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Statistics, Computing and Environmental Knowledge in the 20th Century (Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity)

Department of History

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Dr S Clarke , Prof C Dytham No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A PhD studentship is available to explore contributions to environmental knowledge and farming innovations made by applied scientists based at agricultural research stations in Britain and its colonies between 1920 and 1970. Statistics and computing became key tools for the study of ecology during the 20th century and this project will unpack the motives for developing these tools and the assumptions that underpinned their use. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) ( at the University of York (, supervised by leading experts in this field, Sabine Clarke and Calvin Dytham.

Key research questions include:
- What is the relationship between problem-solving in agriculture and the development of new quantitative methods of analysis involving statistics and computing between 1920 and 1970?
- What is the relationship between agricultural research and ecology in Britain?
- What was the relationship between environmental knowledge and the ambitions of government for increasing productivity in farming in Britain and the British empire?

You will use the archives of agricultural research stations and British scientists, and relevant publications to map the contexts and networks that were important for the production of new techniques for analysing data and their relationship with ecological and agricultural knowledge in the mid-twentieth century.

You will have an interest in history (of statistics, computing, ecology or agricultural research) or ecological/environmental science methods and interdisciplinary working. There is potential for thinking about the ways in which ecologists communicate their methods (not just their findings) to a wider public audience, a key issue in building trust in science amongst society.

LCAB will provide you with opportunities to interact with other students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will offer additional training as required.

An opportunity ( is also available to submit your own proposal for a fully funded studentship with LCAB.

Entry requirements:
Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project.

Shortlisting: by 22nd Jan 2021
Interviews: Feb 2021

Funding Notes

This studentship covers UK fees for 4 years and a tax-free stipend to match the UKRI’s minimum rate for 2021/22 (estimated £15 860 per year) for 3.5 years. Non-UK citizens are welcome to apply but must pay the difference between the international and the UK fee rate themselves. To qualify for UK (home) fee status, students must be from the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) or Islands (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the past three years.

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