QUADRAT DTP: Medical Geology: The Impact of the Natural Environment on Health in Past Populations from Ireland and Scotland
Applications are now CLOSED
The natural environment is inextricably connected with human health. The composition of underlying rocks and minerals have an impact on the air humans breathe, the water they drink, and the food consumed. Medical geologists therefore aim to identify geochemical anomalies in soils, sediments, and water that may have a negative impact on human and animal health. The Tellus and Tellus Border projects have generated a wealth of detailed geochemical information on Northern Ireland and six counties along its border. Demonstrating a strong connection between the composition of stream sediment and soil geochemistry with the underlying bedrock (Young et al. 2016), aspects of this data have been compared to the geology of Scotland, which is closely connected with that of the north of Ireland (Breward et al. 2011). The impact of the underlying geology in the north of Ireland on aspects of modern health has also been explored (e.g. McKinley et al. 2013). Bioarchaeologists have long been aware of the environment's key role with respect to physiological stress and resilience. Serious negative consequences on past populations include: a decreased level of health, a reduced ability to undertake work, a suppressed reproductive capacity, and general socio-cultural disruption. The main health indicators sensitive to environmental change include stress lesions (cribra orbitalia, porotic hyperostosis, linear enamel hypoplasia), stature and demographic parameters related to fertility, growth and maternal mortality. This project will examine these aspects of selected Medieval skeletal populations from the north of Ireland and Scotland with reference to the underlying geology to investigate whether differing patterns of health status might be related.
The project will be supervised by human skeletal biologists and osteoarchaeologists based in Queen's University Belfast and the University of Aberdeen who, collectively, have internationally recognised expertise and research excellence in researching human health from skeletal remains. It will apply newly developed techniques for the palaeodemographic aspects and recording of linear enamel hypoplasia; training in these methods will be provided in Aberdeen. The medical geology components will be supported by Geoscience colleagues in Queen's University Belfast who were involved in the Tellus project, with the expertise and capacity to both train and support the student in their geological interpretations of targeted sites in Scotland and Ireland. The PhD advisory team in Belfast and Aberdeen have direct access to over 3,000 human skeletons spanning the entirety of the Medieval period; comprising the data set for the project.
Breward, N., Stone, P., Flight, D. and Anderson, T. B. 2011. Regional geochemical comparisons from the Lower Palaeozoic, Souther Uplands-Down-Longford terrane in Northern Ireland and Scotland. SJG 47, 33-43.
McKinley, J. M., Ofterdinger, U., Young, M., Barsby, A. and Gavin, A. 2013. Investigating local relationships between trace elements in soil and cancer data. SS 5, 25-41.
Young, M. E., Knights, K. V., Smyth, D., Glennon, M. M., Scanlon, R. P. and Gallagher, V. 2016. The Tellus geochemical surveys, results and applications, pp. 33-52 in Young, M. E. (ed.), Unearthed: Impacts of the Tellus Surveys of the North of Ireland. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
This project is in competition for funding.
This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit www.quadrat.ac.uk for more information.
The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.
Archaeology & Palaeoecology overview
The research undertaken within Archaeology & Palaeoecology largely falls under two interdisciplinary Research Clusters; Environmental Change & Resilience (ECR) for more environmentally-related projects, and Culture & Society (C&S) for more humanities-related Archaeology projects.
Projects involving Palaeoecology or Scientific Archaeology focus on themes such as long-term changes and resilience in ecosystems, humans, environments and climate, using approaches such as pollen analysis, tephra dating, dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. Much of our research spans several disciplines – for example projects on the hydrogeology and restoration of bogs.
Research in the C&S cluster explores the material manifestations of culture through time and space. We combine innovative scientific methods with theoretically-informed analyses to understand past human experience, bringing together the humanities and the sciences.
The combination of environmental archaeology, and especially bio-archaeology, with more traditional approaches to the past, helps to differentiate Queen's from most other Archaeology departments and is seen as both a strength and stimulus to future developments. Thematically, we have identified eight areas of particular specialist interest and especially welcome applications from potential PhD students interested in these areas though projects are not limited to these themes:
Development of agriculture and the cultural landscape in Europe, Eurasia and its associated economic, chronological and environmental backdrop
Organisation of domestic and ritual space (including landscapes) from prehistory through the post-medieval period in the North Atlantic region
Populations and palaeodiet from Ireland to Eurasia
Refinement of chronologies from selected regions of the world, using the facilities of the 14CHRONO labs
Religion, society and material culture in the central and western Mediterranean
Settlement and economy of medieval and post-medieval Ireland; connections with the New World
Social and bio-archaeological approaches to death, involving the study of mortuary data from Ireland across Eurasia
The causes, timing and impacts of past climate change
Mode of study / duration
Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the University. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years for a PhD (or part-time equivalent).
Archaeology & Palaeoecology Highlights
- Long-standing record of inter-disciplinary approaches to understanding the relationship between past humans and their environment.
World Class Facilities
- World-leading centre in multiple dating techniques that help us understand past societal and environmental issues.
Members of the C&S and the ECR research clusters work closely to develop research that takes into consideration both the social and environmental context of human society (see also Geography and Palaeoecology: Environmental Change). Integrated within C&S is the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, a financially self-supporting excavation unit with an exceptional record of publication and a high media profile, reflecting a strong commitment to community engagement.
The cluster undertakes research in Ireland, Great Britain and abroad, in particular, the Mediterranean region, territories of the former Soviet Union, the North Atlantic, west Africa and North America, where both staff and research students undertake collaborative projects.
Students maintain their own research seminar series and attend the fortnightly seminars of the Archaeology and Palaeoecology research clusters, which routinely bring outstanding scholars from abroad as well as Great Britain and Ireland.
Being based in the recently built 14CHRONO Centre has expanded our research facilities and allowed us to extend our research agenda.
Facilities include an AMS 14C dating facility, an NEC accelerator mass spectrometer, cold storage for biological materials, drawing office, laboratories for post-excavation, human bone analysis, palynology, plant, snail and insect macrofossils, dendrochronology and animal bone analysis.
Current postgraduates come from Ireland, Great Britain, the USA, France, and the Netherlands.
For further information on career opportunities at PhD level please contact the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Student Recruitment Team on askEPS@qub.ac.uk. Our advisors - in consultation with the School - will be happy to provide further information on your research area, possible career prospects and your research application.
People teaching you
The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.
English Language Requirements
Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).
International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.
For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.
If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.
|Northern Ireland (NI)||£4,407|
|England, Scotland or Wales (GB)||£4,407|
|Other (non-UK) EU||£4,407|
Archaeology & Palaeoecology costs
There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.
Additional course costs
Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.
How do I fund my study?1.PhD Opportunities
Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.2.Doctoral Training Centres at Queen's
Queen's has eight outstanding competitive Doctoral Training Centres, with each one providing funding for a number of PhD positions and most importantly a hub for carrying out world class research in key disciplines.3.PhD loans
The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students, £10,000 for students in Scotland and up to £5,500 for Northern Ireland students.4.International Scholarships
Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.
Funding and Scholarships
The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.
How to Apply
Find a supervisor
If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.
To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.
You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.