PhD Studentship: Coupling of Late Pliocene Indian Monsoon Variability and Global

University of Exeter - Camborne School of Mines

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

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 for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.


Lead supervisor: Dr Kate Littler
Co-Supervisor: Dr Ian Bailey  - primary contact for project enquiries
Co-Supervisor: Prof Melanie Leng
Co-Supervisor: Dr Pallavi Anand
Co-Supervisor: Dr Marci Robinson


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 future under the influence of anthropogenic climate change is uncertain, particularly in terms of the intensity and amount of seasonal precipitation. The Pliocene 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 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 deep-sea sediments recovered during IODP Expedition 353 from the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, to reconstruct the past behaviour of the Indian Monsoon during the Late Pliocene for the first time. We will generate coupled Mg/Ca and d18O records from surface and thermocline-dwelling planktic foraminifera to reconstruct temperature and d18O seawater variability at orbital resolution. These records will be compared to pollen, charcoal, biomarker, and microfossil assemblage data from the same samples, generated by international research partners, 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 UoE under the supervision of Drs Littler and Bailey, where facilities for 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. Close collaboration with Dr Anand at Open University, and Dr Robinson at the United States Geological Survey, will ensure full integration of these new data with complementary data from other contemporaneous Exp. 353 sites.


The ideal person to carry out this project would have a background in geology, earth science, or oceanography at MSc level, with a broad interest in paleoclimate reconstruction, and preferably research experience working with marine sediments and microfossil geochemistry.

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South West England