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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Extreme heatwaves and responses in ecosystem climate gases

Research environment

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 180 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

You will have access to the longest running climate warming experiment on Earth (Queens Mary’s warmed  – standing freshwater – pond facility in Dorset) aswell a suite of first-class analytical techniques including isotope mass-spectrometry, gas-chromatography, portable trace-gas analysers, wet-chemistry modules and multiple oxygen sensors - all coupled to molecular microbial ecology techniques inclding q-PCR, RT-qPCR, high-throughput sequencing, metagenomics and stable isotope probing.   

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

In addition, you will will receive multidisciplinary training in both bio-geochemical (isotope mass-spectrometry, gas-chromatography) and molecular microbial ecology techniques (q-PCR, RT-qPCR, high-throughput sequencing, metagenomics and stable isotope probing) to quantify rapid, short-term changes in methanogen processes and communities to extreme warming.

Project description

Few can have little doubt that our climate is warming and while the effects of drought, forest fires and extreme weather events are obvious, whether key ecosystem services will be sustained or detrimentally altered is less-well known. Here we seek to understand how the processes that make the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4 gas is ~80 times more potent as climate gas than CO2 in the short-term) respond to extreme, short-term warming, like that experienced in the UK this summer.

While some might be broadly familiar with methanogenesis, the microbial process responsible for making methane, they may not appreciate that there are actually multiple variants with different sensitivities to warming. Now we need to understand a, whether or not those variants have the potential to respond rapidly to extremes of warming, to drive-up climate gas emissions, and b, whether there are differential responses among those variants – without a or b, it will be difficult to model future methane emissions.

You will work both in a variety of natural systems such as lakes, ponds, wetlands - the key natural sources of methane - as well as with the longest running climate warming experiment on Earth (Queens Mary’s warmed  – standing freshwater – pond facility in Dorset) to test how the key components of the methane cycle are affected by extreme warming events. 


The studentship is funded by Queen Mary and will cover home tuition fees, and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at the UKRI rate (£19,668 in 2022/23).

For international students interested in applying, please note that this studentship only covers home tuition fees and students will need to cover the difference in fees between the home and overseas basic rate. Tuition fee rates for 2023-24 are to be confirmed. Details on current (2022-23) tuition fee rates can be found at: 

Eligibility and applying

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree or a master's degree in an area relevant to the project including ecology, environmental microbiology/biology, climate sciences, aquatic sciences. A masters degree is desirable, but not essential.

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details:

Informal enquiries about the project can be sent to Prof. Mark Trimmer at Formal applications must be submitted through our online form by 28th July 2023.

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences is committed to promoting diversity in science; we have been awarded an Athena Swan Silver Award. We positively welcome applications from underrepresented groups.

Apply Online


Hopple, A. M., R. M. Wilson, M. Kolton, and others. 2020. Massive peatland carbon banks vulnerable to rising temperatures. Nat Commun 11. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-16311-8

Rosentreter, J. A., A. V Borges, B. R. Deemer, and others. 2021. Half of global methane emissions come from highly variable aquatic ecosystem sources. Nat Geosci 14: 225–230. doi:10.1038/s41561-021-00715-2

Yvon-Durocher, G., A. P. Allen, D. Bastviken, R. Conrad, C. Gudasz, A. St-Pierre, N. Thanh-Duc, and P. A. Del Giorgio. 2014. Methane fluxes show consistent temperature dependence across microbial to ecosystem scales. Nature 507: 488–91. doi:10.1038/nature13164

Zhu, Y., K. J. Purdy, Ö. Eyice, L. Shen, S. F. Harpenslager, G. Yvon-Durocher, A. J. Dumbrell, and M. Trimmer. 2020. Disproportionate increase in freshwater methane emissions induced by experimental warming. Nat Clim Chang 10: 685–690. doi:10.1038/s41558-020-0824-y

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