CDT in soil science

Please note all enquiries relating to student recruitment should be directed to the CDT.

Number of notional studentships awarded: eight per year for three intakes, plus additional match-funded studentships.
Academic partners: the universities of Lancaster (academic lead partner), Bangor, Cranfield and Nottingham, and the British Geological Survey (BGS), UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Rothamsted Research and the James Hutton Institute.


The joint NERC-Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in soil science was awarded to the Soils Training & Research Studentships (STARS) consortium.

The requirement for a new generation of scientists who are able to understand the complexity of the soil ecosystem and the role it plays in wider ecosystem services, and who have up-to-date skills, is paramount to maintain the UK’s capability in soils research. The CDT will specialise in the training of these scientists with a high level of rounded skills and knowledge to tackle current and future challenges in soil science.

NERC and BBSRC have invested about £2.3 million to support the soil science CDT and academic and industry partners within the CDT have committed to support additional studentships and training opportunities. The CDT will provide training between 2015 and 2021.

The CDT in soil science will support at least 33 postgraduate students, 24 of whom will be funded by NERC and BBSRC, over three student intakes between 2015 and 2017. Each year 11 students will be recruited and have the added benefit of cohort training in the STARS College, both face-to-face and online. They will have access to internationally renowned soil scientists and research facilities as well as benefiting from the support of fellow students from across the country.

Research areas and training

The PhDs supported by this CDT will be aligned to one or more of the four integrated thematic programmes:

  • understanding the soil-root interface (physical, chemical and biological interactions), and the role this interface plays in both agricultural and natural ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales
  • understanding of the role of soil in the provision of ecosystem services including (but not limited to) those of food provision, nutrient cycling, water storage and filtration, lowering emission of greenhouse gases and enhancing carbon stocks
  • bringing together an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological functions of soil systems and how they respond to global change, for example climate change, including extreme weather events, human disturbance and land use change
  • modelling the soil ecosystem at different spatial and temporal scales, specifically through the utilization, development and interoperability of ‘big data’ sets.

The CDT aims to fill some of the recognised existing skills gaps, as well as developing interdisciplinary capacity in the use of new tools and technologies. It aims to create a highly skilled community of researchers with transferable skills, and an ability to integrate plant, soil, water and land management to address future research needs. The CDT will provide focused postgraduate training to develop individuals with specialist skills that are linked to strategic priorities or to priority skills needs.

Further information

Further information regarding the joint NERC-BBSRC CDT can be found on the STARS CDT website or by contacting the NERC Talent and Skills Team at

Please note that prospective students should contact the CDT directly.

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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