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Can you hear marine snow falling? NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship for 2022 Entry, PhD in Geography

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Studies

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cornwall, Penryn
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £15,609 per year for 2022-23
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd October 2021
Closes: 10th January 2022
Reference: 4251

The global oceans play as key role in our climate system by extracting and storing carbon from the atmosphere. A key driver or this carbon uptake is marine life: photosynthesis in the surface ocean coverts approximately 100 Gt of carbon dioxide (CO2) into organic matter every year, of which 5-15% (DeVries & Weber 2017) sinks to the deep ocean sediments in the form ‘marine snow’ where it can be locked up for hundreds to thousands of years. Changes in the sinking behaviour of organic matter at depth could drive variations in atmospheric pCO2 of up to 200 ppm (Parekh et al. 2006). To date, sediment traps have formed the lynch pin tool to understanding and quantifying sinking carbon in the marine environment. These traps collect sinking marine organic matter and usually provide monthly averages of carbon flux over several years. However, in situ experiments indicate that massive flux events could occur on much shorter timescales of days that could strongly influence organic matter transport (Briggs et al. 2011). Such events are not resolved in sediment trap observations, limiting our understanding of the processes that control ocean carbon storage. In this PhD project, you will develop an exciting new method that uses acoustic data to determine carbon flux measurements at high resolution (e.g. hours). These exciting datasets will enable you to look at high-resolution carbon flux measurements over decadal periods and hence contribute to our understanding of ocean carbon storage and how it may respond to future climate conditions.

Project Aims and Methods:

This PhD project will develop new techniques to better quantify the fine scale variability of ocean carbon fluxes, and to better understand the processes that mediate ocean carbon storage. You will have the opportunity to carry out laboratory work measuring acoustic properties of flux material (e.g. density, scattering), and most likely gain experience of working at sea. Your primary dataset will be from acoustic backscatter sensors deployed alongside sediment traps on moorings from the North (Irish Sea) and South (Scotia Sea) Atlantic.  There will be flexibility for you to bring your own ideas to the project and adapt the research direction, so long as it remains aligned with available data and the supervisory team’s expertise. For example, there is scope to use carbon flux acoustic estimates to evaluate satellite products of carbon export (Brewin et al. 2021) or compare with other in situ proxies (e.g. optical tools, Giering et al. 2020).

Candidate Requirements:

A background in Earth Sciences, marine science, physical sciences, or mathematics. Candidates should demonstrate high academic achievement, good numerical skills, and academic research experience.

Project Partners:

The British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton will provide expert supervisory input, fieldwork opportunities, data, research visits, and participation in department seminars.

Training:

Ocean carbon flux theory and measurements; computer coding; processing and analysis of acoustic, carbon flux and remote sensing data; laboratory work; participation (opportunities and medical permitting) in a marine research cruise; presentation of research; synthesis of academic literature; writing scientific papers.

Useful Links:

For information relating to the research project please contact the lead Supervisor via r.brewin@exeter.ac.uk

For information about the application process please contact the Admissions team via pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk. 

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