Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

You will join the University of Edinburgh’s Global Change Research Institute, a grouping of approximately 200 researchers engaging with diverse challenges of international significance.

Research topics

Much of our research revolves around understanding, predicting, and mitigating for the many changes that our world is experiencing. We host longstanding programmes in understanding how the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, land surface and oceans have interacted in the past, in monitoring their current behaviour, and in developing predictions of their future dynamics. Building on these scientific foundations, we further engage in interdisciplinary research focused on mitigating the many challenges posed by the global climate emergency, and environmental hazards, inequalities and sustainability.

Research programmes

Research programmes in Global Change typically involve fieldwork, remote sensing, laboratory experimentation and analysis, theory, modelling and stakeholder engagement. Our research extends throughout the world, over all seven continents, from poles to equator, from the deep Earth to the upper atmosphere.

Research community

Within the institute, we exchange knowledge regularly in weekly seminar programmes and smaller research group discussions, and the institute also comes together in twice-yearly Global Change Symposia where students, staff and stakeholders discuss our latest developments and outline new grand challenges.

As a postgraduate research student at Edinburgh, you have access to an exceptionally wide range of training courses offered by the many interdisciplinary researchers across the School of GeoSciences, and more broadly across the university.

You will receive guidance both from your supervisory team and the postgraduate research office on appropriate training specific to your research needs and requirements. Additionally, an academic advisor, separate from your direct supervisory team, is always available to help support you and track your progress and welfare throughout your research degree.

Professional development opportunities

Multiple professional development opportunities are available to you throughout your studies to develop your transferable skills, including:

  • Communicating ideas to the public, e.g. 3-Minute Thesis competition, annual PGR Conference
  • Project Management
  • Teaching on the School’s undergraduate programmes in Earth Sciences, Ecological & Environmental Sciences, and Geography

Read more about the training and support offered by:

Facilities are an essential asset for our research and teaching. GeoSciences has a full range of laboratory, field and workshop facilities, all of which are available to postgraduate students. These include:

  • facilities for sample preparation and mineralogical, physical and inorganic and organic chemical analysis of rock, soil, plant, water and gaseous samples
  • state-of-the-art research facilities

National facilities

The School hosts and manages a number of national facilities on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC):

  • Ion Microprobe Facility
  • Geophysical Equipment Facility
  • Field Spectroscopy Facility

Our facilities' technical and research staff provide training to students and help them identify the most relevant methods for their research projects or develop new techniques.

Facilities and instruments

  • The SEM, electron probe micro-analyser and secondary ion mass spectrometry instruments enable imaging, chemical and isotopic analysis of solid materials to 1 micron resolution.

  • Our X-ray µCT instrument enables 3D and 4D imaging of natural materials and experiments.

  • The Cosmogenic Nuclide Facility enables isotopic analysis of rocks and sediments to understand landscape evolution.

  • Our Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry and Laser Ablation facility enables high precision elemental and simultaneous isotope ion analyses for a wide range of liquid and solid materials. Results from this may be coupled with those from the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry facility to understand oceanic and biogeochemical responses to past and current climate change.

UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC)

GeoSciences also hosts the UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC) laboratory and pyrolysis facilities which produce the “UKBRC Standard Biochars”, a set of research-grade biochars now used by over 100 research groups worldwide.

Airborne Research and Innovation

In addition to ground-based field instrumentation and our boat for work in rivers, lakes and coasts, Airborne Research and Innovation boasts an Eco Diamond HK36 small aircraft and UAVs supporting research in ecology, atmospheric chemistry, micrometeorology, forest studies, geomorphology, agricultural science, archaeology and palaeontology.

Computing facilities and software

Computing-intensive research in geographic information systems (GIS), meteorological and climate modelling, geophysics, and analysis of space and satellite data, is supported by access to our in-house GIS suite and software licences, and the Edinburgh Computer and Data Facility parallel computing and DataStore facilities. Specialist training for research staff and students in using these facilities and in High Performance Computing is provided by Information Services and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre.

Access to international facilities

Complementing our in-house facilities, GeoSciences research students and staff have access to national and international supercomputing, laboratory, experimental and field facilities. We are regular visitors to X-ray synchrotron facilities in Europe and the USA for research on many themes.

Finally, and as you might expect, one of our most important facilities is planet earth itself. Our students and staff use field stations and facilities worldwide for research projects in the Antarctic, Arctic and tropics, on research ships in the world’s oceans, through aircraft sampling the atmosphere and via remote sensing data from satellites.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a related subject.

We may also consider your application if you have other qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional costs

Additional costs apply to this programme:

  • minimum £1,000 per year (for full-time students)

Further research costs may be required, depending on your project requirements.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDAtmospheric and Environmental Sciences3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDAtmospheric and Environmental Sciences6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JW

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

Please see our step-by-step guide to applying for a research degree in the School of GeoSciences. Applications that do not follow application guidelines will be placed on hold and eventually rejected as incomplete:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JW