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QUADRAT DTP CASE: Northern Ireland Soil Carbon Initiative (NiSCI) – Towards Carbon Zero

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof N Scollan, Prof P Smith, Dr P Williams  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Overarching Aim: By assessing future management practices and identifying the most impactful behaviours the project intends to inform how farms across Northern Ireland could accelerate the move towards net carbon zero operations.  Working within three large farming and soil health project/networks (ARCZero, Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) and AgriSearch), established for calculating whole farm carbon stocks, annual emissions and soil fertility baselines, this study will access a detailed/high resolution collective of soil (organic) carbon, nutrient indices, remote sensing (LiDAR) and physiochemical soil sustainability indicators, within a framework of benchmarked current practices encompassing dairy, beef and lamb farming types, geolocated across the dominant agri-scapes of NI, which includes native Irish woodland and hedgerow habitats.

Well-tested models, populated by spatial datasets of climate, soil characteristics, land use and land management, will be harmonised against in-field measurements, which will include mixed species swards to project likely changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) content. By using all these data and information streams together/simultaneously/concurrently, soil monitoring, reporting and verification is more impactful/effective/economical (Smith et al., 2020). Although, providing regional/provincial representation of a region of interest (Northern Ireland), analysis will be embodied in global modelling frameworks.  

The developed models of SOC will be used to prioritise soil carbon mitigation actions within NI, but will also overlay/intertwine with supply chain sustainability action plans for UK retailers. Here placement opportunities will enable alignment of on ground recommendations for land management within considerations of ethical material sourcing, reducing supply chain carbon emissions and zero waste, with a focus on soil carbon sequestration (McGuire et al., 2022). 

Research support will include training in integrated modelling approaches, model development and validation, scenario design and the methodology for sensitivity analysis. Opportunities for in-depth, and both practical and fundamental learnings across multiple NI farm enterprises exist. So, to will skills in soil sampling, methods of analysis and measurement QC. The project involves working with multiple stakeholders, from individual farm businesses through to multinational corporations and government organisations, there will be plenty of scope to attend workshops, farm walks, and other communication outreach events. The supervisory team cover a wide breadth of expertise, which mirrors the scope and ambition of the project. 

Candidate Background: The successful candidate will have a soil science and agriculture background, be able to contribute to the design of experiments and demonstrate the ability to lead data analysis work. Relevant experience of Irish agriculture/soils and the agri-industry sector would be desirable, but this is not essential.

More project details are available here: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/quadrat-projects/

How to apply: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/how-to-apply/ 

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and overseas candidates. Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (currently £17,668 pa for 2022/23, updated annually)
• Fees (home rate tuition fees and/or fee waiver for overseas fees, where applicable)
• Research and training costs
For further information before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/funding-and-eligibility/


1. McGuire, R.; Williams, P. N.; Smith, P.; McGrath, S. P.; Curry, D.; Donnison, I.; Emmet, B.; Scollan, N. Potential Co-Benefits and Trade-Offs between Improved Soil Management, Climate Change Mitigation and Agri-Food Productivity. Food Energy Secur. 2022, 11 (2). https://doi.org/10.1002/fes3.352.
2. Smith, P.; Soussana, J. F.; Angers, D.; Schipper, L.; Chenu, C.; Rasse, D. P.; Batjes, N. H.; van Egmond, F.; McNeill, S.; Kuhnert, M.; et al. How to Measure, Report and Verify Soil Carbon Change to Realize the Potential of Soil Carbon Sequestration for Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Removal. Glob. Chang. Biol. 2020, 26 (1), 219–241. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14815.
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