PhD Studentship: Marine Ecosystem Stability in a Changing Climate (CASE studentship with SAHFOS)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date: October 2018

Supervisor: Professor Corinne Le Quéré

Project description: The warming of the earth’s surface and associated climate change are causing fundamental changes in the ocean environment that sustains marine ecosystems. Marine ecosystems have been unstable in the geological past under warm environments, changing from high export fluxes fuelled by a vigorous ocean circulation (as today’s conditions), to recycling-based ecosystems with little interactions with the intermediate and deep ocean. The latter conditions have led to large-scale ocean anoxia. Could such conditions be triggered by a warming climate?

This PhD project will use a novel model and novel observations to study the conditions under which ecosystem instability occurs. The project will involve both hypothesis testing with a model, and of data analysis to identify drivers of instability. A focus will be put on understanding ecosystem functioning in the Southern Ocean compared to the Arctic, as a means to identify how relatively similar conditions can lead to very different ecosystems.

UEA developed one of the most advanced global ocean ecosystem models that has been used to study the interactions between marine biogeochemical cycles and climate change. We noted an important role for large zooplankton in determining surface biomass. Further model developments are underway, including the addition of pteropods (sensitive to ocean acidification), and jellyfish. A high-resolution-high-complexity version is planned, funded by the NERC RoSES project. The PhD candidate will be trained to conduct their own climate experiments using this model.

SAHFOS developed one of the most innovative methods to measure and monitor the abundance of plankton in the ocean. Since the 1950s they have been monitoring the North Atlantic, and have moved to other oceans in the past two decades. Their data provides an incredible goldmine for understanding ecosystem responses to environmental change. The complementary use of satellite data will also be encouraged in this project.

The successful candidate will work in collaboration between UEA and SAHFOS, and have opportunities to interact with collaborators worldwide. The student will also have an opportunity to go on a research cruise, although this is not a specific requirement of the project.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit www.enveast.ac.uk/apply.

Person specification:

Acceptable first degree: Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, and other relevant subjects.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Minimum entry requirement: 2:1 or equivalent.

Funding notes: Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources. 

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South East England