Project Description

A full project description can be found on Find a PhD. Please see below for additional information about this project:

This is a multidisciplinary project and you will have the opportunity to work with a Geologist (David Muirhead has expertise in Raman spectroscopy), Palaeoecologists (Maarten Blaauw and Dmitri Mauquoy…Maarten also has expertise in geochronologies) and a Biologist (Sarah Woodin has expertise in vegetation communities and ecosystem processes in the British uplands and the Arctic).

Essential skills

  • A background in either geology or biology.

Desired skills

  • A good working knowledge of statistics

Photo by Noemi Naszarkowski.


David Muirhead

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: David Muirhead
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Maarten Blaauw

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Maarten Blaauw
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Natural and Built Environment

Dmitri Mauquoy

Additional Supervisor:

Profile: Dmitri Mauquoy
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Sarah Woodin

Additional Supervisor:

Profile: Sarah Woodin
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Biological Sciences


Mauquoy, D., Payne, R. J., Babeshko, K. V., Bartlett, R., Boomer, I., Bowey, H., Evans, C. D., Ring-Hrubesh, F., Muirhead, D., O’Callaghan, M., Piotrowska, N., Rush, G., Sloan, T., Smeaton, C., Tsyganov, A. N., Mazei, Y. A. 2020. Falkland Island peatland development processes and the pervasive presence of fire. Quaternary Science Reviews 240, 106391.

Scott, A.C. 2000. The Pre-Quaternary history of fire. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 164, 281-329.

Theurer, T., Muirhead, D.K., Jolley, D., Mauquoy, D. 2021. The applicability of Raman spectroscopy in the assessment of palaeowildfire intensity. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 570, 110363.


The incidence of wildfire around the world has increasingly been the focus of the international media and much international research is currently being directed towards understanding its significance, for example future carbon sequestration by terrestrial ecosystems and their effective management under more frequent/intense burning regimes. Past records of fire occurrence and fire behaviour can also give insights into the possible future impacts of more frequent and intense burning of heathlands, peatlands and woodlands.

Proposed Timetable

Year 1 will involve an extensive literature review and the design of burning experiments and associated instrumentation. The burning experiments will run during Year 1 and 2 of the studentship. Analyses of fossil samples spanning the Holocene and Carboniferous time periods will be undertaken in Year 2 and the first 6 months of Year 3.


  • biodiversity
  • earth-systems
  • environmental-management

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