Research opportunities in the School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography

Specialisations

The School specialises in the areas listed below. Visit the School research pages and School academic staff pages for further details.

Candidates seeking entry onto PhD and other research degrees are encouraged to present research proposals related to these areas of specialism.

Alternatively, candidates may undertake a research degree in a topic specified by the School. Visit the ‘Research Projects’ section for details of these topics.

Agricultural Systems, with specialisations in:

  • Sustainable Development
  • Agricultural Ecology
  • Trade-offs between output of land and the needs of local people
  • Relationship between systems of food production and ecology of plants and animals
  • Farm, forest and environmental valuation
  • Accounting and Appraisal
  • Physiology and agronomy of temperate and tropical cereals, root crops and oilseeds
  • Peri-urban farming systems

Agroforestry, with specialisations in:

  • Role of trees in the agricultural landscape
  • Formal representation of local ecological knowledge
  • Tree-crop-soil interactions
  • Autecology and domestication of indigenous tree species

Biodiversity Conservation, with specialisations in:

  • Impact and management of invasive species
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation science
  • Threatened species conservation

Environmental and Soil Science, with specialisations in:

  • Sustainable rural, peri-urban and urban environments
  • Climate change
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Plant Ecophysiology
  • Waste Management and Restoration

Forest Ecology and Management, with specialisations in:

  • Ecophysiology of the impact and tolerance of heavy metals
  • Plant Nutrition
  • Mycorrhizas in forest ecosystems
  • Impact of CO2
  • Forest Genetics and tree breeding
  • Forest inventory
  • Conservation and restoration of forest eco-systems

Renewable Materials with specialisations in:

  • Science of wood and plant fibres
  • Natural fibre reinforced composites
  • Use of plant-derived materials as chemical feedstocks
  • Wood ultrastructure and decay mechanisms
  • Chemical Modification
  • Preservation and flow
  • Composite Properties
  • Chemical Products from plants

Rivers and Catchments

People, Space and Place

Geospatial Analysis

Research Project Opportunities

Please note the research project opportunities detailed here are NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Candidates wishing to research any of the projects listed in this section should apply as follows:

  • International candidates requiring a pre-sessional English course will be enrolled on a Combined English / Study Skills and Research Course at the University before starting the PhD degree. The research proposal will be developed and written when enrolled on this course.
  • UK nationals or European and International candidates who have already reached the level of English required for entry should present a relevant research proposal when applying for admission.

Alternatively candidates may present a research proposal related to the research expertise & specialisms within the School. Please refer to the 'Apply' section for further details.

Antibiotic resistance in the environment

Supervisor: Dr Prysor Williams

T: +44 (0) 1248 382637/ E: prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk

Antibiotic resistance is widely regarded as one of the most pressing challenges facing modern society, from both a public health and economic aspect. In the last ten years, antibiotic resistance in Enterobacteriaceae has risen very rapidly, particularly the prevalence of extended-spectrum-beta-lactamase genes. Societal changes such as population growth, urbanisation, and increased international travel are expected to increase the likelihood of the spread of such genotypes. Affected individuals excrete resistant bacterial strains and it is purported that these strains may then potentially enter the wider environment through sewage outflows. A number of PhD projects are available in this subject area. These would capitalise on the interdisciplinary nature of the research at Bangor University. Projects will draw upon epidemiology, environmental and medical microbiology (including molecular), healthcare sciences, environmental science, policy, and social science. The student would receive first-class training in a range of analytical techniques to study a topic of real global concern.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Biophysical benefits of shelter on livestock productivity

Supervisor: Dr Mark Rayment

T: +44 (0) 1248 382337/ E: m.rayment@bangor.ac.uk

Sustainable intensification of food production requires “smart” farming systems that are more resilient than current practices. It is a central tenant of ecosystem theory that structural complexity confers resilience. In the case of livestock production, incorporating appropriately designed green infrastructure, such as tree crowns or shelterbelts, can modify, improve and create a diversity of microclimates (nanoclimates) with the potential to improve both productivity and animal welfare.

In simple terms, this means providing areas where livestock can move to avoid extreme conditions such as cold winds, excessive sun, water-logged soils, etc. The exact nature of the shelter(s) required, and the mechanism by which green infrastructure provides these, depends on local climate and weather variability.

This project aims to identify and characterize the extreme conditions faced in livestock production systems and to identify the form of green infrastructure required to mitigate these extremes.

Key research questions are: (i) what are the extreme conditions faced by livestock in any given location? (ii) what are productivity costs of these extremes? (iii) what physical/biological properties are required of trees planted for shelter? (iv) what are the costs of introducing the required green infrastructure?

The ideal candidate will have a background in science and strong quantitative skills. Ambition, enthusiasm and competence are more important than previous experience because technical training will be provided during the course of the PhD.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Biosecurity of different management techniques for bio-wastes

Supervisor: Dr Prysor Williams

T: +44 (0) 1248 382637/ E: prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk

Increasing volumes of bio-wastes are being generated due to the global growth in human population. Bio-wastes can contain biological (e.g. pathogenic micro-organisms) and chemical (e.g. antibiotics, heavy metals) hazards; and the safe disposal of large volumes of bio-wastes presents a considerable problem, especially from increasingly urbanised populations. However, bio-wastes can also be considered as resources as they contain valuable nutrients and a source of organic matter. This project will investigate the optimisation of management strategies for bio-wastes and may explore technologies such as composting, anaerobic digestion and lime stabilisation

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Carbon Cycling

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Smith

T: +44 (0) 1248 382297/ E: a.r.smith@bangor.ac.uk

Forest occupy one third of the land surface of the Earth, and account for almost half of the carbon (C) stored in the terrestrial biosphere. Increasing the diversity of plantation forest stands may alter forests carbon balance though competitive or facilitative species interaction. Forests comprised of tree species selected for contrasting functional traits may provide improve resource use efficiency increasing ecosystem stability and the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration. Using the BangorDIVERSE experiment, this project aims to quantify the C pools and fluxes and produce a carbon balance for different species mixtures and inform government policy.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Combining client-orientated and molecular breeding methods for biotic/abiotic stress resistance in crops

Supervisor: Dr Katherine Steele

T: +44 (0) 1248 383642/ E: k.a.steele@bangor.ac.uk

The successful uptake of new crop varieties depends on the suitability of the end product to the target market – the farmers and end users. Projects are available that will involve the following crops: rice, barley, tomato and potato. Students will receive hands-on training in conventional breeding techniques, client-oriented approaches, quantitative trait locus analysis and marker-assisted selection. Data sets will inform practical breeding programmes to improve traits such as yield under stress, resistance to pathogens, agronomic traits and nutritional components. Breeding lines will be tested in field trials in target production environments. Split course projects with one year for fieldwork in another country are available.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Completing the carbon balance of mangrove ecosystems

Supervisor: Dr Mark Rayment

T: +44 (0) 1248 382337/ E: m.rayment@bangor.ac.uk

Mangrove ecosystems provide a comprehensive array of ecosystem services, ranging from coastal protection and fisheries nursery habit, through pollution amelioration, to fuel wood and building timber provision. Overexploitation and land conversion, however, means that globally, mangrove cover has reduced by over one third in the previous 30 years.

Intact mangrove ecosystems are amongst the most productive in the world, storing carbon at rates as high as or higher than terrestrial tropical rainforests. Recently however, direct measurements of productivity have revealed a significant disparity between the uptake of carbon by mangroves from the atmosphere, and the accumulation of carbon within the mangrove ecosystem itself. This residual term is most likely accounted for by the export through tidal wash of particulate and dissolved organic carbon. Identifying the relative magnitudes, and the ultimate fate, of these carbon fractions, plus determining the net transport of dissolved inorganic carbon, is a priority area for research, particularly given the potential for using 'Blue' carbon as a source of carbon-credit based mangrove conservation.

Drawing upon and adding to existing datasets of net ecosystem carbon uptake and soil and above-ground carbon inventories, this project will seek to close the carbon balance for a number of mangrove ecosystems by quantifying the magnitudes of exported carbon fractions, and identifying the factors controlling these.

The ideal candidate will have a background in geosciences and strong quantitative skills. Ambition, enthusiasm and competence are more important than previous experience as technical training will be provided during the course of the PhD.

Please note that this project will require fieldwork in the tropics and will require an additional £2400 pa on top of the standard SENRGy fee.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Control of carbon and nitrogen cycling in soil

Supervisor: Prof. Davey Jones

T: +44 (0) 1248 382579/ E: d.jones@bangor.ac.uk

Supervision of PhDs looking at carbon and soil organic matter dynamics in relation to sustainable land use (agriculture or forestry) and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, topics covering aspects of nitrogen use efficiency in agriculture are also of interest as well as the microbiological control of nitrogen cycling processes. Topics related to soil classification and soil quality will also be considered as well as those linked to plant-microbial-soil interactions and rhizosphere ecology.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Developing indicators of tropical forest sustainable management

Supervisor: Prof. John Healey

T: +44 (0) 1248 383703/ E: j.healey@bangor.ac.uk

Monitoring of tropical forests for all of the ecosystem services and biodiversity that policy requires them to deliver is too costly to be feasible. We need to develop a set of indicators that can be widely used and are reliable, and a methodology to integrate their results into an overall assessment of the sustainability of forest management. These are major challenges. Significant recent advances in forest ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, together with Life Cycle Assessment methodology, offer an exciting new approach, which a PhD project could significantly advance. Indicators will be developed and tested for climate change (greenhouse gas emissions); soil degradation; water quality and resource depletion, with a focus on soil organic matter and nutrient fluxes, soil-tree interactions and soil function. A new tropical forest Life Cycle Assessment model will be developed covering the whole product value chain (with respect to production of timber and other ecosystem service co-products). This will be used to compare the sustainability of alternative forest policy and management options and produce practical indicators for managers.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Evaluating resource efficiency and environmental impacts of food and energy production systems

Supervisor: Dr David Styles

Tel: +44 (0)1248 38 2502 / Email: d.styles@bangor.ac.uk

The efficiency of resource use and intensity of environmental impact can be quantitatively benchmarked across different production systems using life cycle assessment (LCA). In attributional LCA, resource use and environmental burdens can be expressed per e.g. kWh of electricity generated for energy systems, and per e.g. kg of food product, or kg of protein or kcal energy, for food systems. Recent work here at Bangor University has focussed on how LCA system boundaries can be expanded to account for indirect effects that arise when changes are made to food and bioenergy systems, especially in terms of indirect land use change associated with increased demand for animal feed or the displacement of food crop production, and the diversion of food waste from e.g. composting to anaerobic digestion facilities. Projects applying attributional LCA to novel production systems, or applying expanded-boundary LCA to consider wider effects of interventions to energy and food production systems, are welcome. These could look at, for example, regional or national scenarios of change in food systems (farm intensification), diet substitution of animal proteins with plant proteins, or bioenergy deployment.   

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Forest ecosystem service provisioning in future drying climates

Supervisor: Prof. Morag McDonald

T: +44 (0) 1248 388076/ E: m.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

Tropical forests occur over a wide range of rainfall regimes that vary both in total precipitation and in seasonality. Both length and intensity of dry seasons can have important ecological consequences for tropical forests. As such, the vegetation patterns along environmental gradients have long been studied in ecology, but studies that link these patterns with ecosystem services are a new area for research. Information on the latter is of importance as it will contribute significantly to the understanding of changes in functioning along a rainfall gradient and more importantly it can be used as an indicator of the effects of climate change on tropical forest ecosystems. Both length and intensity of dry seasons are predicted to increase into the future which can have important consequences for the ecosystem services provided by forests. The project will look at vegetation patterns along precipitation gradients to see how a range of services are affected e.g. carbon storage, biodiversity and water recycling, to develop predictions consistent with the predicted range expansion of tropical dry forests into moist forest zones. A combination of field measurement, remote sensing, and modelling will examine options for ecosystem service restoration.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Forest restoration where multiple factors limit the rate of tree establishement

Supervisor: Prof. John Healey

T: +44 (0) 1248 383703/ E: j.healey@bangor.ac.uk

Many degraded environments in tropical regions have multiple factors limiting the restoration of forest ecosystems, including soil condition, drought, shortage of tree propagules, competition from herbs and shrubs, fire and herbivory. Forest ecosystems do have resilience, a capacity to recover through succession. The project will test experimental interventions in a contrasting set of secondary or primary successions designed to accelerate the natural recovery process. It will focus on the potential of pioneer woody species to facilitate the establishment of forest trees by counteracting the limiting factors listed above, and then how the successional transition to dominance by forest trees can be accelerated. The project will target sites degraded by past mining, agriculture and/or forest harvesting operations. Its key research questions are: 1) How do multiple factors interact in limiting recovery of degraded forest ecosystems? 2) How can pioneer trees facilitate the recovery process? 3) How can the recovery process best be accelerated towards the target outcomes? The project will provide evidence of how natural ecological resilience through succession can be harnessed to restore ecosystems of high value for biodiversity, and other provisioning and environmental services, as a cost-effective alternative to standard plantation forestry techniques.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Impacts of land management on losses of diffuse pollutants

Supervisor: Prof. Dave Chadwick

T: +44 (0) 1248 383569/ E: d.chadwick@bangor.ac.uk

Land management practices to facilitate the production of food, fibre and fuel can result in significant losses of nutrients, organic matter, sediment and pathogenic organisms to the environment. Quantifying sources and forms of these losses and understanding the processes that lead to emissions of e.g. greenhouse gases, or diffuse water pollutants such as nitrate and phosphorus are essential in developing cost-effective mitigation strategies. PhD topics addressing spatial and temporal variability in soil processes that result in diffuse pollution (to air and water) are of interest, as are studies on the development of mitigation strategies.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

In-situ conservation of wild forest food for health and livelihoods

Supervisor: Prof. Morag McDonald

T: +44 (0) 1248 388076/ E: m.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

Wild forest foods are rich sources of macro- (carbohydrates, lipids and proteins) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as dietary fibres and other important phytochemicals, but many species are in decline in anthropogenic landscapes which fragment forest habitats. This parallels emerging problems of obesity and associated chronic diseases as increasingly urbanized populations adopt diets with higher saturated fat and lower fruit and vegetable intakes than those consumed traditionally – 'the nutrition transition'. Little is known on the contribution of wild forest foods to dietary intake and requirements of both rural and urban dwellers as well as their availability, exploitation and management in production or ecological niches. Knowledge on these aspects in is essential for understanding diet-health relationships and conservation/domestication of key indigenous fruit tree species for improved nutrition and biodiversity purposes. Key research questions could include: How do local people use and manage selected indigenous fruit trees? What is the role of indigenous fruits in diets and health? What are the barriers to fruit consumption in rural and urban areas? What is the nutritional composition and provenance variation of selected forest fruits? Which factors cause most variation in nutritional quality of the study fruits? How can we identify 'best' niches in the agricultural landscape for species propagation?

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Is pathogen activity linked to infectivity?

Supervisor: Dr Prysor Williams

T: +44 (0) 1248 382637/ E: prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk

It is known that the metabolic activity of pathogens such as E. coli O157 varies, depending on environmental conditions, the degree of stress, etc. Under unfavourable conditions, pathogens die, however it has been seen that some strains possess the ability to lower their metabolic activity as a mechanism to survive; subsequently increasing their metabolic activity when more favourable conditions occur. It is unclear, however, how changes in metabolic activity affect a pathogen's ability to infect. Using E. coli O157, this project will investigate the relationship between these factors and will increase our knowledge of pathogen ecology.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Modelling farm management, exact topic depending on student's interest (e.g. production, climate change or biodiversity

Supervisor: Dr James Gibbons

T: +44 (0) 1248 382461/ E: j.gibbons@bangor.ac.uk

Management decisions are taken at the farm level so modelling the impact of environmental or policy change must take account of farm level decisions. The proposed project will develop existing state of the art farm management models in the area of the student choice. The approach allows modelling single farms or larger areas as aggregates of individual farms that interact. This approach allows the investigation of a wide range of policy (e.g. effective policy for enhancing on farm biodiversity) or environmental impact (e.g. the effect of climatic change on farm production and enterprise mix) questions.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Nutrient Cycling

Supervisor: Dr Paula Roberts

T: +44 (0) 1248 382976/ E: p.roberts@bangor.ac.uk

With soil sulphur (S) levels in the UK declining due to legislation restricting S atmospheric emissions and, simultaneously, an increase in demand for markets for recycled or treated organic waste. There is a need to develop an understanding of what contribution these wastes can make in relation to soil S and subsequently to crop production. The aims of this project are to evaluate the potential contribution organic wastes might make to soil fertility, in regard to S, to determine which type of organic waste can contribute and to what extent we can substitute inorganic S additions with these wastes without compromising yield.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Optimising the management of bio-wastes

Supervisor: Dr Prysor Williams

T: +44 (0) 1248 382637/ E: prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk

Increasing volumes of bio-wastes are being generated due to the global growth in human population. Bio-wastes can contain biological (e.g. pathogenic micro-organisms) and chemical (e.g. antibiotics, heavy metals) hazards; and the safe disposal of large volumes of bio-wastes presents a considerable problem, especially from increasingly urbanised populations. However, bio-wastes can also be considered as resources as they contain valuable nutrients and a source of organic matter. This project will investigate the optimisation of management strategies for bio-wastes and may explore technologies such as composting, anaerobic digestion and lime stabilisation. It will equip students with skills in a range of analytical techniques and may well include a field-scale trial on the school's research farm (Henfaes Research Station).

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Pb isotopes as geochemical tracers: evaluating the influence within-sample heterogeneity on their robustness as geochemical tracers

Supervisor: Dr Graham Bird

T: +44 (0) 1248 383222/ E: g.bird@bangor.ac.uk

The release of potentially harmful trace metals, such as Pb into the environment has been a widely studied impact of industrial anthropogenic activity that will continue to have an impact on environmental and human health for the foreseeable future. It has become increasingly apparent that identifying the origin, or provenance, of contaminants is required to facilitate effective environmental management. Metal isotope signatures, notably of radiogenic Pb, have been acknowledged as having the ability to identify the source of such metals when present within a variety of media. However, commonly-adopted approaches to determining Pb isotopes in environmental (soil, sediment) samples, completely ignores potentially within-sample isotopic heterogeneity driven by sedimentologically-differentiated Pb content. This project will evaluate this and the implications for the use Pb isotopes as geochemical tracers and in source-apportionment mixing models.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Phosphorus cycling in a mixed tree species stand

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Smith

T: +44 (0) 1248 382297/ E: a.r.smith@bangor.ac.uk

Phosphorus (P) is the second most limiting macronutrient for plant growth, its availability governed by a series of complex biogeochemical processes. In forests, a large part of the plant available P pool is organic P resulting from the input of both above- and below-ground detritus inputs. The replenishment of the plant available P pool in forest soils is usually determined by the cycling rate of organic P, which releases inorganic P for microbial or plant uptake. Smaller contributions to this pool occur through slow mineral weathering and mineralisation of increasingly recalcitrant organic residues. Several recent diversity experiments have demonstrated that ecological process rates can decrease with increasing diversity. The aim of this project is to examine the impact of tree species mixtures on P cycling using the BangorDIVERSE experiment

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Prey preferences of large predators

Supervisor: Dr Matt Hayward

T: +44 (0) 1248 383642/ E: m.hayward@bangor.ac.uk

We have shown that Africa's large predators each preferentially prey on a select group of species with limited overlap (see Biol. Conserv 139: 219-229). Using similar methods, this work needs extending to other large predators including jaguars, pumas, dholes, dingoes, jackals, caracals, coyotes, foxes and cats. Once the prey preferences of these species have been analysed, we can look at the effect of group hunting on predator diets; prey preferences in native vs introduced ranges; use ecological niche modelling to determine if preferred prey are better predictors of distribution than abiotic characteristics; test optimal foraging theory; predict the impact of climate change on predator diet and carrying capacity; and make predictions to test whether changes in predator communities occur following observed long-term changes in prey communities.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Reducing the cost and adding value to animal by-products

Supervisor: Dr Prysor Williams

T: +44 (0) 1248 382637/ E: prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk

Animal by-products (ABPs) represent a huge waste stream. However, the options available for the processing (storage, disposal or secondary use) of ABPs vary significantly throughout the world, depending upon regulations. This project will explore the best options for reducing the costs of ABP disposal, or of ways to add value to ABPs and the wider meat industry. Depending upon the exact nature of the project, the work could involve microbiology, carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment, and policy. The work would benefit from the excellent links the supervisory team has with industry and policy-makers on a UK and European level.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Root & Mycorrhizal Ecology

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Smith

T: +44 (0) 1248 382297/ E: a.r.smith@bangor.ac.uk

Fine root production of forest ecosystems comprises around one third of global annual net primary productivity (NPP) in terrestrial ecosystems, highlighting the essential but unseen role of the below-ground component of trees in terrestrial ecology. Despite the importance of roots in nutrient uptake, carbon cycling, and tree stability little is known about the life-span, morphology and physiology of roots both in monoculture and mixed species stands. This project would use the BangorDIVERSE experiment to provide an opportunity to examine how inter- and intra-species interactions may alter the morphology, physiology, distribution of roots and their symbionts at different tree diversity levels.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Social and Economic issues in Conservation, Environment and Natural Resource Management

Supervisor: Dr Neal Hockley

T: +44 (0) 1248 382769/ En.hockley@bangor.ac.uk

I welcome enquiries from high calibre candidates able and willing to develop their own proposals for PhD research in this broad area. Please familiarise yourself with my research interests and the notes for prospective PhD students (both on my webpage above) before contacting me. Prospective students will need either funding or a proposal for obtaining funding (e.g. from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission).

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Soil Pollution

Supervisor: Dr Paula Roberts

T: +44 (0) 1248 382976/ E: p.roberts@bangor.ac.uk

Technological advances and application in the field of nano- particulate means that we are using several of these metals for an increasing range of common applications. The gap between technological understanding and evaluating environmental impact on disposal of nanoparticle material is very wide. On common element is nano-particulate silver, it is used increasingly as an antibacterial compound in everything from food packaging to sportswear. The aims of this project are to evaluate the effect of nano-Ag on soil microbial function, with particular focus on its potential antimicrobial effect of nano Ag on the soil N cycling.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Step-change innovation for tracking landscape scale bee movements for pollination ecosystem services

Supervisor: Dr Paul Cross

T: +44 (0) 1248 382991/ E: paul.cross@bangor.ac.uk

This study will address the increasing need to develop a radio-telemetric tracking device that can be attached to the world's most economically beneficial insect: the honey bee. Effective radio-tracking of small insects in the field is constrained by transmitter size, short battery life (7-21 days), limited tracking range on flat ground (100-400 m: honey bees forage up to 3km), a transmitter weight (minimum 0.2g) which is heavier than a honey bee (90 mg), and finally the attachment of radio transmitters may affect the bee behaviour and incur significant energetic costs. Given the multiple threats posed to bees across the globe such as habitat loss, global introduction of invasive species such as the varroa mite and the potential long-term effects of environmental exposure to substance such as neonicotinoids, the need to develop effective radio-telemetric alternatives is of critical importance.

This study will explore the potential to develop a tracking system the covers the honey bees forage range (3km) by combining existing technologies with novel approaches such as the use of nanoparticles. The successful development of such a device will revolutionise how we monitor and understand the environment.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The impact of climate change and predicted changes in river regime on the dynamics of metal fluxes within riverine environments

Supervisor: Dr Graham Bird

T: +44 (0) 1248 383222/ E: g.bird@bangor.ac.uk

The fluvial environment is the principal recipient and store of inputs of potentially harmful elements (PHEs), such As, Cd and Pb, within the secondary environment. In particular, riverine sediments play a major role in the dispersal and storage of PHEs, which have been identified as having a deleterious impact upon aquatic and riparian ecosystems. There is a growing awareness of the need to consider fluxes of PHEs, as opposed simply to concentrations. However, discharge regimes in riverine environments (particularly in Europe) are changing, and in particular, increases in flood frequency and magnitude are predicted to accompany future climate change. However, to date there has been little work carried out on how these predictions of a change in the discharge regime of rivers will impact upon the fluxes of PHEs within aquatic ecosystems. This project aims to address this knowledge gap and employ sampling, analytical and modelling approaches to quantify how the riverine fluxes of solute and sediment-associated PHEs may respond to future changes in discharge regime. The project will focus on release and dispersal from point sources (e.g. abandoned metal mines) as well as diffuse floodplain stores, whose physical stability under changing discharge regimes is likely to be affected.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Threatened species conservation

Supervisor: Dr Matt Hayward

T: +44 (0) 1248 383642/ E: m.hayward@bangor.ac.uk

I have worked on a range of threatened species and am happy to tailor research projects to a species of your interest. For example, I have worked on the conservation ecology of the quokka, the effect of bushmeat hunting on forest fauna, the reintroduction of large predators/marsupials/beavers, competition between large predators, the impact of invasive species, the value of fencing for conservation and assisted migration. If you are interested in something along these lines, please get in touch.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Tree Species Community Ecology

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Smith

T: +44 (0) 1248 382297/ E: a.r.smith@bangor.ac.uk

Ecological theory suggests that increasing forest diversity will increase the resilience of forests to environmental change. However, specific tree species may have different ecophysiological requirements for optimum growth that has negative or positive impacts on productivity. Using the BangorDIVERSE experiment, an opportunity exists to examine how intra and inter-specific competition can impact tree mortality, allometry, productivity, and biomass allocation in monoculture and mixed species stands.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Tropical forest resilience and silviculture

Supervisor: Prof. John Healey

T: +44 (0) 1248 383703/ E: j.healey@bangor.ac.uk

Students who have access to permanent sample plots or other monitoring data from tropical forests that have been subject to logging, or other forms of human or natural disturbance, have a great opportunity to carry out PhD research of international importance. This can address international priority questions concerning: the sustainability of tropical forest timber production; the capacity of tropical forests to recover from impacts of different forms of logging (their resilience); and how this recovery is assisted by different silvicultural interventions. This is highly relevant to major international policy issues including reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+); certification of forest management and policy to maintain tropical forests through the income of harvested timber combined with the protection of biodiversity and delivery of ecosystem services.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Using geometric morphometrics to discriminate three honeybee subspecies in the UK: An assessment of the beneficial and detrimental traits of hybridization

Supervisor: Dr Paul Cross

T: +44 (0) 1248 382991/ E: paul.cross@bangor.ac.uk

The aim of this study will be to determine the purity of Apis melifera melifera in a region of Europe. This will involve sampling bees from hives and measuring wing characteristics. These will allow subspecies to be discriminated. This in turn will allow suitable mating areas containing drones that demonstrate characteristics consistent with A. m. melifera, to be identified through the use of GIS with a view to improving the adaptability of the bee to its environment and disease. Additional supplementary data will be collected on the bees' behaviour, disease history, yields and beekeeper management etc.

The need for such a study stems from the recent declines in colony survival across Europe. A possible cause of these declines is that large scale migratory beekeeping and the trade in bee queens, coupled with the promiscuous mating system of honeybees, have exposed native honeybees to increasing introgressive hybridization with managed non-native subspecies, which may lead to the loss of valuable combinations of traits shaped by natural selection. Currently beekeepers discriminate European subspecies by measuring only a few morphological characters. Discrimination could be significantly improved by increasing the number of wing measurements because, unlike other body parts, wings can be measured automatically.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Using mapping populations to examine genetic and phenotypic variability in physiological, morphological and agronomic characteristics in spring barley

Supervisor: Dr Katherine Steele

T: +44 (0) 1248 388655/ E: k.a.steele@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Robert Brook

T: +44 (0) 1248 382517/ E: r.m.brook@bangor.ac.uk

At Bangor University we have generated two homozygous mapping populations of spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L) by wide crossing of heterozygous Asian landraces and homozygous European varieties, displaying segregation for traits such as hull-less (naked) and hulled grains, two or six row ears, long or short coleoptiles, white or black testa, high and low beta-glucan levels and differing degrees of resistance to common foliar diseases. These populations present opportunities for a plant breeder, geneticist, physiologist or agronomist to study expression and heritability and to map some of these traits. By negotiation, the project could be directed to suit the particular interests of applicants.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Entry requirements

For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.

Ask the IEC for assistance...

If you want advice or a general chat about what’s available contact the International Education Centre on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Fees & Scholarships

Please take a look at our Fees & Scholarships pages for details.

How to apply

Step 1 – Select your research topic

You have three options with regards the selection of your research topic;

Option 1

Prepare your Research Proposal, based on the research expertise at the School.

Option 2

Select a research project from the Directory for PhD opportunities (Also available as a PDF document). Enter the name of the project and the name of the supervisor on the application form. The ‘Research Project’ route is delivered in two parts:

  • Part 1: A Combined English / Study Skills and Research Proposal course. This is when you will write a research proposal based on the selected research project. Duration is up to 1 year, dependent on the English language level.
  • Part 2: The PhD programme.

Option 3

Occasionally, the University advertises PhD Studentships. Studentships are funded / sponsored PhD placements which cover tuition fees and sometimes living costs, usually for a period of 3 years. They are offered for specific research projects. Studentships are advertised on the University website and Academic Schools’ websites and there is normally a deadline for submitting applications. The terms and conditions of Studentships vary and may become available at different times of the year.

If you are applying for a Studentship, enter the name of the studentship on the application form

Step 2 – Prepare your documentation

You will need to gather the following documentation to present with your application:

  • Bachelor degree certificate and transcript
  • Masters degree certificate and transcript (if undertaken)
  • English language test certificate (if undertaken)
  • Academic reference / support letter
  • Confirmation of funding / sponsorship (if applicable)
  • Passport
  • Research Proposal (if you are NOT selecting a project from the Directory of PhD opportunities or applying for a Studentship). Click here for guidance about how to write a good research proposal.

Step 3 – Apply Online

International students have two options when applying;

Apply online

Option 1 – Apply online yourself

Option 2 – Apply online with the help of a recruitment agent

  • If you would like help in completing and managing your application you may seek help from one of our authorised representatives or agents. To see a list of our representatives for your country please visit the Country pages.

Application advice

Applications for research degrees differ substantially from applications for taught courses such as Masters degrees. Although the application form is the same, the way in which you approach your application can make all the difference.

Applying for a self-funded or externally-funded Research Degree

As with all of our courses, you can apply to fund yourself through a PhD/MPhil at Bangor, or you may already have sourced external funding (e.g. from your employer or government), and we warmly welcome all expressions of interest in so doing. However, rather than simply filling in an application form, there are a few steps that you can take in order that your application stands a greater chance of being successful.

All PhD/MPhil students require supervision from at least one academic member of staff at the University, and if you are considering a PhD/MPhil, you will already have a good idea of the specific area or theme that you want to research. In order to ascertain that we hold sufficient expertise in your chosen topic to provide supervision, you should first look at our staff pages. This will provide you with a breakdown of each staff member’s area of academic focus.

Once you have found a member of staff whose research interests broadly accord with your own, you should contact them directly with a concise research ‘brief’ that outlines your proposal and ask whether s/he would consider supervising your project. If the academic expresses his/her interest, you may then further discuss your ideas and develop a full PhD/MPhil research proposal.

At this stage, you should formally apply online for the PhD/MPhil programme. You should fill the form out thoroughly, including academic references, your research proposal and the name of the academic member of staff under whose supervision you intend the research to be conducted.

Your research proposal

A good research proposal is essential if you are applying for a PhD or MPhil. The proposal should include:

  1. Overview – give a brief abstract of the subject area you wish to research and include information on the key theoretical, policy or empirical debates that will be addressed.
  2. Planning – you need to demonstrate that you are aware of the research timescales and have a plan in place to conduct your work. You need to demonstrate that the research is manageable in the given time period.
  3. Literature references – you need to show that your planned area of research has not been studied before. Provide references to key articles and texts relevant to your area of study.
  4. Methodology – you need to show that you are aware of the methodological tools available and have identified which ones would be suitable for your research.

When do I Apply?

You can apply at any time of the year.

It is possible to start a PhD degree at any point in the year at most academic Schools, subject to agreement with the supervisor.

We advise that you submit your application in enough time to:

  • organise funding
  • undertake an English course
  • obtain documents such as transcripts and references required for meeting the conditions of the offer
  • apply for a visa
  • make accommodation arrangements

Further information

Admission related queries

If you need any assitance in completing your application, contact the International Admissions Team on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Research Case studies

East African Farmers Reap the Benefits of Crop Breeding Programme

East African Partners: Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), Uganda; Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), Kakamega, Kenya; and Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya.

Project Associates: Biosciences Eastern & Central Africa (BecA) and International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Principal Investigators: Prof. John Witcombe, Professorial Fellow; and Dr Katherine Steele, Lecturer in Sustainable Crop Production at the School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography, Bangor University; email: k.a.steele@bangor.ac.uk

The CAPACITATE East Africa project (developing capacity for participatory and marker assisted plant breeding to mitigate low crop productivity and poor food security), was a three year project funded by the European Union African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Science and Technology Transfer Programme, led by UMU. The goal of the project was to improve the capacity of crop research in East Africa, producing farmer-acceptable crop varieties and therefore enhancing food security.

Final Project Meeting, Kenyatta University Conference Centre (KUCC), Nairobi, 27–28 July 2013

Poverty and food security are major concerns that affect millions of people in East Africa. At the beginning of the CAPACITATE project, agricultural research in the region was failing to translate into better crop yields for sustained food security, and farmers were struggling to adapt to climate change. This project aimed to tackle these issues by focusing on a proven approach: developing new crop varieties that provide greater scope for growers and end-users, and display drought and heat stress hardiness.

Previously, agricultural research in East Africa did not focus on crop varieties specifically adapted to the farmers’ needs. East African plant breeders were unfamiliar with new techniques in plant breeding such as Client-Oriented Breeding (COB), which have been shown by Bangor University researchers to be highly effective in accelerating variety development: increasing the uptake of new varieties by poor farmers in marginal environments.

The project successfully met its key aim: assisting farmers in adapting to climate change using COB methodologies to improve the yield, productivity and quality of their crops. By creating a network of researchers, breeders and farmers, research in this field is better co-ordinated; gaps in knowledge have been closed, and research publications have increased. Traditional barriers for farmers accessing current research have been removed; providing them with the knowledge they require to meet the challenges of water and heat stress on their crops; thus enhancing the uptake of modern varieties.

The impact of this project has resulted in both economic and societal benefits. An estimated 85 million smallholder farmers (a large proportion of whom are women), growing staple, high-value crops will profit from access to COB and a greater range of crop varieties exhibiting superior tolerance to disease and heat and water stress. The production of sustainable crops with more reliable yields will provide the farmers with better income security: alleviating poverty and poor nutrition.

A scientist from Uganda Martyrs University (right) discusses a bean variety trial with farmers in their field.


In addition to this, a ‘train the trainer’ programme was also conducted. Bangor University researchers held workshops on COB and Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) in Kenya and Uganda. This has resulted in at least one hundred students each year benefitting from the programme at East African Universities.

Postgraduate students from Uganda and Kenya attended a research training course in the UK; topics included studying the resistance of Phaseolus vulgaris (the common bean), to Pythium root rot; analysis of the genetic diversity in pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima), and their resistance to powdery mildew.

Douglas Jjemba and Dr Katherine Steele at the Bangor Henfaes Research Station, Bangor University.

Maryrose Kithinji working in the laboratory at Bangor University

Caroline Kambona, who completed her training in Bangor, March 2013 said, “I really appreciated the opportunity and thank my supervisors both in Kenya and at Bangor for being keen on me and helping me through the training as I did my masters project. I thank Dr. Katherine Steele for the opportunity to work in her Barley for food project and present part of it as my Master’s thesis in my graduating university (Kenyatta).”

Dr Katherine Steele said, “The project enabled researchers from four universities to meet, share ideas and work together for the first time. Some of the world’s most experienced crop scientists from the CGIAR Research Centres and Bangor University led training courses across the region. The training was put into practice through participatory trials in farmers’ fields. Everyone involved with the project has gained enthusiasm – as well as skills – to apply science in a way that can solve food security problems.”

For more information on crops and livestock research at Bangor University, please see: www.bangor.ac.uk/senrgy/research/research_groups/crops.php.en

Reclaiming & Transforming Degraded Land in Indonesia

Consortium Partners:
UK: Aberystwyth University
Indonesia: Universitas Andalas, Universitas Bangka Belitung, Universitas Brawijaya, Universitas Diponegoro, Universitas Lampung, Universitas Pattimura, Universitas Sam Ratulangi, Tropenbos Indonesia, PT Riset Perkebunan Nusantara, SEAMEO BIOTROP, PT Bukit Asam, and IPB.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Morag McDonald, Head of the School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography, Bangor University; email: m.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

Building on a significant background of strong collaboration with Indonesian institutions, Bangor University has been successful in securing a £10,000 grant from the British Council Indonesia to seed-fund research projects that will help return disused former mining sites into productive land. This project, in partnership with both Indonesian and UK Universities and commercial organisations aims to meet the many environmental challenges faced by Indonesia: including the improvement of soil and water quality, and the development of agroforestry techniques.

Over the last ten years, Indonesia has undergone rapid economic development. The growth of extractive industries; for example coal mining have significantly contributed to the economic development of the country. Environmental problems that can arise during, and particularly after mining has ceased can include soil and forest destruction, production of acid rock drainage, pollution of air, water and soil and the creation of harmful waste.

The principal goal of the consortium is to address these problems, and to develop and disseminate best-practice approaches that will benefit Indonesia and the region of South East Asia.

Initial outcomes include SENRGy staff (Professor Morag McDonald, Dr Paula Roberts and Dr Graham Bird), attending a workshop held at the Indonesian base of SEAMEO BIOTROP in Bogor, West Java in late March 2014. The workshop was preceded by a visit to the PT Bukit Asam coal mine at Tanjung Enim, a 6.4 billion tonne coal reserve in South Sumatra. The group were able to view some of environmental problems as well as the approaches taken by PT Bukit Asam to tackle these.

The Consortium Partners

(Back row, L-R) Dr Graham Bird (Bangor University), Dr Bill Perkins (Aberystwyth University).
(Middle row, L-R) Dr Rohny Maail (Universitas Pattimura), Dr Wilson Novarino (Universitas Andalas), Dr Melya Riniarti (Universitas Lampung), Dr Eva Utami (Universitas Bangka Belitung), Dr Tri Retnoningsih Soeprobowati (Universitas Diponegoro), Prof. David Arnold Kaligis (Universitas Sam Ratulangi), Dr Edi Purwanto (Tropenbos Indonesia), Dr Reiny A. Tumbol (Universitas Sam Ratulangi), Dr Gede Wibawa (PT Riset Perkebunan Nusantara), Dr Didik Suprayogo (Universitas Brawijaya), Prof. Jesus Fernandez (SEAMEOBIOTROP), Mr Paulus Wendi Saputra (PT Bukit Asam).
(Front row, L-R) Dr Paula Roberts (Bangor University), Ms Meinanada Chudahman (British Council), Prof. Iskander Siregar) (IPB), Prof. Morag McDonald (Bangor University), Dr. Bambang Purwantara (SEAMEO BIOTROP), Mr. Muhammad Bagir (PT Bukit Asam), Dr Irdika Mansur (SEAMEO BIOTROP).

Prof. Morag McDonald noted that, “we’re delighted to be leading this research in collaboration with colleagues in Indonesia and the UK. The partnership gives us an opportunity to develop and share our expertise in the study, and reclamation of former industrial landscapes developed in the UK and Europe. Working with colleagues in Indonesia provides a fantastic opportunity to address the challenges posed to pollution and reclamation by tropical climates.”

For more information on forestry and agroforestry research at Bangor University please see: www.bangor.ac.uk/senrgy/research/research_groups/forestry.php.en

Visit to the PT Bukit Asam Coal Mine at Tanjung Enim