Fully Funded European Space Agency and Swansea PhD Scholarship: China-ESA Forest Observation – CEFO / Dragon-5 Young Scientist Scholarship

Funding providers: 

  • European Space Agency Dragon-5 programme 
  • Swansea University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) 

Subject areas: Remote sensing for forestry applications in the UK and China

Project start date: 

  • Preferably 1 July 2023 (Enrolment open from mid-June) 
  • Alternatively 1 October 2023 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project description: 

The aim of the CEFO project is to develop methods and cartographic products to support the sustainable economic development of the forestry sector in China and Britain, thereby opening local markets to rural communities. CEFO will apply and evaluate innovative remote sensing methods to improve sustainable forestry management, in a close collaboration between Chinese and UK forest researchers, stakeholders, and organisations, as part of the ESA-funded Dragon-5 programme. This project focuses on improved forest inventories, change detection, yield and the role of forests in carbon sequestration, including methods for detection of stress and its influence on growth and forest decline. The PhD student will use collaborative software like ARTMO for the analysis of radiative transfer models and DATimeS for the processing of time-series metrics. Field data collection, used for training and validation, will apply a set of instruments combining structural and optical traits of the vegetation that will create the foundations for the upscaling of estimates at the national level in both countries; in particular, estimates of yield, volume, carbon and vigour of vegetation at sub-stand level. The innovative approach will lead to the creation of high quality and detailed forest inventories that will improve current field-based methods and production forecast. 

Candidates must be willing to travel to attend the Dragon-5 programme symposium in Inner Mongolia, 11-15th September 2023, and a reciprocol symposium at a location TBC within Europe in 2024.   

The successful student is likely to be based at the Forest Research Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian. There will also be the opportunity for the student to participate in a research placement with project partners, the Chinese Academy of Forestry. 


Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level in geography or a related field, or a master’s degree with a minimum overall grade at ‘Merit’ (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University). 

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 6.0 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent.

Please note that the ESA Dragon-5 young scientist programme, through which this PhD is funded, requires that studentship recipients are under the age of 35 at the time of commencing their PhD and are European citizens (including UK). UK students only are eligible for the Swansea University FSE studentship. Therefore this joint-funded opportunity is only open to UK applicants


This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £17,668. ESA covers  €10,000 for attendance of Dragon-5 symposia and travel for research placement with China partner, and Swansea University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering covers £1,000 per year in research expenses for three years.

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