Using Earth observation data for developing models to translate current research into evidence for robust policy development within the Welsh forestry sector. – PhD Scholarship


Using Earth observation data for developing models to translate current research into evidence for robust policy development within the Welsh forestry sector.

Aberystwyth University, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences

Project ID: AUE10008

Annual Stipend: £14,628

Application Deadline: 19th December 2019

Project Description:

This Ph.D. aims to utilise the power of remote sensing and Earth observation data (EO) to propose real and practical ways forward with regard to achieving legislated aspirations within the forestry sector. Welsh Government wishes to develop robust evidence translated from current research in order to provide improved and effective ways forward for delivery of policy. Access to improved temporal resolutions of imagery, such as from the Sentinel suite of satellites, has provided a real opportunity to use EO to monitor environmental change in near real-time.  Welsh Government wants to ensure that Wales fully benefits from the opportunity EO offers. The spread of Phytophthora ramorum, ash dieback, and other notable tree pests and diseases could be better identified and understood using EO by identifying the changes in vegetative characteristics from stressed trees. This identification helps WG better develop management strategies, as well as understand how to mitigate further spread.

Further work within this Ph.D. would use satellite imagery and high powered computing to advance our historical mapping and near real-time monitoring of the Welsh landscape. This would include integrating supportive ground measurements of biophysical variables, such as vegetation productivity, structure and carbon dynamics, and hydrology and flood sequences for generating land cover and evidence-based change classifications and assessing trends attributed to climate or other environmental changes.  A component will also involve the use of mobile applications and drones for retrieving and scaling ground-level measurements to the wider landscape.  This research would allow WG to develop resilient strategic planning in order to maximise the robustness of the forestry sector in Wales, both economically, as well as for biodiversity gain, and community benefit.

The prospective applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2:1 in a relevant degree, and an understanding of Earth observation techniques and computer programming would be advantageous. The candidate must also be available to take up the studentship by the end of January 2020. The project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government. KESS II PhD scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners. (Applicants need to only apply, they do not need to search for partners.)

To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by 19th December 2019:

  1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from
  2. A completed KESS II Participant proposal form (put the reference number AUE10008 in the top right hand box of the application form) and an up-to-date CV. KESS II application forms are available to download at the link below.

  1. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.

Value of Award: A stipend of £14,628. Each scholarship has an additional budget for travel, equipment/consumables and training to support your research. KESS II PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees.

Length: Full-time for 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Training: The achievement of a Postgraduate Skills Development Award (PSDA) is compulsory for each KESS II scholar (The PSDA is based on a 60 credit award, which is an additional award to the PhD).

Eligibility: Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be an EU national and resident in East Wales on University registration, and must also have the right to work in the region on qualification.

East Wales means the following counties of Wales:







Vale of Glamorgan

Informal enquiries should be made to Prof Richard Lucas at or 07847355988

Address for applications:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Recruitment & Admissions
Student Welcome Centre
Aberystwyth University
SY23 3FB

Quote Reference: AUE10008

Closing date for applications: 19th December 2019