Photograph of a man engaged in weight lifting.

Jiacheng (Allen) Gao

University of Warwick


Mitigation of Methane Emissions from Peatlands – a Role for Micro-propagated Sphagnum-Associated Methanotrophs


  • Professor Hendrik Schäfer (University of Warwick)
  • Professor Yin Chen (University of Birmingham) 

PhD Summary

My project endeavours to elucidate the activities and diversity of methanotrophs within greenhouse-cultivated, sustainable Sphagnum moss, thereby enhancing our comprehension of peatland restoration processes. We aim to meticulously assess the ecophysiology of Sphagnum-associated methanotrophs through a combination of meta-omics approaches, imaging techniques, and traditional cultivation methods. Furthermore, the research intends to meticulously investigate the communities of methanotrophs within peat bogs that are in the throes of restoration. This will involve a comparative analysis of conditions prior to and subsequent to the establishment of Sphagnum moss, determining whether the moss-associated taxa are preserved post-restoration. Our overarching goal is to foster a deeper understanding of these vital microbial communities and their role in peatland ecosystems, contributing to the development of more effective restoration strategies. 

Previous activity

Before commencing my PhD, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Food Safety from Harper Adams University and a Master’s degree in Food Security at the University of Warwick. Additionally, I have been engaged in biostatistical analysis with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). These educational and professional experiences have heightened my awareness of the critical relationship between ecological conservation and the pursuit of sustainable development in human activities. This journey has informed my dedication to solving environmental problems, such as the greenhouse effect, and has guided my career aspirations towards restoring peatlands, an area I intend to focus on in my future endeavours. 

Why did you choose doctoral research?

When I was a postgraduate student, I realised that food security is vital to human survival but that environmental issues are critical to it. Solving environmental problems like the greenhouse effect is what I am pursuing; this is what motivates me to do PhD research. Particularly, I am fascinated by the subtle connections between microorganisms and plants. Through my postgraduate and internship lab experiences, I realised that I enjoy research relating to microbiology and genetic science, and I have the ability and energy to research on my own. Lastly, the PhD is in line with my career plans. During my Master’s project, I was involved in research related to peatland restoration, which is my key area of interest in my future career. I want to use my skills and knowledge to play a part in the future restoration of peatlands, thereby reducing the damage to the planet from the greenhouse effect. 

Why did you choose CENTA?

I am profoundly interested in a CENTA studentship because I believe that CENTA possesses a robust research foundation and an exceptional research team in the field of environmental microbiology, which resonates with my academic pursuits and professional ethos. The alliance with CENTA would provide me with an unparalleled research milieu, coupled with extensive professional training to further hone my expertise. Being part of CENTA, an organisation that congregates talents and professionals striving for a common goal, would enable me to collaborate with peers and contribute significantly to our collective efforts in enhancing the planet’s ecological condition. 

Future plans

Studying here is an opportunity not only to advance my professional skills in environmental microbiology but also to cultivate a suite of invaluable soft skills such as time management, social networking, and emotional intelligence. These skills are essential in conducting high-quality research and can greatly enhance my capacity to work effectively in diverse teams and under various pressures.

As for my future plans, while I have not delineated a specific career trajectory, I am resolute in my dedication to contribute to the protection and restoration of natural ecological systems. The comprehensive training and collaborative environment at CENTA will empower me to emerge as a well-rounded individual, equipped with the necessary expertise and personal competencies to make a meaningful impact in the field of environmental conservation. This aligns with my long-term vision of serving a cause greater than myself: the preservation of our planet’s delicate ecosystems for future generations.