PhD Studentship: The changing carbonate chemistry of the Southern Ocean (BAKKER_UENV17EE)

University of East Anglia

School of: Environmental Sciences
Start Date: October 2017
No. of positions available: 1
Supervisor: Dr Dorothee Bakker
Project description: The problem

The Southern Ocean is an important sink for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) (Landschützer et al., 2015). This CO2 uptake reduces the pH and the carbonate ion concentration of ocean surface waters, a process known as ocean acidification (Orr et al., 2005). Ocean acidification will affect marine organisms and ecosystems.

Undersaturation of aragonite, a calcium carbonate mineral, has been predicted to first occur in winter in surface waters south of 60°S from 2030 onwards (McNeil and Matear, 2008). Undersaturation would become widespread by 2100 (Orr et al., 2005). Near-saturation for aragonite already occurs in winter at RaTS, a coastal site off the Antarctic Peninsula, where sea ice cover contributes to the near-saturation by preventing outgassing of CO2 (Legge et al., 2015, in review).

The objectives

Until now, sea ice dynamics and ocean acidification in the Southern Ocean have been investigated in isolation. Here, you will investigate the interplay between both. This PhD project has these objectives:

  • To quantify the progression of ocean acidification in the Southern Ocean over recent decades;
  • To determine the processes affecting Southern Ocean carbonate chemistry and in particular the role of sea ice.
  • To study the seasonal cycle of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink and its drivers.

Research and training opportunities

You will participate in carbonate chemistry measurements on at least one ORCHESTRA research cruise, subject to a successful medical and sea survival training. You will use new and historic measurements (GLODAPv2, SOCAT) (Bakker et al., 2016) and mapping products to determine the progression of ocean acidification, seasonal carbon dynamics and the role of sea ice.

This project of global significance includes training in seagoing research, chemistry measurements and scientific data analysis. You will become part of dynamic research teams at the University of East Anglia and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. You will present your findings at (inter-)national scientific conferences, in peer-reviewed scientific publications and a PhD thesis.

Person specification: We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active team player with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. You will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, or a branch of environmental science.

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

For further information, please visit

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