The University of Nottingham is part of a new group of consortia charged with the task of training the scientists of the future to improve our limited understanding of soils. This new generation of soil scientists will play a key role in tackling many of today’s global challenges, including food, water and energy security.
This £2.3m programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) aims to create a generation of highly-skilled soil scientists who understand the soil ecosystem from both environmental and biological viewpoints.
Sacha Mooney, Professor of Soil Physics in the School of Biosciences and Director of the Hounsfield Facility at The University of Nottingham, said: We are totally reliant on soils for a wide range of functions, perhaps most importantly for food production. As our climate and environment change so will our soils. But our understanding of the earth beneath our feet is still staggeringly limited, in many respects it’s the final frontier.”
The new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in soil science: ‘Soils Training and Research Studentships’ (STARS) consortium will be led by Lancaster University in collaboration with The University of Nottingham, Bangor University, Cranfield University, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Rothamsted Research, the British Geological Survey and the James Hutton Institute.
Urgent need for soil scientists
There is currently an urgent need for a new generation of scientists with up-to-date skills who are able to understand the complexity of the soil ecosystem and the role it plays in the wider environment. The STARS Centre for Doctoral Training addresses this with a more holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to giving researchers a wide breadth of skills and knowledge.
The programme will provide funding for a minimum of eight studentships each year for three years, giving the researchers access to the training that will help them deal with the problems the sustainable agriculture industry faces as it learns how to protect itself against environmental change.
Professor Mooney added: “This is really exciting news. We are delighted to get the chance to train and develop the next generation of soil scientists that will be needed to tackle the many challenges that lie ahead. The STARS College will offer something truly unique, an opportunity for PhD researchers to benefit from the interdisciplinary skills, expertise and technology available not only from their host institute but also from other top academic organisations and research institutes from across the UK. It’s going to have a big impact.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and one of the world’s greenest universities.
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