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PhD Studentship: Can Extreme Internal Waves Trigger Turbidity Currents and Carbon Transport in Submarine Canyons?

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Science

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609 p.a. plus Research Funding, Graduate Training, and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 29th October 2021
Closes: 12th January 2022
Reference: HALL_UENV22ARIES

Scientific background: 

Submarine canyons play a key role in the transport of sediment and carbon from shelf seas to the deep ocean by funnelling sediment-laden turbidity currents and cold-salty density currents down the continental slope. These currents are sporadic and the processes that trigger them poorly understood, so their overall contribution to global sediment and carbon budgets remains uncertain. One proposed triggering mechanism involves large-amplitude internal (subsurface) waves, which are generated by ocean tides and focused into submarine canyons. Internal waves increase near-bed current speed and particularly energetic internal wave events may resuspend enough sediment to form turbidity currents.

Project objectives:

1) Investigate how internal waves resuspend sediment and carbon.

2) Identify triggering thresholds.

3) Determine down-canyon sediment and carbon transport. 

Research methodology: 

You will analyse long-duration hydrodynamic, sedimentological and biogeochemical data from Whittard Canyon, a large branching submarine canyon system that incises the Celtic Sea continental shelf. Using autonomous ocean glider and acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) mooring data, you will first map the spatial and seasonal variability of internal waves within the canyon to identify where and when triggering events are most likely. Then, using data from sediment traps and biogeochemical sensors, you will investigate the mechanisms by which internal waves resuspend sediment and carbon, identify triggering thresholds, and quantify down-canyon sediment and carbon transport. Finally, you will compare your results from Whittard Canyon with other canyon systems worldwide. 

Training: 

You will gain first-hand experience in observational oceanography and marine autonomy, be trained in advanced methods for data processing, analysis and visualisation, and, as part of the UEA Glider Group (https://avf.uea.ac.uk/sea/), be involved with the deployment and piloting of ocean gliders. You may have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise to Whittard Canyon, will collaborate with leading UK and international marine scientists, and present your research at conferences and workshops. 

Person specification: 

You will have a physical science degree or similar (e.g. oceanography, meteorology, geophysics, environmental sciences, natural sciences, physics, mathematics, engineering). Experience with a computer programming language (e.g. Matlab, Python) will be an advantage. This exciting project is suitable for candidates from numerical disciplines. 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Rob Hall

Start Date: 1 October 2022

For more information on this project, please visit www.uea.ac.uk 

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