PhD Research Project: NERC CENTA - Future climate - Future forests: Gas and particle measurement in

United Kingdom
Nov 30, 2016
Jan 23, 2017
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

The project will utilize the University of Birmingham’s newly built ‘Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment’ (FACE) facility to study the effects of enhanced CO2 on the woodlands. This large facility (the ecological equivalent to the Large Hadron Collider) will test the resilience of a mature forest to rising CO2 concentrations. The facility is highly instrumented and has many international research participants with interests from deep within the soil to high above the tree canopy.

The main experiment is comprised of six, 30-metre wide, FACE rings, each as tall as the mature trees in the woodland. The facility includes a new purpose built fieldwork compound and field study centre in a converted barn near the site. CO2 enrichment will begin in Spring 2017 and hence the successful student will be in the enviable position of being in the first cohort to perform measurements at this international important experiment.

This project will measure the effect of enhanced CO2 on the gas phase and aerosol output from the FACE plots. In particular we are interested in how the non-CO2 carbon balance is perturbed by enhanced CO2.

At present, there is almost a complete lack of information, within the literature, about the effect of CO2 concentration enrichment upon aerosol production, atmospheric concentration and flux. Yet this information is critically important for answering questions about future atmosphere-biosphere interactions. Hence this project will also investigate how enhanced CO2 effects aerosol within the woodland.

The supervisory team of Pope and MacKenzie offers a wealth of experience in the successful measurement and modelling of atmospheric composition.

Methodology: Within the FACE experiment there are 3 plots which will have enhanced CO2 and 3 plots with the same infrastructure but are not enriched in CO2. Three field campaigns will be conducted throughout the PhD which will investigate how the gases and aerosols emitted from the wood respond to changes in CO2. Comparison of the CO2 enriched and non-enriched plots will allow for a statistically robust understanding of how enhanced CO2 perturbs the atmospheric environment. Preliminary baseline data has been collected in 2015 and 2016 indicating that all planned experiments are viable. The field campaigns will have multiple stakeholder engagement from multiple universities and non-research organizations.

The project will use a range of analytical techniques to investigate the atmospheric chemistry of the forest including a proton transfer reaction – mass spectrometer (PTR-MS) and aerosol fluorescence devices. Results will be interpreted through use of atmospheric and ecological models.

Funding Notes

In addition to completing an online application form, you will also need to complete and submit the CENTA studentship application form available from

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.

Annual stipend, set at £14,296 for 2016/17
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000

CENTA students are required to undertake from 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement.

Norby et al. (2015) ‘Model-data synthesis for the next generation of forest free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments’ New Phytologist.