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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.


Use process-based modelling and high-resolution imagery to help major restoration projects in the Scottish Highlands understand how forest regeneration and carbon sequestration processes are affected by management decisions
By applying genomics to the use of insects as food, you will be using cutting edge technology to improve global food security
This project will tap into the high potential of Earth Observation (EO) data to monitor recent rapid, unregulated land use change in the biodiverse tropical forests of Sub-Saharan Africa, and combine EO findings with ground data to identify environmental and socioeconomic drivers of deforestation, working with researchers from the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED).
This project will investigate the interaction between butterfly behaviour, microhabitat usage, and fine-scale temperature patterns, informing habitat management to reduce the impacts of climate change.
This project will investigate how microplastics are removed and degraded within freshwater ecosystems, providing insights into ecosystem processes and offering opportunities for the development and testing of biological filters.
This project will investigate spatial and temporal patterns of parasites within native and invasive freshwater snails to develop and test fundamental concepts in host-parasite relationships.
This project applies new methods in comparative anatomy and genomics to improve estimates of the evolutionary relationships of fossil branches on the Tree of Life. We use well-corroborated parts of the Tree, primarily living groups for which ample genomic data are available, in order to 1) assess the information content of fossilizable data and 2) reconstruct the morphology of predicted ancestors. The student will undertake phylogenetic analyses of morphological data that incorporate predicted ancestors, living and fossil taxa in order to provide a genomically informed means with which to assess the evolutionary affinities of long-extinct species.
Convergent evolution provides a natural experiment in the repeated emergence of complex traits, and, by resolving the underlying genetic mechanisms we expect to uncover a genetic rulebook that explains how complex traits can repeatedly evolve in nature.
It is not widely appreciated that some plant species synthesis and accumulate substantial amounts of animal-type neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine, and the function of these metabolites for plants is substantially unknown.
Eukaryotic gene clusters are emerging as a significant phenomenon in plant evolution, with implication for biopharmaceutical discovery, but fundamentally, the evolutionary genomic mechanisms that lead to gene cluster assembly are substantially unknown.
Discover more about the distribution, ecological function and conservation status of tropical oak species (i.e. Lithocarpus) - key elements of montane forests that remain poorly understood.
This modelling project will focus on the ecological and evolutionary implications of an unavoidable trade-off faced by plants: attractiveness to pollinators promotes reproduction, but also potentially brings plants into contact with disease
The Carboniferous Period (359 - 299 million years ago) is an often overlooked turning point in Earth history, during which forests spread across the globe, driving changes in Earth's atmosphere, climate, and landscapes, and many modern lineages of arthropods, fishes, and tetrapods moved onto land or into freshwater habitats. This project will unravel what the trace fossil record (of burrows, trackways, etc.) can tell us about this crucial interval when the ancestral-modern terrestrial biosphere began to reach maturity.
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.
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.
Use large scale genome sequencing and evolutionary genetics to identify and study genes involved in adaptation and speciation in an iconic evolutionary radiation.
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 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.
Effects of biodiversity on the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to environmental change will be examined using a modelling approach
This project will investigate the relationships between plant growth and the global terrestrial carbon sink, in particular the roles played by processes other than photosynthesis.
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.
Investigation of changes in the fauna of the North Sea against the shifting backdrop of environmental change associated with climate change over 4 million years
This project will interrogate >50 years of environmental change archived in shells of two commercially and ecologically important species of cockles.
This project will combine Computed-Tomographic anatomy of squamate lizards with geometric morphometrics and phylogenetic comparative methods to examine the diversity of mechanisms and anatomies in the evolution of snake-like body forms.
The project will combine fossil, phylogenetic, and palaeoenvironmental data to reconstruct histories of species richness in major reptile clades over the past 23 million years.
This project will determine the relative impacts of environmental change and biotic interactions on diversification of a hyperdiverse vertebrate clade through deep time.
Investigating the genetic population identity, dynamics and foraging ecology of humpback whales feeding at South Georgia, Antarctica
Study how human populations diverge and evolve at small scales by combining simulation modelling with genomic and transcriptomic data from traditional Indonesian societies.
There are no cases where we know both the host and parasite genes involved in coevolution in natural animal populations. As a result, key assumptions of models have gone untested, and the dynamics and immunological basis of coevolution are unknown. Therefore, we propose to identify the genes underlying the coevolution of Drosophila melanogaster and the parasitic wasp.
Chemical communication is important for all animals but remains poorly understood: this is an exciting opportunity to use genetic analysis to understand the genetic and behavioural basis for species divergence in pheromones.
Butterfly wing patterns are iconic in evolutionary biology, and represent a unique opportunity to link genetic changes to natural selection in the wild: this project is an opportunity to understand their evolution from changes in development through to natural selection in the jungle.
How do ecological interactions within and among animal host species cause their associated parasites and commensals to diversify and even speciate?
This project will determine whether ecological communities can evolve and adapt following major habitat destruction, such as deforestation, and how quickly this can happen.
Applying the tools of machine learning to understand how marine microorganisms optimise their transport in complex fluid environments
This project will use terrestrial laser scanning, drone LiDAR and photogrammetry, and Earth Observation data to understand structure, function and future of temperate wet woodlands.
This project will use terrestrial laser scanning, drone LiDAR and photogrammetry, and Earth Observation data to understand how geodiversity controls forest structure and dynamics in Europe from micro to macro scale.
This project will reconstruct the role that environmental change had in shaping genetic and biodiversity in Africa.
This project will investigate Antarctic benthic community ecology and the environmental factors that affect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.
This project will investigate the spatio-temporal dynamics of some of the first animals to ever have existed, those found in the Ediacaran time period 600 million years ago.
Ecological approaches are crucial for understanding early animal evolution because the unique anatomies of these Ediacaran organisms are fraught with difficulties.
Does the evolution of bright red coloration in birds lead to evolutionary changes in colour vision?
To examine the reliability of a novel technique for quantitative trophic position estimation that is fast rising in popularity, but may have some shaky underpinnings of untested assumptions.
The preservation of biodiversity in the face of global change is a key challenge, which this project will address by focusing on the impact of shifting fire regimes in savannas using field surveys and data science.
The project will examine the role of habitat availability and preference in explaining occurrence and abundance of different species, and in structuring seabird communities
Invisible to the naked eye lies a tremendous diversity of organic molecules that interact with microorganisms to shape the world's biogeochemical cycles.
This project will use new sequencing methods, chemical characterisation of root exudates in pots and field settings to uncover the role of soil microorganisms in mediating crop-weed interactions.
The Clarkia biota preserves one of the most complete and well preserved records of soft-bodied lacustrine ecosystem on record.
Phosphate nodules capture extraordinary levels of palaeobiological detail, and are a first order sink in the global phosphorous cycle; this project will dig into the post-Palaeozoic record of these widely distributed, but poorly understood, constituents of sedimentary successions.
Exploiting novel sensor technologies to trace carbon fluxes and understand how forest management shapes biogeochemistry from a molecular- to landscape-scale.