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PhD in Environmental Biosciences (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R2303
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 3 years
Funding Amount: full UK/EU fees, plus Stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

Project title: Fungal community structure and development in tree heartwood and relationship with other organisms

In living trees, most decay occurs in the heartwood (termed heart-rot), where water content is lower and aeration better than in functional sapwood. Heart-rot releases nutrients for continued tree growth, and provides habitat for rare saproxylic invertebrates and nests for some vertebrates. Some fauna are dependent on rotted wood of specific tree species, and particular wood decay fungi, type or sequence of decay. Some fungi, including rare species, are only found in heartwood.

Despite heart-rot study beginning almost 200 years ago, there has been limited research in the last 50 years, probably because forestry practices largely involve cultivation of younger trees. Although heart-rot is environmentally essential, we still do not know how the fungi become established, how their communities change over time, the location, rates and patterns of decomposition in relation to wood anatomy, nor how this impacts on the organisms dependent on this habitat.

This project aims to address these questions for beech (Fagus sylvatica), and to determine whether it is possible to induce heart-rot to increase this rare habitat, particularly in beech stands in European Protected Sites with declining numbers of ancient hollow trees. Fungal community composition will be determined by traditional isolation and DNA analysis from trees with different types/extent of decay, from fully functional to completely hollow. Invertebrate communities will be assessed where appropriate. A range of fungi will be inoculated into undecayed trees and development followed non-destructively by 3D tomography and, after 2.5 years, destructively by coring and/or felling. Laboratory experiments will investigate fungal interactions, and wood colonisation rates.

Training will include use of modern molecular microbiological approaches, ecological experimental design, fungal culture, quantification and activity assessment, fungal and invertebrate identification, empirical data collection and analysis, including bioinformatics, literature reviewing and meta-analysis. Transferable skills include: scientific writing, poster and oral presentations, and project management.


Start date: January 2015

Number of Studentships: 1


This studentship consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£13,863 p.a. for 2014/15, updated each year).

One studentship is available.


Residency: This studentship is open to UK Nationals and EU Nationals without further restrictions.

Academic criteria: Applications are invited from graduates who possess a good Honours degree (2.1 or above) in microbiology, ecology, biology, or other relevant discipline.

How to Apply

In the first instance, you should submit a CV & Covering Letter plus 2 References to Prof. Lynne Buddy by email to The successful candidate will then be invited to submit a standard application for Postgraduate Study via the Online Application Service.

The deadline for applications is 11 July 2014.

Interviews will be conducted on 11 August 2014.

Cardiff University reserves the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Further Information

Informal enquiries should be directed to Swapna Khandavalli by emailing or telephoning +44 (0)2920 875 243.

Further information on the research Division can be found via the Organism and Environment pages of the School of Biosciences website.