PHD Project

October 10, 2023

Revealing human impacts through time in the Brazilian Pantanal using integrated lake sediment analyses

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland and home to numerous endangered and threatened species. It is also increasingly impacted by human activities, particularly cattle ranching. In recent years, it has suffered severe wildfires and altered hydrology. The impacts of these changes on the Pantanal are understudied, yet have global significance given the wide range of crucial ecosystem services the wetland provides. In particular, we have no context for whether observed pressures today, such as land use change, are distinct from past pressures or how degraded the area is relative to past conditions.

This project will explore changes to the wetland over the past 600 years by analysing accumulated sediments in lakes. Initially, the contemporary condition of five lakes representing a gradient of condition from impacted to pristine, will be detailed from water and sediment samples. Sediment cores from selected lakes will enable the reconstruction of past lake condition. A diverse suite of analyses will allow consideration of erosion rates in lake catchments; wildfire frequency; changes in trophic status; past biodiversity; and, evidence of human and livestock presence in the catchments. The results of this multi-disciplinary project will provide a baseline of human impact in the Pantanal and allow current conditions to be contextualised relative to past conditions.

This project provides opportunities for varied fieldwork and laboratory skill development in the UK and Brazil.  This will include: fieldwork in Brazil to collect environmental samples and to help with a field course to the Pantanal, specialist training in environmental sampling and analysis in Brazil and the UK, specialist laboratory training in eDNA and sedDNA, XRF, pigment analysis, isotopic analysis, and data interpretation at the University of Nottingham. The results will be presented at academic conferences and to stakeholders in the Pantanal, including indigenous peoples, management authorities and resident groups.


Candidates shall be good honours graduates in appropriate subject areas, of a recognised university or comparable university, or persons holding equivalent qualifications who show evidence of exceptional ability, or who have demonstrated their ability in graduate studies.

The successful applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level, or equivalent, in a relevant subject area including Environmental Science, Natural Science, Bioscience, Physical Geography or Geosciences.

The project may be undertaken on either a full- or part-time basis.

Email address for enquiries

For further information about the studentship please e-mail Lisa Yon (, Jack Lacey (  or Sarah Metcalfe (