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PhD studentship on the restoration of upland peatlands: Sphagnum establishment and peatland carbon balance

   Department of Environment, Education and Development

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  Prof M G Evans, Dr Emma Shuttleworth  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Upland peatlands across the UK have been impacted by erosion and pollution which have led to degradation of peatland function. Peatlands are major stores of terrestrial carbon but in their degraded state can release carbon from long term storage to the atmosphere so that their role as important sites of carbon sequestration is compromised. In the last decade substantial progress has been made in the landscape scale restoration of these degraded systems through approaches such as gully and drain blocking, re-vegetation, and the reestablishment of the keystone bog species Sphagnum moss.

This PhD is a partnership between the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, a major NGO driving peatland restoration in northern England, and the research team at the university of Manchester who specialise in processes driving the erosion and restoration of peatland systems and the impact of these processes on peatland ecosystem services, including the sequestration of carbon. The PhD will study the impact of restoration of heather moorland through re-establishment of Sphagnum moss and the impact of this restoration on the carbon balance of the peatland site. The study will build on a largescale plot experiment in North Yorkshire that have been established and monitored for four years, meaning the PhD will be able to study the impact of well-established restoration in restoring carbon sequestration function to the peatland.

In this project, the PhD candidate will:

1.      Undertake extensive fieldwork in an upland peatland environment.

2.      Collect gas flux data over two field seasons to assess the impact of the restoration work on the peatland carbon balance.

3.      Work with the YPP restoration and science team to develop new experiments to assess the impact of the restoration on the peatland ecosystem.


Person specification

We are looking for an outstanding PhD candidate for this research who must have strong analytical skills and knowledge and experience in field data collection and quantitative data analysis, acquired through relevant postgraduate training. It is desirable to have an interest in and experience of peatland science and/or peatland restoration.

Additional research training will be available to support field monitoring of greenhouse gas balance, vegetation survey, and measurement and estimation of the complete peatland carbon balance.

Eligibility criteria


In the majority of cases, eligible candidates will have undertaken an undergraduate course and/or Master’s course at a recognised higher education institution and will have achieved a minimum of Bachelor’s at 2.1 plus Master’s at Merit. We may also be able to consider relevant and equivalent professional experience.

English language:

Candidates whose first language is not English require one of the following certificates:

·      IELTS test minimum scores - 7 overall, 7 writing, 6 other sections

·      TOEFL (internet based) test minimum scores - 100 overall, 25 writing, 22 other sections

·      Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum scores - 66 overall, 66 writing, 59 other sections


The application deadline for this studentship will be midnight (BST), Wednesday 18th May. All supporting documents must be received by the deadline and sent as a zip file to [Email Address Removed], using Sphagnum establishment and peatland carbon balance’ as the email subject.

The application must include:

·      Full CV, including a breakdown of your grades to date.

·      Personal statement of no more than 700 words indicating why you would like to undertake this studentship award and explaining how your focus links to the research outlined above. Please include information of your relevant work or research experience and any technical/quantitative skills.

·      Example of a piece of academic writing produced by the applicant of up to 5,000 words. (Applicants may consider submitting two shorter pieces if these deal separately with conceptual and empirical analyses). This may be an academic essay or a chapter(s) from a dissertation, in which case, an abstract or introduction outlining the context/aims/research questions of the study must also be included.

·      Names and contact details of two academic referees who can comment on the applicant’s suitability for PhD study and to undertake the advertised project.


Further information

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please contact Professor Martin Evans ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Emma Shuttleworth ([Email Address Removed]).

Residential eligibility:

This scholarship is open to Home (UK) applicants only. 

Funding Notes

This full-time 3.5 year PhD studentship at the University of Manchester, starting September 2022, is fully funded by the School of Environment, Education & Development and Yorkshire Peat Partnership. The studentship covers academic fees and provides an annual Maintenance Stipend of £16,062.
As a doctoral candidate, you will be part of the Environmental Processes Research Group in the department of Geography. There will also be opportunities to contribute to current teaching programmes by working as a Teaching Assistant.
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