PhD Studentship: Understanding controls on oxygen deficits in UK waters using a community ecosystem model and isotopic tools (CLARK_PML17iNERC)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Science

Location: The student will be primarily based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Start Date: October 2017

Supervisor: Dr James Clark (Primary Supervisor) Prof Jan Kaiser (Secondary Supervisor)

Project description:


Oxygen (O2) is essential for complex marine life, including commercially important species of fish and shell fish. O2 is also used as an assessment variable for Good Environmental Status (GES) with respect to eutrophication under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. In UK waters, ongoing assessments have identified significant downward trends in the concentration of O2, c(O2), in the northern and southern North Sea and the English Channel. However, the assessments also identified significant gaps in the data and monitoring practices, as well as a lack of understanding of how the interactions between physical, biological and climatological processes control c(O2).


This PhD project aims at narrowing these gaps in understanding using a combination of i) data for c(O2) on the UK Shelf; ii) model results generated in the NERC-Defra Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry (SSB) Programme; and iii) a novel combination of oxygen isotope data and model simulations.

In Phase 1 of the project, the student will validate relevant model runs with existing data using univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. They will then establish if historic and future model trends in c(O2) respond to management scenarios and identify if there are dominant driving mechanisms behind changes in c(O2).

In Phase 2, the student will implement an oxygen isotope fractionation scheme in the model which will allow results to be compared with new and archived O2 isotopologue data. The student will then run 1D model simulations and test the hypothesis: oxygen isotopes can be used for diagnosing the relative contribution of different biological populations to overall O2 consumption, thus providing insights into the role of benthic versus pelagic processes in affecting c(O2) trends.

Person specification:

The student will be primarily based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The student will graduate with advanced practical, analytical and numerical skills in ecosystem modelling, programming and data analysis. They also have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise aboard RV Cefas Endeavour and gain experience in the laboratory while analysing the collected field samples.

Funding notes:

This NERC Industrial Case studentship in partnership with Cefas is funded for 4 years. An annual stipend of £14,296 will be available to the successful candidate who meets the UK Research Council eligibility criteria. These requirements are detailed in the RCUK eligibility guide which can be found at In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award.  Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award. 

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