iv) infiltration and run-off; (v) surface temperature. The project offers an excellent opportunity for research training within a dynamic team of ecologists with expertise in remote sensing (Dr Rachel Gaulton, Newcastle University) and urban ecology and soil science (Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller and Dr Mark Goddard, Northumbria University). The PhD student will also benefit greatly from collaboration with CASE partners the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), in particular with Dr Marc Redmile-Gordon, Senior Scientist for Soil and Climate Change. RHS data gathered from gardeners will help us to understand the social drivers underlying the observed land-use change and enable us to identify optimal: i) mitigation strategies for any compromised ecosystem services, and ii) messaging strategies to help facilitate the transition towards more sustainable gardening practices.
Prerequisites: Applicants must meet eligibility criteria of the One Planet DTP: https://research.ncl.ac.uk/one-planet/howtoapply/. The project is suitable for a student with a background in ecology or environmental science. Experience of remote sensing, image processing, GIS and/or soil science is desirable. For more information, please contact Dr Mark Goddard ().

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. OP.....) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

We have a minimum of 12 (3.5 year) PhD fully funded studentship awards available for October 2020 entry. Each award includes fees (Home / EU), an annual living allowance (for 2019/20 this is £15,009) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).

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