Modelling the impact of shelterbelts on livestock productivity and welfare (PhD Scholarship)

Modelling the impact of shelterbelts on livestock productivity and welfare.

School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, UK

Project ID: BUK211
Annual Stipend: £14,300
Application Deadline: 17:00 on 31st July 2018

Applications are invited for a three-year research PhD studentship in the area of sustainable intensification of livestock systems at the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, UK. The studentship is funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) ( in collaboration with our industry partner the Woodland Trust. It will cover tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend at the standard RCUK rate (around £14,300 per year), as well as a travel budget for workshop and conference attendance.

Project Description :

The livestock sector is under increasing pressure to improve the efficiencies of production, both from economic and environmental perspectives. Upland sheep systems face particular challenges with inclement weather: it is well known that hypothermia accounts for a significant proportion of losses of new-born lambs (30%, Barlow et al. 1987). Sheep also expend much energy to maintain body temperature, which increases production costs. Increasing the provision of shelter through the planting of hedgerows and trees may therefore improve the wellbeing and performance of upland sheep flocks. In parallel, the uplands are regarded as key areas for afforestation programmes needed to reduce the impacts of climate change (e.g. flooding) and provide improved habitat for biodiversity. Strategic planting of trees and hedgerows therefore present economic and environmental “win–wins” to both increase and improve the economic viability of livestock farming systems, and deliver multiple environmental benefits. The specific research question being addressed in this project is:

How does the strategic placement of on-farm shelter affect livestock production?

Figure 1: Preliminary wind chill 3D response surface

To answer this question the successful candidate will:

  • Collect micrometerological data around trees and hedgerows in the farming landscape and develop a biophysical model to predict the impact of shelter on livestock energy balance (Figure 1);
  • Integrate the biophysical model into a computer based tool to suggest strategic placement of shelterbelts in the landscape to optimise livestock productivity (i.e. further development and testing of the prototype tool );
  • Conduct an economic analysis of the cost-benefit to on-farm efficiency.

Figure 2: Life-sized instrumented model sheep used to parameterise biophysical model.

Data will be collected using physical models of sheep (Figure 2) containing Arduino controlled thermal arrays, microclimatic sensors and dataloggers. The prospective candidate should have a strong technical ability ideally with experience in numerical modelling and computer programming. This exciting multi-disciplinary project will involve work with a range of partners across many disciplines (e.g., electronics, environment, economic and veterinary). The project is co-funded by the Woodland Trust and will involve public engagement work with the Trust to promote and disseminate the outputs of the project (e.g. BBC Countryfile ; feature starts 53m 45s into programme). Examples of previous work using the model sheep conducted in our research group can also be found below:

The studentship is available from October 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Applicants should hold a first or upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in electronic engineering, computer programming, environmental science or management, or a related degree.

How to Apply:

To apply, please submit a CV (max 2 pages) together with a covering letter to Dr Andy Smith ( and cc’d to Dr Penny Dowdney ( by 17:00 on 31st July 2018

Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Andy Smith ( or Dr Mark Rayment (

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in the Convergence Area of Wales on University registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.