Developing low cost instruments to measure ecosystem carbon sequestration, Geography, Environmental Science –PhD (Funded) Ref: 3185

About the award


Dr Timothy Hill, University of Exeter
Professor Laura Cardenas, Rothamsted Research

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences is inviting applications for a PhD studentship fully-funded by Shell, to commence in September 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU/International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Changing climate and land-use are affecting carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes between the land-surface and the atmosphere. Recent climate mitigation approaches – such as carbon sequestration using Nature Based Solutions (NBS) – mean that it vital we have the tools to verify their success. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to accurately quantify these exchanges of CO2 at the ecosystem level.
The Eddy Covariance (EC) technique has the capability to provide the most direct measures of carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange between the land-surface and the atmosphere for whole ecosystems (Baldocchi, 2008). Indeed, in recent decades EC has become the state of the art for measuring whole ecosystem fluxes. In theory, at least, EC is ideally suited to monitoring and verifying the rates of carbon (C) sequestration achieved by Nature Based Solutions (NBS).

However, the prohibitively high costs associated with conventional EC systems have presented a significant barrier to their widespread adoption (Hill, 2017). In this PhD, you will join a project – funded by Shell – to improve low cost EC instrumentation and to facilitate the monitoring and verification of carbon sequestration projects. You will help improve and test the low cost EC system by developing and testing instruments, developing data logging and processing software. The developments will be tested both in the laboratory, and during field work at the Rothamsted Research Farm platform in North Wyke, Devon, a National Capability funded by the BBSRC (Orr et al., 2016;
This PhD would suit a motivated candidate, who is interested in improving our understanding of environmental science through designing and building new instrumentation (including the physical hardware and the software).


BALDOCCHI. 2008. Breathing of the terrestrial biosphere: lessons learned from a global network of carbon dioxide flux measurement systems. Australian Journal of Botany, 56, 1-26.
HILL, CHOCHOLEK. & CLEMENT. 2017. The case for increasing the statistical power of eddy covariance ecosystem studies: why, where and how? Global Change Biology, 23, 2154-2165.
ORR, […] LEE 2016. The North Wyke Farm Platform: effect of temperate grassland farming systems on soil moisture contents, runoff and associated water quality dynamics. European Journal of Soil Science, 67, 374-385.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Sunday the 23rd of July 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 6th August 2018.
If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email stemm-pgr-admissions or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor (


Application deadline:23rd July 2018
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Support Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150