AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship

Published: 20 March 2023

Past in present soils: Leveraging development-led archaeological data to generate insights into urban soil development and soil health

Past in present soils: Leveraging development-led archaeological data to generate insights into urban soil development and soil health

  • Start date: 01 October 2023
  • Application Deadline: 5 May 2023
  • Interview dates to be scheduled with candidates for May 2023

The University of Glasgow and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) are pleased to announce a fully funded doctoral studentship from October 2023 under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

This PhD project aims to promote the investigation of the long-term effects of human activity on urban anthropogenic soil in London by developing a conceptual model that combines archaeological and soil health data.

A multidisciplinary team across the United Kingdom will jointly supervise this project. The group includes Dr Rachel Opitz and Dr John Macdonald of the University of Glasgow, Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen, Dr Eduardo Machicado and Diego Rodrigo-Maganto at Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). The successful applicant will be based at the University of Glasgow and will spend time working with MOLA in addition to becoming part of the broader cohort of CDP-funded students across the United Kingdom. The studentship can be studied either full or part-time.

We encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area.  Students should have a master’s degree in a relevant subject or can demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting.

Project Overview

Healthy soils are essential to a sustainable future. In today’s rapidly expanding urban contexts, they are fundamental to improving biodiversity and well-being, storing water, and supporting urban farming. While the immediate impacts of today’s human actions on soil health are readily grasped, the long-term effects of past human actions on soil are less well understood.

Archaeology provides a critical long-term perspective of soil formation in urban landscapes. In dense urban areas like London, where human activity is concentrated, development-led archaeology also contributes to the discussion by providing up-to-date information on the status and character of urban soils (‘technosols’). Most of this information is not easily accessible to policymakers or other specialists on soil health.

This PhD aims to develop a conceptual and information model to bring together archaeological information on past and present urban soils and relevant research on soil health. The PhD candidate will compile, interpret, and repurpose various archaeological and geotechnical data to develop the model. Ultimately, the project aims to produce a novel approach to connect knowledge about long-term human interaction with the pedosphere to more pragmatic, pressing concerns about soil health in the contemporary urban landscape.

The PhD researcher leading this project will:

  1. Assess the information needs of soil health professionals, e.g., environmental protection officers, using qualitative research methods.
  2. Establish interoperability of commonly used indicators of soil health, proxy data types, and archaeological soil data using semantic modelling methods.

In collaboration with MOLA’s geomatics and geoarchaeology departments:

  1. Using semantic and linked data modelling methods, develop a suite of experimental cross-mappings between geoarchaeological and soil health data.
  2. Classify, map and assess the thickness, composition, and micromorphological character of the urban anthropogenic soil mantle in selected areas of London to generate new knowledge about urban soil development and health.

Research questions include

  • How can insights into soil health and development be created by re-evaluating ‘standard’ descriptions of soil deposits, stratigraphic sequences, and borehole data collected during archaeological excavations and planning?
  • To what extent would the inclusion of archaeological data in Soil Observatories’ (e.g. UKSO/EUSO) frameworks measurably enhance their users’ understanding of soil systems?
  • Are there conditions in areas of London which have resulted in enhanced preservation of Anthropogenic Soils?

Details of Award

AHRC CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (or part-time equivalent). The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities. 

The studentship covers (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (currently £17,668 for 2022-3), (ii) an allowance of £1000/year to enable collaboration with the partner organisation (as they are based in London), (iii) an additional allowance from MOLA of up to £1000/year for expenses incurred in undertaking research, (iv) a CDP maintenance payment of £550/year, and (v) tuition fees at the UK rate.

Further details can be found on the UKRI website

The project can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis. 

This studentship is open to both Home and International applicants. 

All applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding

The successful candidate will be eligible to participate in CDP Cohort Development events,

All new CDP students will be expected to attend the CDP Student Launch Event at the British Museum.  


  • This studentship is open to all students, UK (home) and International.
  • To be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
    • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
    • Have settled status, or
    • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
    • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further guidance  

  • We want to encourage the widest range of potential candidates for a CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming individuals from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area.
  • Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification or be able to demonstrate equivalent relevant experience in a professional setting. Areas include, but are not limited to, Archaeological Science, Anthropology, Geography, Geosciences, Environmental Sciences, or Information Studies.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the archaeology sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.

As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University and MOLA.

All applicants must meet the AHRC’s academic criteria

For informal enquiries please contact the primary supervisor Rachel Opitz (Rachel.Opitz@glasgow.ac.uk).

How to apply

Application is by covering letter, CV and online application form, and should be made through the University of Glasgow online application system. Note that a research proposal is not required, though some discussion of your interest in the project is encouraged in the covering letter.

Further information

First published: 20 March 2023