Developing low cost instruments to measure ecosystem carbon sequestration, Geography, Environmental Science –PhD (Funded) Ref: 3408

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 as soon as possible (though flexibility on the actual start date exists).  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.

Background: 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 Challenge: 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).

The PhD: 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 and/or 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/or the analysis software).

PhD Start Date:
The ideal candidate would start as early as possible – though some flexibility is possible. Please email to enquire.

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.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU/International tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,777 per year tax-free stipend.

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 Monday the 14th of January 2019. Interview date TBC but this is expected to be around two weeks from the closing date.

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:14th January 2019
Value:£14,777 per year for 3.5 years
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: PGR Admissions Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150