Newcastle University Featured PhD Programmes
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Featured PhD Programmes
University of Southampton Featured PhD Programmes
University of Kent Featured PhD Programmes
Monash University Featured PhD Programmes

The cellular basis of an ecosystem engineer

This project is no longer listed in the FindAPhD
database and may not be available.

Click here to search the FindAPhD database
for PhD studentship opportunities
  • Full or part time
    Dr J Doonan
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

A fully-funded 3-year PhD position is available for a motivated and curiosity-driven student to study the cell and developmental biology of the peat-forming moss, Sphagnum.

Peatlands play significant ecological roles in terms of atmospheric carbon sequestration into
peat, CO2 and methane release, as well as wildlife conservation and water dynamics.

Under suitable conditions, Sphagnum becomes the climax vegetation and can even displace larger vegetation including forest, to form extensive peatlands. Peatlands act as net carbon sinks, storing an estimated one third of the worlds soil carbon. Thus, Sphagnum accounts for more accumulated biomass than any other genus on earth. Sphagnum also holds more water per unit biomass than any other common terrestrial plant and modulates water movement through many of the landscapes in the western regions of the UK and the European mainland. Human activity has contributed to extensive destruction or degradation of peatland leading to restoration projects aimed at re-establishment of a healthy bryophyte community to improve water quality and ecological diversity.

The interaction between Sphagnum and water is therefore fundamental to its role as an ecosystem engineer, but very little is known about the genetic and molecular basis that underlie this remarkable adaptation.

This PhD project therefore will exploit advanced imaging, physiological and phenotyping methodologies to survey morphological variation in the Sphagnum genus and identify features that influence the plants’ interaction with water. The student will work alongside an experienced Post-doctoral Research Assistant on the project and also receive specific advanced training from experts in relevant aspects of cell biology, genetics, and automated large scale photo-physiological phenotyping. Classical plant systematics training will be provided by expert bryologists, complemented by DNA bar coding from molecular systematics researchers at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. Location

The student will be based in Aberystwyth University at the National Plant Phenotyping Centre within IBERS, and will have the opportunity to interact with restoration ecologists in the Welsh uplands, the UNESCO designated Dovey Biosphere ( ) the Pennines and Ireland.

This exciting PhD project, therefore, will provide training in a broad range of biological techniques and transferable skills at the highest level. Moreover, the student will interact with experts across Europe and present their work at local, national and international conferences.

Eligibility and support :


The prospective applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2:1 in a relevant degree or MSc/ Diploma in an appropriate subject area, and be available to take up the studentship by October 2018.

To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by 30 March, 2018.

1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from

2. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.

Please could non-resident applicants state how they plan to cover the difference for overseas tuition fees?

Funding Notes

Fees, research expenses and stipend (£ 14,484 ) are available, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Fees and stipend are at the standard level for EU nationals. Non-EU nationals may apply but would be subject to overseas tuition fees and would be responsible for the difference in funding.

Length: Full-time, 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Interview: To be arranged

Start Date: To be arranged but not earlier than April 2018 and not later than October 2018

Informal enquires contact [Email Address Removed]

Address for applications:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Cledwyn Building
Aberystwyth University

Related Subjects

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.