NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Coupling of late Pliocene Indian monsoon variability and global climate: new data from IODP Expedition 353

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

Main supervisor: Dr Kate Littler (Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter)

The Indian monsoon is one of the most powerful meteorological phenomena on the planet, affecting the lives of over a billion people. However, its behaviour in the near future under the influence of anthropogenic climate change is uncertain, particularly in terms of the intensity and amount of seasonal precipitation. The Pliocene (2.585.33 Ma) is the most recent period in Earth’s history with similar elevated global temperatures and CO2 levels to those predicted for the coming century, and may serve as a useful analogue for future climate and monsoon behaviour. The late Pliocene (3.32.5 Ma) was a time of great global change, witnessing the descent into Northern Hemisphere glaciation concurrent with a significant drop in CO2. Understanding the response of the monsoon system during this time of changing boundary conditions will further enhance our mechanistic understanding.

This project will utilise new deep-sea sediments recovered during IODP Expedition 353 (Dec 2014 Jan 2015). As this region has never been scientifically drilled before, these high-resolution cores represent an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the past behaviour of the Indian Monsoon through the application of sophisticated multi-proxy techniques. We will generate coupled Mg/Ca and d18O records to reconstruct temperature and d18O seawater (salinity) changes of surface and thermocline-dwelling planktic foraminifera, at high (2-kyr) resolution, allowing us to track the changing response of the Indian monsoon to orbital forcing. These records will be compared to pollen, biomarker, and foraminifer assemblage data from the same samples, which will allow a holistic picture of orbitally-paced climate change in the region to be constructed. The student will be embedded within the Deep Time Global Change group at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Dr Littler and Dr Bailey, where facilities for sediment and foraminifera processing and trace element analysis are available. The student will benefit from significant involvement with the British Geological Survey, where the majority of the stable isotope data will be generated under the supervision of Prof. Leng. A portion of the trace element data will be generated at the Open University under the supervision of Dr Anand. The student will also visit Dr Robinson at the United States Geological Survey in the USA to learn foraminiferal assemblage skills. The student will also be fully embedded within the wider Exp. 353 international scientific team.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see

See please for more details on how to apply.

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South West England