PhD Studentship in Environmental Science: The impact of anthropogenic land-use changes on fire regimes during the Holocene

PhD Studentship in Environmental Science: The impact of anthropogenic land-use changes on fire regimes during the Holocene

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD on the impact of anthropogenic land-use changes on fire regimes during the Holocene, based at the University of Reading

Department/School: Geography & Environmental Science/ School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, Reading

Supervisor: Professor Sandy P. Harrison

Project Overview:

Land-use change has been one of the major drivers of shifts in fire regimes in recent decades. Although there is evidence that humans have had a major influence on land use and land cover (LULC) during the pre-industrial era, and that this could have affected regional and global climate, the effects of LULC on fire regimes have not been investigated to any extent. The availability of pollen-based information on changes in land cover and archaeological data on population changes and land use during the Holocene, courtesy of the PAGES LandCover6k project, makes it possible to investigate anthropogenic impacts on pre-industrial fire regimes in Eurasia. In this project, population and LULC reconstructions from PAGES LandCover6k will be used in conjunction with charcoal-based records of palaeofires from the Reading Palaeofire Database to quantify the magnitude of human impacts on fire regimes through time against the context of climate-driven changes. The project will involve analysis of existing archaeological, palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimate databases, using advanced statistical tools, as well as analysis of existing climate and fire-enabled vegetation model simulations. The project could also involve the design and implementation of new experiments with a fire-enabled vegetation model to test the impact of changing climate and LULC on fire regimes in the past.

The ideal candidate for this project would have a Masters in an appropriate science, good programming and numerical skills, an understanding of the mechanisms of past climate change, and an interest in the two-way interaction between humans and their environment. Good team and communication skills are essential. The project is designed as a thesis-by-papers. The student will be associated with the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society.

Specific training opportunities

  • fundamentals of quantitative pyrogeography
  • training in palaeoenvironmental data sources and database software
  • statistical, analytical, programming and modelling skills
  • research networking through the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society
  • Science communication skills including communication across disciplines and to policy-oriented stakeholders.


  • Applicants should hold a 1st or upper 2nd class degree (or equivalent) in quantitative environmental science, biology, archaeology or a related subject
  • Good quantitative & analytical skills required
  • Experience in programming (e.g. R, Python) highly recommended.

Funding Details:  

  • The project is co-funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society and the University of Reading
  • Home tuition fees plus stipend for 3.5 years. 
  • Starts autumn 2020 and no later than January 2021.

How to apply:   

Please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science at quoting the reference GS20-057 in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding section

Application Deadline:  1st July 2020

Further Enquiries:  

Email:   or

NB: Where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter which is provided separately from any Offer of Admission and which is subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria.