Bangor University to assist in training future soil scientists

Bangor University is to play a crucial role in training scientists of the future who will improve our understanding of soils, which are key to tackling many of today’s global challenges, including food, water and energy security.

This funding has been awarded to the Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS) consortium, of which Bangor University is a co-leader with Lancaster University.  Other members of the consortium are Cranfield and Nottingham universities, The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Rothamsted Research, the British Geological Survey and the James Hutton Institute.

This £2.3m programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council( NERC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) aims to create a new generation of highly-skilled soil scientists who understand the soil ecosystem from both environmental and biological viewpoints.

The programme will provide funding for a minimum of eight studentships each year for three years, giving the researchers access to expertise, equipment and training that will help them deal with the problems the sustainable agriculture industry faces as it learns how to protect itself against environmental change.

There is currently a need for a new generation of scientists with up-to-date skills who are able to understand the complexity of the soil ecosystem and the role it plays in the wider environment. The STARS Centre for Doctoral Training addresses this with a more holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to giving researchers a wide breadth of skills and knowledge.

This is one of three initiatives to be launched by BBSRC and NERC. The funding of the Global Food Security 'Soil and Rhizosphere Interactions for Sustainable Agri-ecosystems’ (SARISA) programme and the appointment of a Soil Co-ordinator, bring together organisations with a shared interest in developing a new generation of highly-skilled scientists.

Minister for Universities, Science and Cities Greg Clark said:

“Forging these strong partnerships between research councils and the three innovative new initiatives announced today are vital in addressing major challenges facing our society like feeding a growing population. By working together, the research councils can bring a range of perspectives to bear on these issues, ensuring that that excellent UK research is translated into tangible economic and societal benefits."

Professor Davey Jones, who is the lead at Bangor University’s School of Natural Resources, Environment and Geography and the project’s training manager commented saying:

“Soil could be considered the essential life-blood of the planet, it sustains our food production and our forests, contributing to cleaning our atmosphere. The UK government has identified the need for more soil scientists, and we’re delighted that Wales is contributing to that important work.”

Publication date: 14 October 2014