Small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS; drones) for mapping vegetation patterns and processes on peatlands PhD

Entry requirements:
3.5 years
not available
Reference number:
Start date:
01 October 2018
Is funding available?
UK/EU fees:
International fees:
Application deadline:
22 January 2018



of research classed as 'internationally recgonised'

REF 2014


in the UK for Geography

The Complete University Guide 2018

Top 20

in the UK for Geography

Guardian University Guide 2018


Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career. 

Project detail

Northern peatlands play a crucial role in terrestrial carbon storage and sequestration. They cover only 3% of the Earth’s land surface, but contain around 33% of total soil carbon. Ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling are dependent on plant community composition and function. Within peatlands, plant community composition and structure vary substantially especially at a micro-topographic scale, with associated small-scale variability in hydrological conditions (dryer hummocks, wet hollows and standing water in pools), and vegetation composition. Understanding the spatial pattern of this variation is important to link between small-scale processes and the operation of those processes at bog, regional and global scales. Mapping vegetation and other features across bogs is, however, very challenging due to the difficult nature of the terrain.

This project will use small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS, drones) to map vegetation and other features on peatlands. Small unmanned aircraft systems and SfM-MVS (Structure-from-Motion with Multi-View Stereo) are a transformative technology in ecology. They provide the unique ability to obtain extremely high-resolution aerial imagery at spatial scales of c. 1 km2, on-demand and at low cost. Loughborough University is well placed to be at the forefront of this by capitalising on our expertise in terrestrial ecology—particularly bog ecology—and geospatial technologies and sUAS. There is a large amount of scope for the student to determine the direction of the study within this project.


Primary supervisor: Dr Jon Millett

Secondary supervisor: Dr Dave Graham

Find out more

For further project details email Dr Jon Millett or register your interest and ask us a question.

To find out more about postgraduate research in the department of Geography please visit our website.

For further information on this project, please see the main CENTA website.

Entry requirements

We seek applicants with a 2:1 (or better) degree/MSc in Ecology, Environmental Science, Biology or similar discipline, and experience in or a desire to learn plant identification skills. Enthusiasm for undertaking fieldwork, learning how to fly sUAS and using mapping software (e.g. ArcGIS) is also essential.

Fees and funding


Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Special arrangements are made for payments by part-time students.

The studentship is for 3.5 years and is intended to start in October 2018. The studentship provides a tax free stipend of £14,553 per annum (in 2017/18) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (£4,195 in 2017/18) and a research training support grant of £8,000.  Please note that due to restrictions imposed by the funder only students with a UK/EU fee status will be considered for this position. Further guidance about eligibility is available at RCUK Terms & Conditions.

How to apply

To apply, you will need to:

  1. Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format which is available here.
  2. All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select “Geography”. During the online application process, upload the CENTA studentship application form as a supporting document.
  3. Please quote CENTA17-LU2 when completing your online application.

Application details

Reference number: CENTA17-LU2
Application deadline: 22 January 2018
Start date: 01 October 2018
Interview date: Week beginning 12 February 2018