PhD Opportunity on application of SAR/InSAR to Temperate Peatlands (Fully-funded)
Irish Research Centre for Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) at University College Dublin
iCRAG is the SFI Research Centre in Applied Geosciences hosted by University College Dublin. It is a team of 150 researchers across eight universities and institutions and its objective is to create solutions for a sustainable society. ICRAG develops innovative science and technologies to better understand the Earth’s past, present, and future and how people are connected to our planet. It drives research in areas that are critical to society and the economy, including:
- Sustainable discovery of energy resources and raw materials required for decarbonisation.
- Securing and protecting the natural environment, including groundwater and marine resources.
- Protecting society from Earth’s hazards such as flooding and landslides.
Hydrological Sciences (HS)
Soil System Sciences (SSS)
Peatlands are one of Earth’s largest reservoirs of carbon, collectively storing twice that of global forests. Anthropogenically-induced damage to peatlands causes carbon emission, biodiversity loss, water quality issues and landslides. Protection and restoration of peatland is central to European Union environmental regulations, to climate action, and to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals. A challenge is to monitor the progress and effectiveness of peatland restoration at the large scales of peatland landcover (regional, national, and ultimately global).
This PhD project aims to understand in detail how satellite-derived Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data relates to in-situ characteristics of the main types of temperate peatlands in Ireland: raised bogs and blanket bogs. The project will entail a systematic comparison of SAR and InSAR time-series data to a suite of eco-hydrological variables measured in-situ and continuously at several well-instrumented raised and blanket peatlands located across Ireland. These peatlands span a range of initial condition, from intact to heavily degraded. The non-intact cases are subject to recent, ongoing or near-future restoration works.
- Investigate if SAR intensity can be linked robustly to spatio-temporal changes in ecology, soil moisture and groundwater level across the diversity of Irish peatlands
- Ground validate InSAR surface displacement data through installation of novel camera-based sensors for peatland surface motion at several selected study sites.
- Test if SAR intensity can be used as a quantitative measure to track peatland restoration progress.
- Examine and explain any quantifiable differences in SAR/InSAR responses of Irish blanket bogs and raised bogs.
- Determine if, and explain how, SAR/InSAR responses of Irish peatlands differ for C-Band (Sentinel-1 mission) and L-Band (NiSAR mission) radar wavelengths.
Success in these objectives will lay the basis for national-scale monitoring of peatland condition and restoration, and for understanding of how these highly sensitive ecosystems react to climate change.
Ideal Student Profile
- Highly motivated, with keen interest in linking earth observation data to environmental processes.
- Evidence of independent thinking, problem solving and self-driven accomplishment.
- A BSc degree or MSc degree in a project relevant discipline (e.g. earth science, environmental science, remote sensing, geodesy, geophysics, applied mathematics, engineering etc.).
- Proficiency in spoken and written English (note UCD requirements), with strong presentation skills.
- EU citizenship or eligibility for EU student fee rate (Non-EU applicants will be considered also).
- Advanced numerical skills and proficiency in programming (e.g. Matlab, Python).
- Previous experience in SAR or InSAR data processing.
- Enthusiasm for travel, for teamwork and for collaboration.
Research Funding, Facilities and Support
The project is fully-funded by iCRAG, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Applied Geosciences, and by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland. It is one of 33 PhD projects on offer within iCRAG’s Geoscience for Sustainability PhD Programme. The funding provides for student tuition fees, a tax-free stipend of €18,500 per annum, and project costs (e.g. travel, materials, equipment, etc.) over four years. The successful candidate will enrol in a 48-month structured PhD program at UCD, within which they can take taught modules in project-relevant subjects and numerous training courses in transferable research skills. PhD students also receive priority for on-campus accommodation at UCD.
UCD School of Earth Sciences is Ireland’s largest academic geoscience department, and UCD is ranked within the top 200 (or 1%) of universities globally. UCD has a dedicated high-end InSAR processing server, a perpetual multi-user licence for the GAMMA SAR processing software, and licences for other project-relevant commercial software, such as MatLab, ArcPro, etc. The student will also have the chance to undertake training on the IPTA InSAR time-series processing module at GAMMA. The candidate will join a growing research group that has conducted substantial preliminary work in the topic area. The wider project team has a deep expertise in peatland ecohydrological research and is drawn from academia, government and industry.
Please use this online form to upload: (1) a CV, including the names of two referees, and (2) a cover letter of maximum two pages. The cover letter must clearly outline both your suitability and your motivation for this project. In line with UCD Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policy, applications from persons of all backgrounds and identities are welcome.
For any enquiries about the position, please contact: Eoghan Holohan (email@example.com).
Review of applications will begin on Friday September 9th, 2022, and will continue thereafter until a suitable candidate is appointed.
The successful applicant must start the project before 1st January 2023.