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Quantification and upscaling of greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes from shallow waters, soils and trees in rural SE England.

   Earth Sciences

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  Dr David Lowry, Dr Rebecca Fisher, Dr J France, Dr Mark Lee, Dr Kevin Clemitshaw, Dr Sirwan Yamulki  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Egham United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Climate Science Data Analysis Environmental Biology Environmental Chemistry Hydrology Mathematical Modelling Pollution Soil Science

About the Project

The race toward net zero is hampered by poor understanding of many greenhouse gas sources and their emissions, and how to scale these up spatially and temporally. Uncertainties in global atmospheric carbon budgets arise mostly from natural sources (e.g. wetlands). Emissions are influenced by seasonal temperature and rainfall variability and anthropogenic changes in drainage, flooding and vegetation. Ratios of 13C/12C and 2H/1H help identify sources of CH4 emissions and transport pathways from subsurface to atmosphere.

This studentship seeks to (i) quantify CH4 and CO2 fluxes from a range of landscapes and shallow water bodies, (ii) elucidate environmental factors that impact fluxes, (iii) characterise the isotopic composition of CH4 emissions, and (iv), enhance the use of atmospheric measurements to verify UK GHG emissions inventories. Project outcomes will inform landscape/environmental management decisions that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Research methodology

Field studies will be conducted at RBG Kew’s site at Wakehurst, the Straits Inclosure at Forest Research and at wetland regions across SE England. These will provide unique opportunities to quantify GHG fluxes and elucidate source-sink processes for different types of soils, trees and surface-waters.

RHUL’s state-ot-the-art vehicle-mounted and portable laser spectrometer systems, automated closed chambers and eddy covariance will measure CH4 and CO2 fluxes across different landscapes, with underlying drivers identified using RBG’s new wireless network of meteorological and soil sensors at Wakehurst.

Isotope ratio mass spectrometry will be used to measure δ13C and δD in samples for comparison with mobile data (see Numerical and/or process-based models will utilise measured fluxes, climatic and soil data to extrapolate to regional landscapes, and make predictions for future emission scenarios and their likely role in climate change.


Training will be provided in project planning, field sampling, greenhouse gas and stable isotope analysis, data interpretation, statistical and spatial analysis and modelling. The student will attend synergistic project meetings, help formulate research strategies, present / publish their findings, and undertake a 3-month secondment to Forest Research.

Person specification

Applicants should have an appropriate highly numerate science degree, including environmental science, geoscience, biology, chemistry, physics, and ideally should have field and laboratory experience.

Funding Notes

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK. ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences.


1) Fisher, R.E., France, J.L., Lowry, D. & 26 others (2017), Measurement of the 13C isotopic signature of methane emissions from northern European wetlands, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 31, 605–623, doi:10.1002/2016GB005504.
2) Nisbet, E.G., Manning, M.R., Dlugokencky, E.J., Fisher, R.F., Lowry, D. & 18 others (2019), Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the 4 years 2014–2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 33, 318–342. 2018GB006009
3) Yamulki, S., Forster, J., Xenakis, G., Ash, A., Brunt, J. Perks, P. and Morison, J.I.L (2021), Effects of clear-fell harvesting on soil CO2, CH4, and N2O fluxes in an upland Sitka spruce stand in England. Biogeosciences, 18, 4227–4241.
4) France. J.L., Fisher, R.E., Lowry, D. & 21 others (in press), δ13C methane source signatures from tropical wetland and rice field emissions, Phil Trans R. Soc. A.
5) Myrgiotis, V., Blei, E., Clement, R., Jones, S.K., Keane, B., Lee, M.A. & 6 others (2020), A model-data fusion approach to analyse carbon dynamics in managed grasslands. Agricultural Systems, 184. 102907.
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