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PhD Studentship: Soil Biodiversity: Value and Impact on Ecosystem Services

Harper Adams University

Tuition + Stipend

Full time



Location: Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB

Salary: As per advert

Post Type: Full Time

Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months - Up to 36 months

Closing Date: 23.59 hours GMT on Wednesday 31 January 2024

Reference: RD-PHD-02-HM-MH-23

Primary supervisor: Dr Hairong Mu,

Co supervisors: Prof Karl Behrendt, Dr Simon Jeffery, Dr Ed Harris

Project Title: Soil Biodiversity: Value and Impact on Ecosystem Services

Project Specification: Soil Biodiversity: Value and Impact on Ecosystem Services

This project presents a great opportunity for someone with a passion for research in biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Candidates should have at least a 2:1 BSc (Hons) in ecology, environmental science, agriculture, or economics, or applicants must hold a minimum of a 2.2 with Master's degree, or potential for research based on alternative qualifications/experience judged acceptable by the university.  The successful candidate will work within an exciting international project with EU funding and join an enthusiastic, interdisciplinary research team located in a beautiful rural setting.

Project description:

This project focuses on investigating the critical role of soil biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem services. It aims to explore how diverse soil organisms contribute to ecological health and sustainability, and how they should be valued economically. The research will examine the interactions between soil biota and their impact on nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and plant growth, which are essential for sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. As part of a larger European international initiative with EU Horizon Europe funding, the project will integrate findings into broader discussions on environmental and agricultural policies. This project will blend field research, laboratory analysis, and theoretical study, contributing valuable insights into the unseen world beneath our feet and its significance for the future of our planet.

Specific requirements of the project:

  • Subject knowledge (ecology, environmental science, agriculture, or economics, soil ecology knowledge being an advantage)

  • Experience of undertaking quantitative or qualitative research

  • Experience of using data analysis and software (e.g. R, SPSS, NVivo, etc.)

  • A minimum 2:1 relevant undergraduate degree/2.2 plus Master's or potential for research based on alternative qualifications/experience judged acceptable by the university

  • Ability to produce high-quality presentations and written reports

  • Minimum competency in English (see: )

Expected Start date and location

April 2024 (Exact date TBC), based at Harper Adams University, Edgmond, Shropshire, UK.

Funding details:

The studentship covers the current Home Student (UK, Ireland, Isle of Man & Channel Isles) tuition fees plus a yearly stipend (currently £18,622 per year) with an expected small increase each academic year. International applicants would need to be able to fund the difference between Home and Overseas fees (currently £10,890 for the 2023/24 academic year), with the first year’s fee being paid in full before Visa documentation can be issued.

About Harper Adams University

Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Harper Adams University is internationally recognised for the quality of its research, as evidenced by the Research Excellence Framework 2022. In order to maintain and uphold the high standards of our research, we continue to undertake initiatives to ensure that integrity, ethics and excellence are at the core of our research activities and fully embedded in our research culture.

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