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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead Supervisor: Adam Pellegrini, Plant Sciences

Co-Supervisor: Nik Cunniffe, Plant Sciences

Brief summary: 
Tipping points in temperate forests regulated by fire-disease interactions quantified by fusing remote sensing, field sampling, and ecosystem models.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Climate change is increasing the exposure of ecosystems to fire and disease. However, there are few experiments testing the effects of these two disturbances and there has yet to be a unifying framework to scale field measurements to regional to biome scales. Developing novel methods to scale and forecast the impact of these two disturbances will be broadly applicable to global biomes and improve our ability to forecast climate change.
Project summary : 
This project will focus on the topic of how ecosystems respond to different fire regimes and exposure to disease. The PhD will involve field sampling of a 56-year long fire manipulation experiment in a temperate savanna-forest ecosystem in the midwestern USA that has been experiencing a tree pathogen outbreak. By combining field data with remote sensing measurements and ecosystem models, the project will also develop methods to quantify and predict the effects of disease and fire at landscape- to regional-scales.
What will the student do?: 
The student will measure both plant traits and soil properties and processes in a long-term fire manipulation experiment at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve over the course of two growing seasons (living on the Reserve with dozens of other researchers and engaged in seminars, workshops, and social events). When not in the field, the student will work to integrate field data with airborne hyperspectral measurements to generate predictive models of hyperspectral measurements and ecosystem processes to scale disease effects to the entire ecosystem. Finally, these data will be used to develop an ecosystem model of disease and fire to predict how changing disturbance regimes influence the stability of biomes.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Pellegrini, Adam FA, et al. "Disease and fire interact to influence transitions between savanna–forest ecosystems over a multi‐decadal experiment." Ecology letters 24.5 (2021): 1007-1017.
Schweiger, Anna K., et al. "Plant spectral diversity integrates functional and phylogenetic components of biodiversity and predicts ecosystem function." Nature Ecology & Evolution 2.6 (2018): 976-982.
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Plant Sciences page.
Dr Adam Pellegrini
Dr Nik Cunniffe
Department of Plant Sciences Graduate Administrator