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Using multitemporal remote sensing data to map the dynamics and resilience of European forests to global change

School of Biological Sciences

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Dr T Jucker No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Bristol United Kingdom Ecology Environmental Biology Forestry & Arboriculture

About the Project

Forests and woodlands cover 42% of Europe, a figure that has been steadily increasing for decades. These forest ecosystems not only provide vital habitat for biodiversity, but also underpin numerous ecosystem services that are central to Europe’s economy, including mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration and timber production. However, because forests generally cover large expanses of land and trees are long-lived, monitoring and managing forests from the ground is inherently challenging and expensive. This poses a real challenge, particularly in the context of climate change which in many regions of the world – including Europe – is already leading to rapid changes in forest dynamics and susceptibility to disease [1,2]. Airborne and satellite remote sensing technologies offer an intuitive solution to this challenge [2,3], as they provide access to a rich data archive that covers vast areas, spans multiple decades and is continuously improving in spatial, spectral and temporal resolution. Working in the Trentino region of Northern Italy, this project will explore how combining field data from traditional forest monitoring programs with airborne and satellite data can guide the conservation and management of the region’s forests. Specifically, the project will aim to: (i) develop robust approaches for large-area mapping of forest carbon dynamics, (ii) map forest resilience and recovery from extreme climate events, and (iii) identify early-warning signals of pest and pathogen outbreaks.

The studentship is co-funded by the Bristol Centre for Agricultural Innovation (BACI) at the University of Bristol and the Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM) in Trentino, Italy. The successful candidate will be enrolled in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol (degree awarding institution). Over the course of the 3.5 year project, they will be expected to spend a minimum of 12 months working at FEM under the supervision of Dr Michele Dalponte.

Funding notes

The ideal candidate will have:

·       A BSc and/or MSc degree in biology, geography or physical sciences, preferably relating to ecology and/or remote sensing.

·       Have or demonstrate the eagerness to learn strong analytical and computational skills. Prior coding experience (e.g. R, Python, Matlab) and familiarity with GIS (e.g. ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Earth Engine) are highly desirable.

·       Willingness to spend approximately 12 months over the course of their degree based at the Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM) in Trentino, Italy.

Start date: September 2021

Funding status: The studentship includes a stipend for 3.5 years (approximately £15,500 p.a.) and covers all university tuition fees. Additionally, a further £4,000 are available towards research and training expenses. Eligibility is limited to UK students only.


·       University of Bristol: Dr Tommaso Jucker

·       Fondazione Edmund Mach: Dr Michele Dalponte

To make an application please see:


[1] McDowell et al. (2020). Pervasive shifts in forest dynamics in a changing world. Science, 368, eaaz9463; [2] Senf et al. (2019). Canopy mortality has doubled in Europe’s temperate forests over the last three decades. Nature Communication, 9, 4978; [3] Dalponte, Jucker et al. (2019). Characterizing forest carbon dynamics using multi-temporal lidar data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 224, 412-420
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