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Towards design of chemical-resilient agricultural landscapes

   Department of Environment and Geography

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  Prof Colin Brown  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

UK biodiversity is under threat: the abundance of terrestrial and freshwater species has declined by 13% since 1970 and 15% of species are threatened with extinction. As 71% of UK land is used for agriculture, any effort to halt UK biodiversity decline must consider how agricultural landscapes are managed. This CASE PhD project will address the twin challenge of maintaining UK food production to meet demands for national food security whilst also delivering on the UK’s commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2030. To do this, the research will involve visioning of alternative futures for agricultural landscapes; this may range from relatively simple management features, to habitat creation, alternative cropping systems, and the role of innovative food production systems such as regenerative agriculture and urban agriculture. The project will evaluate impacts of chemicals and other stressors on biodiversity and delivery of other ecosystem services under baseline (current) conditions, and then compare these with landscape-level delivery under the alternative future scenarios. The project will test the hypothesis that landscape design can concurrently reduce environmental risks from chemicals (e.g. pesticides) and other stressors whilst maintaining food productivity at (or beyond) current levels and enhancing biodiversity.

You will develop skills in understanding and managing the processes operating in agricultural landscapes. This will include landscape ecology, chemical exposure science, risk mitigation, biodiversity assessment and agronomy/food production systems. There will be a strong component of training in spatial analysis and strong linkages to environmental policy throughout the project.

Supervisor: Professor Colin Brown

Host organisation: University of York

Partner Organisations: Syngenta; Health & Safety Executive (Chemicals Regulation Division)


This project is one of 21 projects being advertised by the NERC-funded ECORISC (Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment Towards Sustainable Chemical Use) Centre for Doctoral Training programme. Funding will be provided for 3 years and 10 months. During this time you will work on your research project but will also receive unique and outstanding training in pollution science and transferable skills.

Over the first two years of the PhD programme, you will receive subject-specific training, in: i) ecotoxicology; ii) environmental chemistry; iii) ecology; and iv) risk assessment; and v) core skills required for an environmental specialist. The formal training programme will be complemented by yearly residential challenge events and tailored specialist skills training conducted as group and individual exercises. ECORISC students will also be required to undertake two workplace experiences based with our business, policy and regulation, third sector and research organisation partners.

An inclusive CDT programme

Inclusivity is at the heart of the ECORISC programme. We strongly encourage applications from under-represented groups and are employing a number of mechanisms, such as the possibility of part-time working, to ensure the programme is open to all. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process. If you have any questions, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at ecorisc [Email Address Removed]. 

Eligibility and Application process

The studentships are open to highly motivated UK and international/EU applicants with at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Successful applicants will be passionate about environmental pollution science and want their science to make a difference.

To be considered for this and other PhD’s offered under the ECORISC CDT, you should initially complete a short online application form available on the ECORISC PhD Studentships web page. Applications should be submitted before 17:00 (British Summer Time) on Friday 9th December 2022. You will be notified of the outcome of the process by 17:00 Thursday 22nd December 2022.

Successful applicants will be provided with an opportunity to meet with supervisory teams and then be invited to submit a project-specific application form which will be used to shortlist candidates for an interview.

ECORISC open afternoon 

We are running an online ‘open afternoon’ for you to learn more about the CDT and to ask questions on the programme or the application process. This event will run from 14:00-16:00 GMT on Wednesday 16th November 2022 and booking details can be found on the ECORISC website.

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