Impact of practical management on oak health and the rhizosphere microbiome


An opportunity to apply for a full-time PhD in microbiology and tree health management in the College of Health, Science and Society, UWE Bristol funded by UWE and Woodland Heritage.

Ref 2324-OCT-HSS15

The expected start date of this studentship is 01 January 2024.

The closing date for applications is 15 August 2023. 

Studentship details

This is an exciting opportunity for a fully-funded PhD student to join an inter-disciplinary team working on tree health, specifically acute oak decline (AOD), in the UK.

The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of environmental ameliorations on oak health and the supporting rhizosphere in semi-woodland settings so oak health and resilience are promoted in a changing climate, and management practices are informed.

Components of the project include:

  1. field sampling, data acquisition and processing of baseline foliage, root and soil conditions to compare with samples treated with natural, sustainable applications
  2. planning and organising field experiments and applying natural amelioration treatments to healthy and diseased trees
  3. microbiome profiling including metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics of baseline and treated samples and assessing the effects of the treatments on oak and its rhizosphere.

The project presents a unique opportunity for the successful candidate to work closely with leading experts in acute oak decline research at both Forest Research (FR) and UWE Bristol.

The candidate will divide their time between FR, UWE and the field sites, with training at FR strongly focussed on field work and biogeochemical laboratory work on soil feeder root and foliar sampling and processing. At UWE Bristol, the candidate will join a thriving postgraduate community and be based in the new Lab Zone where they will learn cutting edge versatile microbial molecular techniques providing them with transferable skills.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Dr Carrie Brady at or Dr Sandra Denman at


The studentship is available from 01 January 2024 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £18,622 (2023/24) per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home). 


Applicants must have a good honours BSc degree (2.1 or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline such as microbiology, molecular biology, microbial ecology or forestry. Experience in forestry fieldwork, soil science, molecular techniques, plant-microbe interactions or bioinformatics are desirable.

A recognised English language qualification is required. Applicants whose first language is not English require a recognised English language qualification. The minimum entry requirement is GCSE English at grade C or above or IELTS score 7.0 or TOEFL score 600 (or demonstrable equivalent).


How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 2324-OCT-HSS15.

Supporting documentation: all degree certificates and transcripts must be uploaded along with a recognised English language qualification is required. Applicants should provide a cover letter expressing their interest.

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing Date

The closing date for applications is 15 August 2023.

Further Information

Interviews will take place on the week commencing 4 September 2023. If you have not heard from us by 30 August 2023, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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