Funding provider: Swansea University's Faculty of Science and Engineering and Vattenfall Ltd.
Subject areas: Environmental science, renewable energy, geophysics, hydrology, biosciences
Project start date:
- 1 April 2022 (Enrolment open from mid–March)
- 1 July 2022 (Enrolment open from mid-June)
- Professor Bernd Kulessa (Geography / Glaciology)
- Professor Tavi Murray (Geography / Glaciology)
- Dr Jon Walker (Biosciences)
- Dr Cindy Froyd (Biosciences)
- Professor Harshinie Karunarathna (Civil Engineering)
- Dr Ji Li (Civil Engineering)
Aligned programme of study: PhD in Physical Geography
Mode of study: Full or Part-time study is possible
Peatlands are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. Occupying just 3% of the Earth’s land surface area they store more carbon than all the world’s vegetation - including all forests; provide clean water and play a key role in flood management; support a wide range of rare, specialist and threatened biodiversity, and are valuable as a palaeontological archive.
A major global scientific frontier exists in understanding the impacts of climate warming on the future carbon balance of peatlands. This is especially pertinent where these peatlands require ecological restoration, for example due to commercial afforestation, or where major renewable energy infrastructure is developed.
This PhD project will contribute to tackling this challenge by mapping and monitoring the evolution of the soils, and their hydrological functioning, within a representative plot of blanket peat. Located in Vattenfall’s Pen-y-Cymoedd Windfarm site in South Wales, the plot is the focus of a major NRW-managed program of returning commercially afforested peatbogs back to their natural tree-free state.
This PhD project will use a range of hydrogeophysical techniques to map peat structure, soil water and water movement. You will test the use of drone-based ground-penetrating radar for imaging of peat structures. These airborne surveys will be complemented by electrical resistivity tomography of peat porosity and water contents, electrical self-potential mapping of water seepage, and piezometer-based measurements of hydraulic head and hydraulic conductivity through slug tests. Together these surveys and techniques will provide snapshots of soil structure and conditions during the transition from afforested to restored peat, and provide unique new observational constraints for computational hydrological and ecological models and those of greenhouse gas fluxes.
The project is open to UK and eligible EU students and would particularly suit those with a strong physics or geophysics background, although all applicants with strong quantitative skills are welcome. The project will require a substantial amount of fieldwork to be undertaken in what will no doubt be typically Welsh mountain weather! It will provide you with a fantastic oportunity to work within a major multi-disciplinary scientific project together with fellow PGR students and industrial partners from Vattenfall and Natural Resources Wales. You will be able to develop skills across a broad range of geophysical acquisition, processing and modelling techniques, and collaborate with other researchers focusing on forest and peatland ecological surveys and quantifying greenhouse gas fluxes.
Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level in geography or a related field, or a master’s degree with a minimum overall grade at ‘Merit’ (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University). See - Country-specific Information for European Applicants 2019 and Country-specific Information for International Applicants 2019.
English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 6.0 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent. Details on the Swansea University English Language entry policy can be found here.
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK and EU based students only. EU Students must be eligible to receive the EU Transitional Bursary Scheme.