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QUADRAT DTP: Assessing the restoration of UK Carbon sinks using geophysics and microbiology

School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD
Applications are now CLOSED
Funding
Funded
Reference Number
NBE/2020/06
Application Deadline
22 January 2019
Start Date
1 October 2020

Overview

Occupying just 3% of the Earth's land surface, peatlands are our largest carbon store on land. Worldwide they store 550 gigatonnes of carbon, representing 42% of all soil carbon and exceeds the carbon stored in all other vegetation types, including the world's forests. They are places where people derive clean water and food, and can act as buffers for environmental disasters, such as flooding. They are also of global significance for biodiversity with the majority of peatland species and habitats rare, threatened or declining. Degradation of peatlands occurs due to aerobic ingression due to drainage/ overgrazing, this promotes sub surface microbial aerobic activity which allows degradation of the majority of soil organic matter. Urgent action worldwide is required to protect, sustainably manage and restore peatlands. This involves protecting them from degrading activities such as agricultural conversion and drainage, and restoring the waterlogged conditions required for peat formation to prevent the release of carbon stored in peat soil. Current restoration processes focus on blocking drains to raise the water back to pre-drainage levels but does not consider water table fluctuations or the effect this has on biogeochemical restoration mechanisms. There is an assumption that the restored peatland is the same physically as pre-restoration. This is often not the case, degraded peatlands undergo compression and compaction once drainage and drying is allowed. Once rewetted, a secondary macro-porosity (fracture-type flow) can occur that increases hydraulic conductivity which may affect the microbial processes and biogeochemistry of the restored area.

Here we consider which microbial and geophysical mechanisms should be considered to ensure the successful restoration of peatlands by monitoring actively accumulating, degrading and restored peatland locations. This PhD will provide novel cross disciplinary training in geophysical geo-electrical methods such as ERT, GPR and SP as well as microbial sampling and analysis such as high-throughput DNA sequencing, amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics. Work will be carried out in the field (Garron Plateau) and in the lab comparing the geophysical & microbial ecology of active, degrading and restored peatlands to identify carbon sequestration mechanisms

The team providing training and supervision are
Dr Rory Doherty - Restoration and monitoring of peatlands
Dr Deepak Kumaresan - Microbial Ecology
Dr Jean Christophe Comte - Near Surface geophysics

The project will run in collaboration with stakeholders providing site access (Northern Ireland Water, Mourne Heritage Trust) Beyond the central training opportunities provided by the QUADRAT programme, the project will provide specific training in the areas of geophysical monitoring (Aberdeen), Microbial sampling and Analysis (QUB).

Further Reading
https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15972
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.300
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.064

Funding Information

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.

Project Summary
Supervisor

Dr Rory Doherty


Mode of Study

Full-time: 3.5 years


Funding Body
NERC QUADRAT-DTP
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Civil Engineering overview

The research centre will address the topical grand challenges in civil engineering field, building on existing and developing new international collaborations. Financial support to meet these challenges will be acquired through both internal University initiatives (for enhanced infrastructure and facilities) and external funding from government grants, charities and direct industrial support.

Research will address the grand challenges of energy, carbon, clean water, infrastructure; exploring extremes and defining new limits. Key research areas include:

Marine renewable energy
Groundwater and environmental systems
Geotechnics
Intelligent infrastructure and high performance structures
Energy efficient materials

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 of full-time registration for PhD, or two years for MPhil (or part-time equivalent).

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Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
The dynamic nature of this research has been key to the CERC's success in attracting significant funding from UK research councils, government departments and agencies. CERC generated £11.5m in external research income during the last Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) 5-year period.
The Civil Engineering Research Centre (CERC) is a leading international, interdisciplinary centre that enables scientists and engineers from all areas of civil engineering investigation to work on diverse, yet complementary research.
A special feature of the CERC is the extensive and diverse range of research topics being researched by students and staff in the Centre.

Career Prospects

Introduction
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.

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Learning Outcomes

Course structure

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Entrance requirements

Graduate
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.

International Students

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 an 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.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) £4,407
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) £4,407
Other (non-UK) EU £4,407
International £21,300

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Civil Engineering costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

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.

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