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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead Supervisor: Emily Lines, Geography

Co-Supervisor: Stuart Grieve, Queen Mary University of London

Brief summary: 
This project will seek to understand how geodiversity controls forest structure and dynamics in Europe from micro to macro scale, using terrestrial laser scanning, drone LiDAR and photogrammetry, and Earth Observation data.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Geodiversity - the diversity of abiotic structures and processes - is known to drive variation in ecological communities, but relationships between geo- and bio-diversity and dynamics are poorly understood, particularly across spatial and temporal scales. Such relationships are typically ignored by forest modellers, but there is mounting evidence that topography and microsite conditions play a critical role in large-scale, long-term forest processes including regeneration, diversity, and structure and successional dynamics. The evidence for linkages has often been either at the micro scale, with specific, localised relationships identified using intensive ground-based measurements, or on very large scales, for example using low-resolution Earth Observation data. More evidence on the size and strength of relationships across scales are needed in order to understand the interacting dynamics of abiotic and biotic features of forest ecosystems.
Project summary : 
This project will determine how geodiversity at micro and macro scale influences forest structure and dynamics in boreal, temperate and Mediterranean forests across Europe. The student will use and build on an extensive cutting-edge remote sensing dataset (integrating terrestrial laser scanning, UAV Lidar and photogrammetry) that will be collected in 2021/22 as part of Dr Lines’ UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, and the student will have the opportunity to work alongside researchers from that project. The student will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of ecologists and geomorphologists with expertise in the use of remote sensing data to characterise the three-dimensional structure of ecosystems from local to global scales.
What will the student do?: 
The student will undertake fieldwork to collect ground, Terrestrial Laser Scanning, and drone data at selected forested sites in the UK and/or Europe with high topographic variation. They will also have access to data collected from forests across Europe with contrasting biodiversity. They will process data using existing software and will have the opportunity to undertake training in complex quantitative analysis and to develop bespoke algorithms, depending on their specific interests and background. They will use high-performance computing resources to process high-resolution remote sensing data to identify and classify geomorphic diversity, and to quantify forest structure. Topographic controls on specific forest structural properties, and on forest mortality and regeneration patterns, will be quantified.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Chakraborty and Gray (2020). A call for mainstreaming geodiversity in nature conservation research and praxis. Journal for Nature Conservation 56.
Grieve et al. (2018). Controls on Zero‐Order Basin Morphology. JGR Earth Surface 123(12).
Zarnetske et al. (2019). Towards connecting biodiversity and geodiversity across scales with satellite remote sensing. Global Ecology and Biogeography 28(5).
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Geography page.
Dr Emily Lines
Department of Geography Graduate Administrator