PHD Project

October 10, 2017

Do biogenic VOCs protect plant productivity under multiple environmental stress?

Do biogenic VOCs protect plant productivity under multiple environmental stress?

With the global population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, food security is a growing concern in many world regions. Rising temperatures, changes in precipitation and deteriorating air quality compound the problem by reducing yields of many staple crops. In response to these environmental stresses many plants have evolved to produce defensive compounds to protect vital photosynthetic and metabolic pathways from damage caused by heat and oxidants. Once released to the atmosphere however many of these compounds are highly reactive and their oxidation can lead to the formation of secondary air pollutants such as ozone. You will investigate the response of oilseed rape, a key global crop used for food, fodder and biofuel production, to elevated temperatures and ozone concentrations and periods of drought. You will spend 18 months conducting a series of experiments in the state-of-the-art solardome facilities at CEH Bangor to determine how such stresses affect photosynthesis, crop yield and nutritional quality, and how the synthesis and production of protective compounds change under different conditions and at different periods in the growing season. By applying these environmental stresses singly and in combination you will explore how the interactions between them may exacerbate or ameliorate the impacts of the individual treatments. For the remainder of your time you will be based at Lancaster Environment Centre, where you will develop a computer model to simulate the effect of future climate and air quality change on global crop production and emissions of these protective compounds. This will enable you to investigate the implications for food supply under various future scenarios and inform policy on this vital issue.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Natural or Environmental Science, or a related discipline. Enthusiasm, self-motivation, curiosity and the ability to communicate to a range of audiences would all be distinctly advantageous.

For further details please contact Kirsti Ashworth ( or Felicity Hayes (