We have just successfully recruited our second cohort of 20 students who will begin their PhD’s in October 2020.

The process has been long to say the least. Months were spent engaging with our academics, outside collaborators and stakeholders, introducing colleagues, networking and building relationships so that our academic communities could meet each other, discuss research gaps and needs, and eventually develop the most enticing and interesting projects for the next QUADRAT recruitment round.

Project proposals were submitted in late October 2019, to be reviewed by the QUADRAT Management Board. These projects must fit not only the QUADRAT remit with the key themes of biodiversity, earth systems and environmental management; but also the NERC science remit.

We went on to advertise 65 project titles across the 4 partner schools (2 SBS / 2 GEO). Each school had the chance to recruit up to 5 candidates. Adverts went live on Wednesday 27th November 2019 and we continued to receive applications right through until the closing date of Wednesday 29th January 2020. There is always a last minute flurry!

The purpose of advertising 65 projects for 20 studentships is so that we can be as inclusive as possible. This allows more candidates to apply for their project of choice, and in turn more candidates can be interviewed.

As applications are received, the administrative team work through them, checking them against the eligibility criteria before passing them on to the relevant supervisor. Once the deadline has passed, we ensure that supervisors have all eligible applications, and we ask them to nominate their top candidate plus one reserve candidate.

As this is a competition funded recruitment process, all top nominated candidates are invited to interview. If that candidate withdraws for any reason, then then the reserve candidate is invited to interview. We do not interview candidates for more than one project – if a candidate is shortlisted for multiple projects, they will be asked to rank the projects in order of preference and will be interviewed for their top choice. Reserve candidates will then be invited for the other projects.

This year we interviewed the week commencing Monday 24th February 2020. We aim to give candidates 10-14 days’ notice and advise that attendance in person is preferable – it is always best to attend in person if you can! Every year QUADRAT contributes to travel expenses to make things easier for the candidates.

There were 2 full days of interviews at Aberdeen and 1 full day at Queen’s this year, with interviews taking place simultaneously for the two main disciplines of biological sciences and geosciences. The interview panel travel between the two locations for consistency.

The successful projects are broad ranging, from species response to climate change; parasite epigenomics; sexual selection and rapid adaptation; plant communities and drought resistance; carbon sequestration; reconstruction of past faunal movements; drone-based survey techniques, to name but a few of the interesting areas captured by the academic community of our partnership!

The calibre of candidates was extremely high this year, making the selection process very difficult for our two panels. We successfully recruited 5 candidates into each of the 4 schools and we are thrilled that they have all accepted! Cohort 2 students to be revealed in due course!


Please see below a list of the cohort 2 projects and supervisors:

  1. How do biotic interactions shape the response of species to climate change across temperate and tropical biomes? A global study on damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera). Supervised by Dr Lesley Lancaster and Dr Paul Caplat.
  2. Functional parasite epigenomics and transcriptomics for improving honey-bee health in a global pollination crisis. Supervised by Dr Marius Wenzel and Dr Caroline Meharg.
  3. The role of sexual selection in facilitating rapid adaptation to climate change. Supervised by Dr Natalie Pilakouta and Dr Paul Caplat.
  4. Do plant communities manipulate soil for drought resistance? Supervised by Prof Paul Hallett and Prof Mark Emmerson.
  5. Is macroalgal carbon sequestration the ‘elephant in the Blue Carbon room’ ? Supervised by Prof Ursula Witte and Dr Kieran O’Driscoll.
  6. Quantifying carbon accumulation and loss in Russian Arctic peatlands. Supervised by Dr Dmitri Mauquoy and Dr Maarten Blaauw.
  7. Exploring the potential of multi-tissue sulphur and strontium isotope analysis and isoscape modelling to reconstruct past faunal movements. Supervised by Dr Kate Britton and Dr Neil Ogle.
  8. Improved pattern recognition in environmental signals using machine learning. Supervised by Dr Amy Gilligan and Dr Madjid Karimirad.
  9. Chronology and the Changing Cultures on the Mongolian Steppe. Supervised by Dr Joshua Wright and Prof Paula Reimer.
  10. Mitigating the impacts of environmental change on cultural heritage using drone-based survey techniques. Supervised by Prof Gordon Noble and Dr Patrick Gleeson.
  11. The effects of maternal stress on offspring survival in the fallow deer. Supervised by Dr Domhnall Jennings and Dr Greta Bocedi.
  12. Global profiles of species declines and success in the era of climate change. Supervised by Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso and Dr Lesley Lancaster.
  13. Microbial social lives: A multi-scale systems approach to decode microbial metabolic networks. Supervised by Dr Deepak Kumaresan and Dr Jean-Christophe Comte.
  14. Temperature regulation of crop – rhizosphere ecology. Supervised by Dr Johnathan Dalzell and Dr Cecile Gubry-Rangin.
  15. Energetics and survival of an apex predator – the African lion – in a rapidly changing environment. Supervised by Dr Michael Scantlebury and Prof John Speakman.
  16. Source-to-sink dynamics and palaeo-environment reconstruction from a dynamically evolving glacial foreland. Supervised by Dr Alastair Ruffell and Prof Brice Rea.
  17. Landscapes of Production: Exploring the Palaeoenvironmental Context of Stone Tool Quarrying, Manufacture, Use and Deposition on Neolithic Shetland. Supervised by Dr William Megarry and Dr Edward Schofield.
  18. The impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on cyanobacteria blooms in lakes. Supervised by Dr Helen Roe and Dr Alex Douglas.
  19. Investigating the timing and causes of nitrogen cycle changes in Bronze Age Ireland. Supervised by Dr Gill Plunkett and Dr Kate Britton.
  20. Medical Geology: The Impact of the Natural Environment on Health in Past Populations from Ireland and Scotland. Supervised by Prof Eileen Murphy and Dr Rebecca Crozier.