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PhD Studentship Geography: Capturing ocean carbon to geoengineer the planet toward 1.5 degrees. NERC GW4+ DTP

University of Exeter - Geography

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,777 Per annum for 2018-19
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th November 2018
Closes: 7th January 2019
Reference: 3314

Streatham Campus, Exeter EX4 4QJ

Supervisory team:

Dr Paul Halloran, University of Exeter

Dr Oliver Andrews, University of Bristol

Prof Richard Betts, Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter

Prof Andrew Watson, University of Exeter

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership. GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 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

Climate models suggest that we have around a decade’s worth of current CO2 emissions left before we are committed to exceeding the 1.5 degree warming threshold agreed in Paris ( Even with the best efforts of the signatories on the Paris Agreement, lack of options to decarbonise sectors like international transportation mean that the deployment of geoengineering solutions are almost inevitable if we are to meet ambitious climate targets.

The oceans presently take up about a third of the CO2 that society emits ( It was initially proposed by James Lovelock that by enhancing the supply of nutrients from the subsurface to the surface ocean we could stimulate additional phytoplankton growth and enhance the ocean’s natural removal of CO2 from the atmosphere ( Unfortunately, the cycling of nutrients and carbon are tightly coupled in the ocean, so by bringing nutrients up to the surface, you are also bringing up additional carbon, which essentially results in no net CO2 removal from the atmosphere. The nutrient and carbon cycles could however be decoupled by extracting carbon from the seawater as it is being pumped up - a task which we know how to do at small scales.

We want to work with you to adapt and run climate models and develop simple models to ask: is this geoengineering approach feasible? What are the potential ecosystem and climate-system impacts? Are there unintended consequences? And what is the optimal design of such a system?

We are looking for a creative, innovative, numerically minded candidate, who has an interest in how things work - from engineered systems to the climate system. A good undergraduate degree and/or masters in a physical science or similar, and experience with computer programming are critical. While the focus of the PhD would be on modelling and data analysis, we anticipate that there would be opportunities to join sea-going expeditions and potentially develop and test ideas in the lab.

Co-supervision by Prof. Betts who holds positions both at the Met Office and University of Exeter will give you access to world leading climate modelling facilities and scientists, as well as helping build a bridge to industry and policy.

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises: An index-linked stipend for 3.5 years (currently £14,777 p.a. for 2018/19); Payment of university tuition fees; A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses; A training budget of £4,000 for specialist training courses and expenses.

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