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Understanding ecological memory: plants and ecosystems as information processors (OP2258)


   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

   Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Bioinformatics Climate Science Computational Mathematics Data Analysis Ecology Mathematical Modelling

About the Project

Predicting the impact of climate change on ecosystems presents a major challenge due to Earth’s complexity and adaptive dynamics. Increasing evidence suggests that ecological “memory”—how an ecological system’s past shapes its behavior—are pervasive across the globe. To detect, quantify, and understand these memory effects, new concepts and quantitative tools are needed. In particular, computational mechanics’ view of intrinsic computation—how complex systems store and process information—is ideally suited to represent how plants, communities, and ecosystems display ecological memory.

       This novel project will apply computational mechanics to quantify ecological memory in terrestrial ecosystems. By examining how and why ecological memory varies across time, space, and biological levels of organization (leaf to ecosystem), the factors and consequences of ecological resilience, or the loss of resilience, will be evaluated. The candidate will work with leave, canopy, and ecosystem scale carbon-flux data from manipulative experiments, observation networks, and terrestrial biosphere models and form collaborations with experts in those fields. Training in informatics (computing, statistical analysis, and modelling) will be provided through the hosting institutions and collaborating groups. Depending on the candidate’s expertise and interest, other Earth-surface biogeochemical processes may also be considered in the study.

       Ultimately, the successful candidate will play a leading role and “blaze new trails” in ecological memory research, and more broadly, in the research on intrinsic computing of plants, to inform prediction and management of ecological responses in changing climate.


Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website

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