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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Work in the departments of Archaeology, Earth Sciences, Genetics, Geography, Plant Sciences, Zoology, and at BAS examines ecology, land use, population genetics, microbiology, physiology and adaptation, palaeobiology and conservation.


Exploiting novel sensor technologies to trace carbon fluxes and understand how land management shapes biogeochemistry from a molecular- to landscape-scale.
Use process-based modelling and high-resolution imagery to help a major restoration projects in the Scottish Highlands understand how forest regeneration and carbon sequestration processes are affected by management decisions
This project will use new molecular and field survey techniques to explore the role of habitat networks and landscape structure in wild bumblebee conservation.
This project will investigate the population identity, connectedness, demography and habitat use preferences of humpback whales on a recently recolonised feeding ground and compare these with early 20th century patterns from whale bone collections.
By applying genomics to the use of insects as food, you will be using cutting edge technology to improve global food security
This project seeks to assess the information content of fossilizable data, reconstruct the morphology of fossil ancestors as predicted by genomic data, and provide a genomically informed means with which to assess the evolutionary affinities of long-extinct species.
Small carbonaceous fossils (SCFs) offer a novel means of reconstructing the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of early animal evolution.
Phosphate nodules are common constituents of sedimentary successions, but their palaeontological and biogeochemical significance has yet to be realized
You will study the diverse, exceptionally preserved fossils in the mid-Miocene Clarkia Formation, which offer one of the most complete views an ancient lake ecosystem in the geological record.
Large areas of degraded pastureland in the Southern Alps are being taken out of agricultural production and allowed to passively rewild, but the effectiveness of this government policy remains poorly understood. Working with local partner Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and involving extensive field work alongside remote sensing, the project will quantify how landscapes that undergoing passive restoration following agricultural abandonment are evolving. Using time-series of multispectral imagery, the recovery of native woody vegetation will be tracked through time, comparing rewilded sites with matched regions that remain under grazing management. The significance of recovering forest fragments as carbon sinks will be evaluated and compared with carbon dynamics in intact native woodlands. This study is pertinent to global conservation in the UN's decade of restoration.
This project will test whether and how insights from optimal control theory can be applied to detailed spatio-temporal, stochastic, landscape-scale models as used by plant health policy-makers, to show how to control invasive forest diseases as effectively as possible, even when budgets and epidemiological-knowledge are limited.
The Carboniferous is a crucial period in Earth history, during which forests spread across the globe, driving climatic and landscape shifts in the Earth System, and arthropods, fish, and tetrapods expanded their non-marine range - this project will unravel what the trace fossil record can tell us about how this ancestral biosphere terraformed the planet into an analogously 'modern' Earth.
This project will work in partnership with existing Farmer Cluster Groups focused on regenerative agriculture to measure, model and predict the impacts of climate change on crop production and ecosystem services in regenerative or conventional farming systems.
This project will use existing long-term insect assemblage and time series datasets to develop and test hypotheses about relationships between insect (or arthropod) abundance and diversity, and the stability and value of the ecological functions and ecosystem services they are responsible for.
This project will work in partnership with existing Farmer Cluster Groups already focused on soil health, to model, predict and monitor wider biodiversity and ecosystem responses to regenerative agriculture.
Use large scale genome sequencing and evolutionary genetics to identify and study genes involved in adaptation and speciation in an iconic evolutionary radiation.
This project will study how carnivorous pitcher plants use sticky capture fluids to trap insects, how this affects their ecology and evolution, and how specialised insects can overcome the plant's traps
The project will investigate the trade-off between chemical and physical defences in the evolutionary model system of Heliconius caterpillars feeding on Passiflora vines
This project will investigate the mechanisms responsible for the formation of tree rings in seasonal climates, with implications for our understanding of carbon sequestration, tree ecology, and dendroclimatology.
This project aims to understand both how and why some flowers produce iridescent colours.
This project aims to understand how the unusual light-focusing prism cells on the petal epidermis of Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy, develop and attract pollinators.
Using historic samples, we will track changes in biomineralization over the last century and relate these to environmental changes
Investigation of changes in the fauna of the North Sea against the shifting back drop of environmental change associated with climate change over 4 million years
Combining fossil, molecular, and palaeoclimatic data will provide the first comprehensive analysis of the deep time origins of modern reptile diversity.
With over 10,000 extant species, Squamata (“lizards”, including snakes) represents one of the great vertebrate radiations. The clade is represented by a dense fossil record concomitant with histories of diversification and dispersal through the last 23 million years, and thus represents a key opportunity to elucidate the relative roles of environment (Grinnellian niches) and biotic interactions (Eltonian niches) in driving hyperdiverse clade diversification through time.
This project will examine skeletal anatomy in fossil and modern squamates in order to reconstruct the evolution of the snake body form in a functional and ecological setting.
The project will analyse genetic data to understand how genetic mixing of ancient hominins - humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and potentially others - occurred, and what impacts it had on our evolution and genetic diversity.
There are no cases where we know both the host and parasite genes underlying coevolution in natural animal populations, meaning key assumptions of models have gone untested, and the dynamics and immunological basis of coevolution are unknown. We propose to identify these genes in Drosophila melanogaster and a parasitic wasp.
This project will investigate how beetles allocate limited resources to different body structures during development, to improve their function and maximise the animal's fitness
Mathematical modelling of the response of swimming bacteria to chemical cues in the ocean
Applying the tools of machine learning to understand how marine microorganisms optimise their transport in complex fluid environments
New seismic and hydrophone data from the North Atlantic seafloor contain 19 months of continuous baleen whale vocalisation recordings and will be used to detect, track and study the migration patterns of the animals.
This project seeks to resolve the phylogenetic affinities of problematic Cambrian fossils that bear morphological similarities to late Ediacaran taxa.
By integrating genetics, ecology, and climate, you will investigate the key drivers that shaped species diversity in the African continent.
This project will investigate whether any biological super-traits (single traits that explain multiple different behaviours) govern the community dynamics of Ediacaran organisms.
We will use large scale genome sequencing, evolutionary genetics and developmental biology tools to identify and study genes generating variation in sexual dimorphic pigmentation patterns in the iconic Malawi cichlid fishes
Working as part of a long-term restoration experiment, based in Riau, Indonesia, this project will assess the potential of different management options for reforesting river margins in established oil palm plantations.
This project aims to understand how climate change can lead to coral bleaching by unpicking the redox triggers that lead to the expulsion of the photosynthetic microorganism, dinoflagellates, from corals.
This project will test the hypothesis that nature-based climate solutions can increase the robustness of ecological network structure, and thus the resilience of ecosystem services delivered by arthropods.