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PhD studentships - Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme - Edge Hill University

Published Date

Two specific projects are advertised below, though candidates are also welcome to propose other topics in the field of remote sensing.

For further information, see

Informal enquiries should be directed to Professor Paul Aplin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Investigating anthropogenic impacts on coastal dune evolution using airborne lidar and hyperspectral image data 

Supervisors: Professor Paul Aplin, Dr Irene Delgado-Fernandez

Coastal dune fields form a natural defence against flooding and coastal erosion, a defensive role that becomes more vital with predictions of significant sea-level rise throughout the 21st century. Sand dunes, though, are notoriously dynamic phenomena – constantly shifting position, size and shape in response to environmental, and anthropogenic, pressures – and we lack basic knowledge about how they evolve over time. This project aims to map, model and monitor Sefton Coast SAC, the largest dune field in England, investigating how dune evolution relates to natural and human processes. The research will be conducted as part of a 2018 NERC Airborne Research Facility data grant, providing airborne lidar and hyperspectral image data. Lidar data will be acquired to generate detailed 3D representation of the dune field, and this will be compared against a rich set of recent lidar acquisitions by the Environment Agency, enabling temporal analysis of dune morphology since 1999. Hyperspectral imagery will be acquired to classify vegetation and other land cover over the dune field, indicating how factors such as distance from coast, position on/in dune and proximity to human development influence vegetation cover. Lidar and hyperspectral data outputs will then be combined to drive predictive roughness modelling of dune evolution. Finally, dune morphology will be compared against environmental and anthropogenic impacts to start to unpick the causes of dune evolution over time. 

Spatio-temporal resilience of high-value grazing lawns against broader land cover change in southern Africa savannahs 

Supervisors: Professor Paul Aplin, Dr Chris Marston

Savannah ecosystems encompass one fifth of the terrestrial landscape worldwide. In many southern African savannahs, isolated grassy patches occur within tree-dominated landscapes, and these grassy patches are of great importance for herbivores such as impala (Aepyceros melampus), wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), zebra (Equusburchellii), and white rhino (Ceratotherium simum). ‘Grazing lawns’ are highlyutilized grassland patches with nutrient-dense, palatable plants which attract herbivores in high numbers, and represent key food resource areas. Researchers are beginning to understand the significance of grazing lawns as a functioning resource within savannah ecosystems, but less is known about the dynamic nature of lawns over space and time.  More importantly, we lack a robust, broad-scale mechanism for identifying and characterizing grazing lawns which would enable investigation of the structural differences between grazing lawns and surrounding areas, and the resilience of grazing lawns to broader landscape change. A better characterisation of grazing lawns is essential to elucidate the mechanisms driving lawn origins and maintenance to better predict how they may respond to future impacts such as climate change, exotic species invasions, and the broader-level landscape change and ‘scrubbing up’ currently observed across regions of Africa. Here, we propose to use high resolution satellite imagery to map and characterise grazing lawns, quantify the spatial structure of lawns and surrounding areas, and monitor the changing distribution of these lawns with potential implications for large herbivore species. 


2011. Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society
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