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PhD Studentship: Recovery from an Oceanic Anoxic Event - an Integrated Approach using Palaeontology, Chemostratigraphy and Biogeochemistry

University of Exeter - Department of Mining and Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Tuition fees and stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,609 p.a. for 2021/22)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 21st October 2021
Closes: 10th January 2022
Reference: 4241

NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship for 2022 Entry, PhD in Mining and Engineering

Funding: Also entitled to a research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses and a training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.

Location: Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Cornwall 

Lead Supervisor: Dr Clemens V. Ullmann, University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall

Additional Supervisors

Professor Luis Vitor Duarte, MARE & University of Coimbra

Professor Melanie Leng, British Geological Survey

Location: Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Cornwall

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 five Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Its aims to provide a broad training and designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

Project Background

As knowledge about the environmental stresses and biotic consequences of oceanic anoxia and hyperthermal events is building, it is becoming increasingly relevant to place these events into the longer-term context of changes in the Earth surface system and to address, how, and over which period of time, biota recover from such perturbations.

The macrofossil assemblages of Spain and Portugal have yielded exceptional records of one of the largest known oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), the Early Jurassic Toarcian OAE. Here, all the hallmarks of climate change which we are starting to experience have been documented. Clear patterns of changing marine assemblages, perturbations in carbon cycle and severe increases in temperature have been found, and hints at ocean acidification are starting to emerge. While the T-OAE as well as the immediately adjacent time intervals are now fairly well studied, much less is known how faunas adapted and changed with environmental conditions in the aftermath of the T-OAE. The fossil record of the Iberian Peninsula with its abundant and well preserved macrofauna provides outstanding opportunities to address these questions (see figure above).

Project Aims and Methods 

The principle aims for this project are to A) Establish reference chemostratigraphic records of C and O isotopes for the Toarcian Stage based on macrofossils from basins in Iberia. B) Study features of shell structure and biogeochemistry in brachiopods and other macrofossils to better understand lifestyle and habitats of these critical palaeoclimate archives. C) Synthesize existing and emerging evidence how biota reacted and adapted to severe environmental upheaval and how local and regional effects shaped their response to palaeoclimate change. While A) is a firm topic with a clearly defined outcome, B) and C) are flexible so that the candidate can develop them according to their preference, strengths and topics of interest, such as focussing on palaeontology, palaeobiology, stratigraphy, geochemistry, or statistics.

Project partners 

This project is truly interdisciplinary, allowing the candidate to develop and broaden skills in a number of fields. It is placed in the wider context of ongoing research on the Early Jurassic Earth System and timescale at the University of Exeter and partner institutions, involving a wide range of international experts, especially the project partners at the British Geological Survey and the University of Coimbra.

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