PhD Studentship: Observing The Antarctic Slope Undercurrent Using Ocean Gliders (HEYWOODK_U18ERC)

University of East Anglia - School of: Environmental Sciences

Start date: 1st July 2018, 1st October 2018 or 1st January 2019

Supervisor: Primary Supervisor: Professor Karen Heywood
                    Secondary Supervisor: Dr Gillian Damerell

Project description:


Physical processes on the continental shelf and slope around Antarctica are crucially important for determining future sea level rise, for setting the properties and volume of dense bottom water exported globally, and for regulating the carbon cycle. Yet our ability to model and predict these processes over future decades is still rudimentary. This lack of understanding originates from a paucity of observations in this inaccessible region. This PhD is part of the ERC-funded COMPASS project, in which we will use new technology – autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders – to observe and understand processes on the Antarctic shelf and slope.

The boundary between shelf waters and those offshore is marked by the Antarctic Slope Front, associated with a westward surface current. Beneath this, an eastward undercurrent, located on the continental slope, has been revealed by the limited observations in this region. The dynamics of the undercurrent are hypothesised though not yet demonstrated. It is believed to be almost circumpolar, and may play an important role in bringing warm water onto the continental shelf.

Research methodology

You will deploy profiling ocean gliders to characterise the slope undercurrent at various locations around Antarctica, supplemented by existing current meter records. You will use the data to assess the dynamics of the undercurrent, and will also determine its presence (or otherwise) in our cutting-edge ocean models.


You will be trained in physical oceanography, science communication, data analysis and programming in Matlab. You will learn oceanographic observational techniques through participation in research cruises and glider campaigns, and join the UEA glider science group (

Person Specification:

You will have a physical science degree and enthusiasm to observe and understand ocean processes. Experience of a programming language such as Matlab would be helpful. 

Acceptable first degree: Physics, maths, oceanography, meteorology, natural sciences, environmental sciences, geophysics. 

The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1 

Funding notes:

This studentship is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for three and a half years. Full funding is available to EU applicants only, and includes Home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,553 and some research costs. 

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