PhD Studentship: Biological and Biogeochemical Proxy Calibration of Deglaciating Environments in Antarctica - Environmental Sciences (NERC GW4+ DTP Funded)

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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 http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Supervisors:

Lead supervisor: Prof James Scourse
Co-Supervisor: Dr Sev Kender
Co-Supervisor: Dr Jenny Pike
Co-Supervisor: Dr Anna Pieńkowski
Co-Supervisor: Dr Vicky Peck

Project description:

The retreat of marine-terminating glaciers can be recognized within the sedimentary record by the transition from subglacial to proximal glaciomarine sediments marking the decoupling of the ice sheet from the sea floor. Determining the accurate timing of such deglaciations and their particular environmental context is critical for reconstructing past ice sheet behavior and, consequently, constraining numerical ice sheet models (www.britice-chrono.org). Paleoenvironmental data, such as ocean temperature and salinity, can be extracted from marine sediments to identify mechanisms driving past deglaciations. However, within the glaciomarine setting, the interpretation of proxy records can be challenging due to physical disturbance of sediments during ice retreat or local salinity fluctuations that alter the local ecosystem or overprint salinity or temperature records. To improve our interpretation of past ice sheet sensitivity and response to ocean drivers, and refine ice sheet models, new calibration and process studies are necessary at the margins of marine terminating glaciers.

Project Aims and Methods

This PhD will exploit unrivalled opportunities to sample transects in front of three actively retreating glaciers on the West Antarctic Peninsula. As part of an upcoming joint UK-Chile ICEBERGS project, the RRV James Clark Ross will repeat sample transects at Rothera, William Glacier and King George Island from 2017 to 2020. Data generated from these transects will be used to  identify the proxies that are most useful for determining key environmental gradients in deglaciating environments.  Although we cannot guarantee participation in fieldwork, the intention is that the student will participate in the 2018 research cruise when surface sediment and seawater samples will be collected. Samples collected during the 2017 field season will also be made available. The 2019 field season will offer an additional, unprecedented, opportunity to collect further samples to test hypotheses emerging during the course of the studentship. Proxies conventionally used in these settings include microfossils(foraminifera, diatoms, dinoflagellate cysts), carbonate stable isotopes and organic biomarkers (open water and sea ice diatom-based). Data generated from these proxies will be analysed using multivariate statistics and calibrated using instrumental series to identify those that most successfully reconstruct 1. ocean temperature, 2. sea ice cover, and 3. distance from the ice front.

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2018 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-18.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England