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PhD Studentship: Marine Ecosystem Change Across Major Human Transitions - Chicken Or Egg? Using Models To Attribute Past Ecosystem Responses To Human And Natural Drivers

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter, Penryn
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: For eligible students the studentship will cover Home or International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 4 years full-time.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 25th November 2021
Closes: 10th January 2022
Reference: 4387

This studentship is part of the European Research Council (ERC) funded Synergy project ‘SEACHANGE: Quantifying the impact of major cultural transitions on marine ecosystem functioning and biodiversity’ led by Professor James Scourse at the University of Exeter (grant ref 856488). 

Project Description: 

We are looking for a student with strong computational skills and a fascination about our natural world and the place of humans within it, to join a large EU funded project SEACHANGE focused on understanding how our marine ecosystems responded to, or potentially drove, major transitions in human history. These transitions span shifts between fishing and farming in North West Europe, Viking settlement of Iceland and colonialization of Australia, to the advent of whaling off Antarctica. 

Within the wider SEACHANGE project, exciting new archaeological, paleoenvironmental and ecosystem data will be collected, and we want to work with you to develop and test hypotheses to explain the transitions that these data reveal. Using simplified physical-biogeochemical shelf sea models (e.g. Halloran et al., 2021) together with the ecosystem modelling toolset Ecopath with Ecosim (https://ecopath.org/) we aim to understand how changes in the climate system, local oceanography, and human pressures might lead to reorganisation of ecosystems. Using this understanding together with, for example, snapshots of the marine ecosystem captured through environmental DNA, we aim to better understand how our reliance on life in the ocean has shaped our societies and vice versa, but also to begin to answer the critically important question of how resilient our marine ecosystems are to human pressure and exploitation. 

Within SEACHANGE you will be working alongside experts and students from the UK, Europe, Australia and beyond, with opportunities to travel to develop these collaborations. We anticipate that you will learn in a hands on way about the techniques other areas of the project will be applying, while at sea. You will be expected to present your findings at international workshops and conferences, and publish your discoveries in scientific journals. 

An ideal applicant would be comfortable solving problems using a computing language like Python, Fortran or Matlab in a Linux environment, and would have a background in numerical science such as physics, oceanography or meteorology, or the more quantitative areas within marine biology or ecology. We would however strongly encourage applications from highly capable and enthusiastic individuals with less obviously aligned educational backgrounds, as well as applicants with professional experience. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the PhD, please get in contact with the lead supervisor Paul Halloran (p.halloran@exeter.ac.uk). 

Entry Requirements 

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a scientific discipline. International applications are encouraged. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  

Alternative tests may be acceptable (see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/). 

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