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Fully funded PhD Opportunity

PhD Opportunity (Monitoring Irish Peatland Restoration with Satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar)

This 4-year, fully-funded PhD project at UCD School of Earth Sciences and iCRAG aims to understand in more detail how satellite-derived Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data relates to in-situ characteristics of the main types of temperate peatlands in Ireland: raised bogs and blanket bogs. The project will entail a systematic comparison of SAR and InSAR time-series data to a suite of eco-hydrological variables measured continuously at several well-studied and well-instrumented raised and blanket peatlands.

The project is funded by iCRAG, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Applied Geosciences, and by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland. The funding provides for student tuition fees, a tax-free stipend of €18,500 per annum, and project costs (e.g. travel, materials, equipment, etc.) over four years.

Project Goals
• Investigate if SAR intensity can be linked robustly to spatio-temporal changes in ecology, soil
moisture and groundwater level across the diversity of Irish peatlands
• Ground validate InSAR surface displacement data through installation of novel camera-based
sensors for peatland surface motion at several selected study sites.
• Test if SAR intensity can be used as a quantitative measure to track peatland restoration progress.
• Examine and explain any quantifiable differences in SAR/InSAR responses of Irish blanket bogs and
raised bogs.
• Determine if, and explain how, SAR/InSAR responses of Irish peatlands differ for C-Band (Sentinel-1
mission) and L-Band (NiSAR mission) radar wavelengths.

Student Profile
• Highly motivated, with keen interest in linking earth observation data to environmental processes.
• Evidence of independent thinking, problem solving and self-driven accomplishment.
• A BSc degree, and ideally a MSc degree, in a project relevant discipline (e.g. earth science,
environmental science, remote sensing, geophysics, applied mathematics, engineering etc.).
• Proficiency in spoken and written English (note UCD requirements), with strong presentation skills.
• EU citizenship or eligibility for EU student fee rate (though Non-EU applicants will be considered).
• Advanced numerical skills and proficiency in programming (e.g. Matlab, Python).
• Previous experience in SAR or InSAR data processing would be highly advantageous.
• Enthusiasm for travel, for teamwork and for collaboration.

Research Facilities and Support
The successful candidate will enrol in a 48-month structured PhD program at UCD, within which they can take taught modules in project-relevant subjects and numerous training courses in transferable researc skills. PhD students also receive priority for on-campus accommodation.
UCD School of Earth Sciences is Ireland’s largest academic geoscience department and is host to iCRAG, the Irish centre of excellence for research in applied geosciences. UCD has licences for project relevant software such as MatLab, ArcPro, etc., as well as a perpetual licence for the GAMMA SAR processing software and a dedicated high-end InSAR processing server. The student will also have the chance to undertake training on the IPTA InSAR time-series processing module at GAMMA. The candidate will join a growing research group that has conducted substantial preliminary work in the topic area. The wider project team has a deep expertise in peatland ecohydrological research and is drawn from academia, government and industry.

Application Procedure
Please use this online form to upload: (1) a CV, including the names of two referees, and (2) a cover letter of maximum two pages. The cover letter must clearly outline your suitability and motivation for this project. In line with UCD Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policy, applications from persons of all backgrounds and identities are welcome. For any enquiries, please contact: Eoghan Holohan (

Closing date: Review of applications will begin on Friday September 9th, 2022, and will continue thereafter until a suitable candidate is appointed.
Start date: must be before 1st January 2023.


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