Investigating the effects of wet leaves on the terrestrial carbon cycle

About the project or challenge area

Leaves are responsible for the exchange of carbon dioxide and water vapour between plants and the atmosphere, and therefore play a key role in both the carbon and hydrological cycles. However, when leaves are wet following rainfall, the atmospheric demand for water vapour can be met by freely evaporated water from the leaf surface via interception and canopy evaporation rather than through evaporation via leaf pores. The temporal and spatial effect of leaf wetting on atmospheric carbon dioxide uptake through photosynthesis is understudied, but new datasets are opening new research directions. For example, little is known about whether plants can obtain carbon (via photosynthesis) for “free” or for a much-reduced cost of water loss during periods when the canopy is wet. Thus, it is particularly important to assess the impacts of climate driven changes in rainfall patterns on carbon assimilation across different tree species. In this MScR you will use freely available flux data from contrasting ecosystems, modelling and data analysis techniques to examine how important wet canopies are to our understanding of plant photosynthesis.

About you

Students with a background in biology, mathematics, physics, atmospheric science, engineering, or a similar quantitative science are encouraged to apply. Programming experience with coding (for example, R, Python, C/C++, or Fortran) is highly desirable, but not essential. A strong drive to understand the dynamics of plant ecosystems is essential. Student applications are encouraged from under-represented groups. 

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Admissions Statement (PDF, 188kB). Please note that this is an advertised project, which means you only have to complete Section A of the Research Statement.

This project is not funded, for further details please use this link.

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.

School of Geographical Sciences Supervisor

Your supervisor for this project will be Dr Rodolfo Nobrega, in the School of Geographical Sciences. Email:

Martin de Kauwe Supervisor

Your co-supervisor for this project will be Dr Martin de Kauwe in the School of Life Sciences. You can contact him at +44 117 455 2475 or email

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Environmental Change theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to provide the evidence base and solutions to tackle the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Find out more about the Environmental Change research theme.

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