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Funded Masters by Research Opportunity

Salary : c. £13,726 maintenance grant

FULLY FUNDED MSc BY RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY

Project title: The Flow Country peatlands: Studying the past to shape the future

Environmental Research Institute (ERI) / University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) (Thurso) & University of Stirling

Project Supervisors: Dr. Roxane Andersen (ERI/UHI), Dr. Richard Payne (U. Stirling) Collaborators: Dr. E. Tisdall (U. Stirling), Dr. A. Tyler (U. Stirling), Dr. D. Mauquoy (U. Aberdeen), Dr. A. Newton (U. Edinburgh)

Background

Peatlands are globally-important ecosystems which sequester and store large quantities of carbon. The UK’s largest peatland area is the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland which alone contains carbon equivalent to the total emissions of Edinburgh for 100 years. However, considerable areas of peatland in the Flow Country have been severely damaged by drainage and afforestation with non-native conifers in the 1970s and 1980s, fragmenting the landscape and altering the natural carbon sink function of the peatlands. Climate change and pollution are more subtle threats which, although not unique to the Flow Country, could have profound consequences for peatland function. However, information on the long-term functioning and development of the peatlands is currently lacking, and particularly critical is the provision of data on long-term carbon accumulation. Flux tower measurements of Flow Country peatland carbon balance span less than five years, but the peatlands have been accumulating carbon for up to 10,000 years. How do the contemporary flux measurements fit into this longer-term context? Holocene carbon accumulation data is crucial to establishing the role of peatlands in the carbon cycle, how this has varied over time and the longer-term context to contemporary flux measurements. Such a long-term perspective can be provided by palaeoecological research and can give a quite different picture of peatland dynamics and response to environmental change from short-term studies.

Objectives

The objective is to establish the long-term rate of carbon accumulation in Flow Country peatlands and the effect of afforestation. This project will combine data on carbon accumulation with chronology-building using radiocarbon dating and tephrochronology to understand how the Flow Country peatlands have developed over time and responded to a human disturbance and the implications of this knowledge for ecosystem management. This project will improve our knowledge of natural baselines such as peatland condition prior to afforestation and feed into policy development.

Conditions of application and funding: Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree in a relevant discipline (Environmental Science; Ecology; Physical Geography etc.). Applicants with a previous taught MSc are also welcome. The student will be registered with UHI, but the project will involve splitting time between the Environmental Research Institute (part of UHI) in Thurso, northern Scotland, and the University of Stirling, central Scotland. Project work will include field work in northern Scotland, laboratory and microscopic analysis. A meticulous and thorough approach to laboratory work is required in the successful candidate. The position will be particularly suitable for those considering studying for a PhD in the future. Applications from students with previous experience in geochronology, palaeoecology and biogeochemistry are particularly welcome although full training in all techniques will be provided.

The position includes all tuition fees and a maintenance grant of c. £13,726 for one year.

Informal enquires should be directed to Dr Richard Payne (r.j.payne@stir.ac.uk) or Dr Roxane Andersen (Roxane.Andersen@uhi.ac.uk).

 

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Marine Biologist / Ecologist

Salary : £30,423 – £36,297 to £37,382 – £45,941 

Fellow £30,423 – £36,297

Senior Research Fellow £37,382 – £45,941

3 Years with potential to extend

The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) is a unique research centre situated in the town of Thurso in the northern Highlands of Scotland. It is part of the North Highland College of the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI); Scotland’s newest and most distinctive University.

The ERI has particular interests in the marine renewables sector, not least because of the substantial marine resource around our coastline and the long term economic development opportunities it offers. The region is home to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the world’s first and only grid-connected, UKAS accredited testing facility for wave and tidal energy technologies. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) is the site of the world’s first commercial scale leasing round for marine energy and has been awarded Marine Energy Park status has been awarded by UK Government.

The ERI has a rapidly evolving research profile and provides a high quality, vibrant research environment. In 2012 the ERI opened its Centre for Energy and Environment, a state-of-the art research facility on the campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands North Highland College. It has a goal of being internationally recognised for innovative and distinctive environmental science and it has unrivalled access to some outstanding natural environments. These include the dynamic waters of Pentland Firth.

As part of our commitment to developing our international research profile, we are seeking to appoint a dynamic biologist or ecologist to contribute to our interdisciplinary research effort on the environmental and ecological impacts of wave, tidal and offshore wind energy extraction. The post holder would have the opportunity to contribute to recently funded EU programmes and to develop their own research interests.

Candidates may have an interest in a range of potential environmental stressors including Physical presence or dynamic effects of devices; effects of energy alteration; chemical effects; acoustic or electromagnetic effects on receptors including: the physical environment; pelagic or benthic habitats and species; fish and fisheries (including migratory species); marine birds or ecosystem dynamics and food chain. Applications from candidates with interests in cumulative impacts or EIAs are also welcomed.

You will be entitled to join the Local Government Pension Scheme.