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NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship for 2024 Entry - From Hyperthermal to Cold Snap - Using Early Jurassic Brachiopods to Understand Climate, Evolution and Palaeoecology

University of Exeter - Department of Earth and Environmental Science

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cornwall, Penryn
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: From £18,622
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 2nd November 2023
Closes: 9th January 2024
Reference: 4951

About the Partnership

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.  The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science.

Project Background

The macrofossils of Spain and Portugal have yielded exceptional records of one of the largest known oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), the Early Jurassic Toarcian OAE (c. 183 Ma). Here, all the hallmarks of climate change which we are starting to experience today have been documented in a deep-time setting. 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, and how Earth plunged into a significant cooling just a few million years later. The fossil record of the Iberian Peninsula with its abundant and well preserved macrofauna provides outstanding opportunities to address these questions (Fig. 1).

Project Aims and Methods

The principal objectives of the project are to characterise upper Pliensbachian to lower Aalenian brachiopod collections from Portugal in terms of their shell structures (using SEM), chemical and isotopic composition (using optical and mass spectrometry). These data will allow to constrain past environmental conditions and processes responsible to shift Earth from a major hyperthermal to a significant cooling event, but also allow to assess brachiopod palaeoecology and evolutionary links which otherwise are only assessed by traditional palaeontological techniques. While these project targets are fixed, there is significant opportunity for you to input and modify research questions and explore topics and methodologies you particularly wish to develop as part of your career plans and interests.

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