The wetter the better? Understanding wet woodland carbon dynamics in the Anthropocene


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Environmental Sciences (and select the entry point of October 2023), then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

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Director of Studies: Dr Scott Davidson
2nd Supervisor: Dr Thomas Roland (, University of Exeter
3rd Supervisor: Dr Alice Milner (, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London
4th Supervisor: Dr Jessie Woodbridge 
Applications are invited for a 3.5 years PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 01 October 2023.
Project description
Scientific background
Globally, peatlands are essential terrestrial carbon stores that can provide nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation. One of the least well-understood types of peatlands in the world are wet woodlands (peatlands with substantial tree cover). Wet woodlands were once a common habitat type across the UK, but after years of disturbance and destruction, only an estimated 50–70,000 ha remain. Despite their scarcity, these ecosystems could be substantial, long-term carbon sinks due to their peat-forming characteristics. However, climate change and increasing development will determine whether these ecosystems become a source of carbon in the future. We are seeking an individual who will i) quantify contemporary carbon dynamics and fluxes, ii) determine past landscape dynamics using paleoenvironmental techniques, iii) link current and future carbon sequestration to ecohydrological variables (i.e., water table depth), and iv) make comparisons to other wetland ecosystems (e.g., tropical peatlands). 
The successful applicant will use field and laboratory techniques to measure carbon dynamics at a wet woodland site in Devon, UK. Carbon fluxes will be measured, alongside above and below-ground biomass using forestry techniques. They will also collect detailed ecohydrological data including water table depth and vegetation data. The paleoenvironmental investigation will use peat cores to look at past hydrological conditions and vegetation patterns using testate amoeba and pollen analysis. Measurements will be extrapolated to wider landscapes through pre-existing carbon models. 
You will learn a range of highly relevant techniques used in environmental science, including leading field campaigns, technical skills using environmental sensors/data loggers and analysis of big datasets. This project will inform environmental policies and management nationally and you will gain experience of communicating scientific findings to policy and practice organisations. You will join an international network of peatland researchers, produce leading scientific papers and present at international conferences.  
Person specification
We are looking for an enthusiastic individual with a degree in a relevant subject (e.g., environmental science, geography, biology); individuals from numerical disciplines are also encouraged to apply. Experience of fieldwork, programming and environmental sensors is desirable.
Funding notes
This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1 October 2023.
Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship for 3.5 years, covering fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022-23 rate) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships.
ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences.
ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience. Our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
For information and full eligibility visit
Please clearly state the name of the studentship project code DAVIDSONS_P23ARIES that you are applying for on your personal statement.
If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Scott Davidson.
Please see our 'how to apply for a research degree' page for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.
For more information on the admissions process generally, please contact
The closing date for applications is 23:59 (UK Time) 11 January 2023. 


1 Davidson, S.J., Dazé,E., Byun, E., Hiler, D., Kangur, M., Talbot, J., Finkelstein, S.A. and Strack,M. (2022) The unrecognized importance of carbon stocks and fluxes from swampsin Canada and the USA, Environmental Research Letters,

 2 Strack, M., Davidson,S.J., Hirano, T. and Dunn, C. (2022) The potential of peatlands as nature-basedclimate solutions, Current Climate Change Reports,

 3 Davidson, S.J.,Strack, M., Bourbonniere, R.A. and Waddington, J.M. (2019) Controls on soilcarbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes from a peat swamp vary byhydrogeomorphic setting, Ecohydrology

 4 Loisel, J. et al.(including Roland, T.P. and Milner, A.M.) (2021) Expert assessment of futurevulnerability of the global peatland carbon sink. Nature Climate Change. 11(1):70-77 

 5 Woodbridge, J., Fyfe,R., Smith, D., Pelling, R., de Vareilles, A., Batchelor, R., Bevan, A andDavies, A.L. (2021) What drives biodiversity patterns? Using long-termmulti-disciplinary data to discern centennial-scale change. Journal of Ecology.DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.1356