Methodology for carbon and nature assessments of biomass extraction from forests

Our CES Practitioner Doctorate Student (PDS) programme gives its multi-disciplinary Doctoral Researchers a unique opportunity to develop and apply the latest thinking in sustainability research through specialist partnerships between outside organisations and the University.

Start date

1 April 2023


3 years

Application deadline

Funding source

Drax Group

Funding information

£20,000 p.a. stipend plus tuition fees for 3 years full time with research training support grant covered. There is the possibility to extend this to 4 years funding for an EngD submission by mutual agreement.


The unique CES PDS programme enables UK students to conduct their Doctoral research in sustainability to PhD/EngD level directly linked to, and embedded in, our PDS Partnering Organisation (PO) Drax Group.

Drax Group have numerous ongoing pieces of work that contribute to better understanding of the forests Drax Group source from, including measurements and data regarding carbon stocks, tree growth, biodiversity and community wellbeing.

Drax Group would like to demonstrate the various studies that they have showing the different levels of monitoring Drax Group do to prove that the biomass used is sustainable which form a basis of scrutiny and include: literature review, field based studies, use of satellite, internal visits and assessments, independent certification, and more.

The purpose of The Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability (PDS) Programme study is:

  • to see how effective these studies really are
  • what the optimum methodology is to ensure scientific integrity in what we're doing
  • what it would take to create a common methodology for all users and producers of biomass to use, and
  • is there a debate to have about an institutional “home” for greater efficiency and greater independence?

“What is the right methodology to prove/disprove that the biomass extraction from the forest has the right carbon and nature outcome?” This question aims to find an answer that will in turn allow for every post-harvest study to follow the same model.

This research would help not only Drax, but also the wider sector, policy makers, etc. It would also feed in well to the Glasgow Declaration on Sustainable Bioenergy and its principles. The end goal of this study would be to contribute to the establishment of a standard methodology for post-harvest.

The PDS Programme will start in April 2023 with a 3-month intensive training programme at University of Surrey and will then join the Drax Group in July 2023.  During the training, the PDS will be in contact with Drax drafting the project plan and starting to delve into the literature. After the initial training period, the PDS will spend the majority of their time in the company addressing the research question.

Methodologies:  literature review; field based studies; use of satellite; internal visits and assessments; and independent certification.

Person Specification:  This PhD candidate will be knowledgeable of forestry, forest management, and ecology. Background knowledge in sustainability, energy, or similar through a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree with high academic standing is required. Must be proficient in English, both written and verbal.

We invite applicants with a keen interest in applied sustainability research to contact us now so that you can be considered for this exciting PDS doctoral research opportunity starting in late April 2023.

Related links

Centre for Environment and Sustainability

Eligibility criteria

UK candidates only, only UK fees covered. 

Minimum Upper Second UK or equivalent BSc/BA degree and/or MSc/MA at Merit or equivalent in a discipline relevant to diverse aspects of applied sustainability research and thinking. Broadly, these may well be in the maths, physical sciences, engineering but we welcome applications from other disciplinary backgrounds.

We particularly welcome applications from individuals with experience in industry/business, government and/or NGO/third sector organisations and account is taken of such relevant experience in balance with formal qualifications as outlined above.

English language requirements

IELTS minimum 6.5 overall with 6.0 in writing, or equivalent.

How to apply

To apply please contact: Caroline Stuart at (PDS Development and Administration Officer) by email to express your interest in joining the programme by stating the named research project ‘Methodology for carbon and nature assessments of biomass extraction from forests, with an accompanying CV and a covering letter, prior to making any formal admissions application to the Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability PhD/EngD. via the University’s Admissions procedures.

We will be conducting interviews as we receive applicant CV’s via email and appointing sequentially – so if interested, you are encouraged to CONTACT US NOW (do not wait until the deadline’!)

Prior to interview, Applicants will be required to provide two References; typically these will be from previous academic supervisors, or Industry/employment references.

The successful candidate for this PDS following interview will be required to formally apply for admission to the University via the University’s Admissions procedures.

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