Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Research Studentships & Job Vacancies

Current Research Studentships:

1. System-wide evaluation of pasture based sheep production systems based on high-resolution primary data

Closing Date: Monday, 5 December, 2016 - 23:30


With the annual throughput of 14.6 million head, sheep farming and its associated sectors contribute £2.4b each year to the UK economy. The industry employs more than 33,000 people in primary production alone and its existence is widely considered to be indispensable for various ecosystem services that the rural landscapes provide. At the same time, sheep production is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and also a leading polluter of UK waterways. Contrary to the globally more prevalent view shared by FAO and the EU, the life-cycle carbon footprint of British lamb meat (as expressed in kg CO2-eq per kg final product) tends to be higher than that of British beef, further strengthening the need for rigorous system-wide assessment of the trade-off between the costs and benefits brought about to society by the sheep industry.

Recent research based on producer surveys has shown that the environmental performances of UK sheep farms have a level of variability far beyond what can be explained by their geographical locations. Given that more than 90% of the carbon footprint along the value chain of British lamb meat are attributable to sheep farms, improving on-farm strategies to close this gap is indisputably the most effective means to reduce the national CO2 inventory. However, the system evaluation studies to date (British or otherwise) have been conducted with low-resolution data such as farm-level and coarser aggregates, and therefore unable to offer insights about the intra-farm mechanism regulating the economic and environmental trade-offs on commercial farms.

Using the rich data and state-of-the-art facilities available at Rothamsted Research’s North Wyke Farm Platform, the present project provides the student with an opportunity to conduct the world’s first life-cycle modelling of sheep production systems based almost exclusively on on-farm primary data (rather than estimates many studies use). For each of the NWFP’s three hydrologically independent “farmlets” that consists of seven paddocks and carries 75 breeding ewes and their lambs under a different pasture management strategy (permanent pasture, reseeded grass/white clover or reseeded high-sugar grass), environmental indicators such as global warming potential, eutrophication potential and acidification potential per unit of final product produced, are computed and compared. Furthermore, these indicators are corrected for the nutritional value of meat to humans and the shelf-life of the product (an indicator to estimate food wastage) in order to better reflect the true value of these products to society.

For further information on this project, please contact Prof. Michael Lee (

Please see the South West Biosciences DTP web pages for more information on this DTP or to apply for this project, please click here

2. The Greenhouse Gas Balance of UK Agriculture: Developing an Affordable Measurement System for a Complex and Changing World 

Closing Date: Friday 6th January 2017

Funding: NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).

Improving our understanding of the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of UK agriculture is vital if we are to meet our commitments to combat climate change. As the current state-of-the art, eddy covariance (EC) has been fundamental to many of our key insights into GHG gas balance and key ecosystem processes.

However, a single EC system to measure carbon (C) fluxes can cost upwards of £20,000. Therefore, in stark contrast to scientific norms, EC measurements are rarely replicated. This severely limits EC and means: 1) the role of spatial variability is largely unknown, and; 2) there are many key ecosystems that are devoid of observations.

In this PhD you will address this key limitation of the EC by developing an inexpensive EC system to measure C and water fluxes . Not only will this development improve the quality of science, but it will also allow research in less-well developed countries, where current technology is simply too expensive to afford.

Please see the Exeter University Website for more details.

3. STARS PhD studentship project: Climate change and shifting pests: will the Clover Root Weevil develop as a major pest of white clover in the UK?

Important dates: 22nd January 2017 -  probable application deadline.

Early February 2017 - local interviews to take place.

Working with a multi-disciplinary supervisory team of leading scientists from the UK and New Zealand, this PhD will determine the ecophysiological requirements of the Clover Root Weevil, a major pest of temperate grassland systems, and model the potential impact of a changing climate on the pest and its impact on N-fixation and legume sustainability in grassland systems.

Legumes are one of the most important components of grassland systems. They provide a range of ecosystem services, including soil structuring, nitrogen fixation and resources for pollinators. The incorporation of legumes in grassland mixes is used extensively as a means of reducing reliance on fertiliser inputs which are a major contributor of greenhouses gases from agriculture. 

Clover root weevil feed on clover roots thereby reducing the amount of nitrogen that can be provided by clover, and thus must be supplemented with nitrogen fertiliser to maintain productivity. The Clover root weevil is a major grassland pest in New Zealand which led to a 50% reduction in N-fixation nationally after its introduction there. One of the reasons for the success of the pest in New Zealand is that the climate allows the insect to have two generations per year, whereas in the UK it has only one. 

A warming UK climate means that the development of such pests may change so that, for example, multiple generations per year will be possible. This poses a major potential threat to UK grassland livestock farming and the results of this PhD are likely to be of great interest to the farming sector in both the UK and globally as we mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

Through the research, you will work with colleagues in New Zealand, and receive training in entomology, experimental design, sampling techniques and model development, and gain skills in model validation and simulation interpretation.

The PhD will be based at Rothamsted Research North Wyke and will validate phenological models developed in New Zealand for UK conditions using data generated from the North Wyke Farm Platform National Capability, the world’s most highly instrument beef and sheep farm and a unique facility for measuring at a whole-farm scale the sustainability of alternative approaches to production from grassland.   

To submit your application, please visit  the STARS webpage.

For further details, please contact: Lianhai Wu or Phil Murray


Current Farm Platform Job Vacancies

None at present


National Capability

A national capability is a BBSRC-funded resource intended to benefit the scientific community in general. These can be facilities as well as opensource datasets. 

National Capabilities

Rothamsted Insect Survey

Operates two national networks for monitoring insect populations in the UK

North Wyke Farm Platform

Provides the research community access to a range of in situ state-of-the-art instrumentation in hydrologically isolated fields and farms to better address key issues in sustainable agriculture.


A database of interactions between pathogens and their hosts maintained at Rothamsted Research with international input.

Long-Term Experiments

These have been running since the mid 19th Century, provide a unique experimental system and archive of soil and plant samples.