PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities for 2017 are now open

All our doctoral training opportunities are through Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) or Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT). We do not fund individuals and you will usually apply directly through the host university or DTP.

Eligibility: NERC studentships are bound by the Research Councils UK Grant Terms and Conditions including residency and minimum qualifications. Doctoral Training in Environmental Research in the UK provides a useful summary of these.

The BGS has three categories of PhDs:

Opportunities for PhDs starting in 2017 are listed by BGS science area below. New opportunities are added as they are made available so please check our site or Twitter @DocBGS regularly.

BGS Hosted opportunities

Centre for Environmental Geochemistry
Lignin as a tracer for terrestrial vegetation across the river-estuarine-coastal continuum

BGS supervisor: Dr Chris Vane

University supervisor: Prof. Colin E. Snape

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002869/lignin-as-a-tracer-for-terrestrial-vegetation-across-the-river-estuarine-coastal-continuum

Biogeochemical processes in rivers, estuaries and coastal seas play key roles in the global carbon C cycle by controlling the flux of material from land to ocean. It has been estimated that as little as 10% terrestrial organic matter is transferred from rivers to sites of burial in the sediments of continental margins. However, the following questions are not well understood:

  1. Where the OC matter from?
  2. What fraction is decomposed?
  3. Where within the river-estuary system is organic matter preserved or sequestered?

Established approaches on the sources of organic matter along the river–estuarine continuum include sediment data on bulk carbon-isotope (δ13C) composition in combination with the ratios of carbon to nitrogen providing biological 'end members'. Although these approaches broadly estimate marine as compared to terrestrial organic matter, they are insensitive to changing terrestrial vascular plant sources due to a range of confounding factors. This project aims to identify the vascular plant sources encountered along river channels (land to sea) using a molecular biomarker approach to quantitatively understand the source(s), degradation processes and fate of terrestrial particulate organic matter in sediments.

The PhD will focus on the use of lignin as a tracer because it provides the greatest potential due to its ubiquitous presence in all true vascular plants, its relatively high resistance to biotic and abiotic alteration, and retention of source specific characteristic "phenolic fingerprints". The project will employ state-of-the-art analytical techniques in organic geochemistry (solid-state 13C NMR, analytical pyrolysis-GC/MS). The successful candidate will be trained in these techniques, the interpretation of the data and will be involved with fieldwork at a range of sites for the collection of samples from a range of UK catchment systems.

Candidates should have a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree in chemistry or environmental science with a strong focus on analytical chemistry. Candidates with a strong background in analytical chemistry, with experience of organic geochemical analytical techniques, will be preferred.

How to apply: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/apply.php

Application deadline: Friday 6th January, 2017

Further details: are available via the links below or from Dr Christopher Vane.

Envision – NERC DTP led by Lancaster University: http://www.envision-dtp.org/

Funding and other information: http://www.envision-dtp.org/students/

Engineering geology
Coupled hydrogeophysical and geomechanical modelling of slope stability for improved early warning of landslides

BGS Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Chambers

University Supervisor: Prof. Andy Binley

DTP: ENVISION, Lancaster

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002867/coupled-hydrogeophysical-and-geomechanical-modelling-of-slope-stability-for-improved-early-warning-of-landslides

There is a growing interest in linking hydrogeological and geomechanical models to improve understanding of landslide failure processes, but progress has been limited by an inability to provide high spatial and temporal resolution input data on the physical properties of the subsurface (e.g. strength, composition) and changes associated with hydraulic processes (e.g. pore pressure, moisture content). It is our contention that major recent advances in geophysical and geotechnical monitoring can now provide timely information to update coupled hydro-geomechanical models – thereby enabling near-real-time estimates of slope factor of safety to aid forecasting of landslide events at the slope scale.

The aim of this work is therefore, for the first time, to develop an integrated approach to continuously update slope stability models in near-real-time, and to demonstrate this on active landslides. This will be achieved through integrating the delivery of information derived from geophysical, geotechnical and meteorological monitoring with hydro-geomechanical models. The objective will be to develop an approach that is relevant to moisture driven landslides in engineered and natural slopes – for use anywhere in the world where moisture driven landslide hazard is present. If successful this would represent a step-change in our ability to provide early warning landslide events.

The successful candidate will have access to a network of fully instrumented landslide observatories, and will have the opportunity to collaborate with international partners in landslide prone areas of Austria and Italy. In addition, specialist training will be provided in the areas of groundwater and slope stability modelling, landslide hazard assessment and geophysical monitoring.

Applicants should have strong numerical abilities and hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Earth Science, Physics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Natural Sciences.

How to apply: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/apply.php

Application deadline: Friday 6th January, 2017

Further details: are available via the links below or from Dr Jonathan Chambers or Prof Andy Binley

Envision – NERC DTP led by Lancaster University: http://www.envision-dtp.org/

Funding and other information: http://www.envision-dtp.org/students/

Geoanalytics and modelling
Measurement and modelling human dermal bioavailability of potentially harmful organic soil contaminants

BGS Supervisor: Dr Chris Vane and Darren Beriro

University Supervisor: Prof Paul Nathanial

DTP: ENVISION, University of Nottingham

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002868/measurement-and-modelling-human-dermal-bioavailability-of-potentially-harmful-organic-soil-contaminants

This PhD studentship presents a unique opportunity in the fields of organic geochemistry and risk-based land management. The student will optimise in vitro methods to measure the dermal bioavailability of organic soil contaminants and use the data to derive predictive numerical models. These models will help identify which factors affect the release of organic compounds in soil and show how they might be applied to samples where dermal bioavailability remains unknown. The research is aimed at understanding the uncertainties in human health risk assessment of chronic exposure to soil contaminants and reduce the reliance on animal testing.

This project is part of a programme of industry led research into potential uptake of organic soil contaminants funded by National Grid Property Holdings. The student will be a at least 21 months with British Geological Survey, to undertake their laboratory based training and be part of a thriving interdisciplinary research environment. The student will also work at the University of Nottingham where they will gain first-hand industry leading knowledge of risk-based land management. The student will also complete an internship with the industrial advisors who form part of this project.

The successful applicant will take part in an extensive training programme. The following testimonial from a current PhD student summarises this perfectly: "Thanks to being based at BGS so part of BUFI, registered at a University, and part of the Envision DTP I have had access to a wide range of courses offered by all 3 organisations. As a NERC funded student you receive emails around once a month with details of courses available, usually fully funded and many field based or international. The training opportunities have been amazing. The opportunity to present at international conferences such as EGU (Vienna) and attend the short courses run there has also been great".

The applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level in subjects such as Chemistry, Environmental Science or Natural Sciences. A post-graduate qualification is desirable as is some industrial experience. A strong foundation in chemistry would be advantageous.

How to apply: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/

Application deadline: Friday 6 January 2017

Further details: are available from Dr Christopher Vane or Dr Darren Beriro

Measuring and modelling the human dermal bioavailability of organic compounds in soil

BGS Supervisor: Dr Chris Vane and Darren Beriro

University Supervisor: Prof Paul Nathanial

DTP: STARS (Soils Training and Research Studentships), University of Nottingham

DTP project details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/stars/projects/2017-studentships-details/

This PhD studentship presents a unique opportunity to develop the field of organic geochemistry and risk-based land management working with a supervisory team of globally acknowledged thought leaders based at the University of Nottingham and British Geological Survey. You will optimise in vitro methods to measure dermal bioavailability of organic soil contaminants and use the data to derive predictive numerical models. The project is part of a programme of industry-led research into potential uptake of organic soil contaminants funded by National Grid Property Holdings and includes an internship at WSP | PB, a world leading geoenvironmental consultancy. You will benefit from an extensive training programme to help secure employment after the PhD. A current student summarises their DTP experience as: "The training opportunities have been amazing. The opportunity to present at international conferences such as EGU (Vienna) and attend the short courses run there has also been great".

How to apply: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/stars/projects/2017-studentships-details/#layers-widget-column-65

Application deadline: Friday 6 January 2017

Further details: are available from Dr Christopher Vane

Groundwater
Turning down the gas: what is the potential for microbial mitigation of methane leakage from soils?

BGS Supervisor: Dr Simon Gregory

University Supervisor: George Shaw

DTP: STARS (Soils Training and Research Studentships), University of Nottingham

DTP project details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/stars/projects/2017-studentships-details/

This PhD studentship presents a unique opportunity to develop the field of organic geochemistry and risk-based land management working with a supervisory team of globally acknowledged thought leaders based at the University of Nottingham and British Geological Survey. You will optimise in vitro methods to measure dermal bioavailability of organic soil contaminants and use the data to derive predictive numerical models. The project is part of a programme of industry-led research into potential uptake of organic soil contaminants funded by National Grid Property Holdings and includes an internship at WSP | PB, a world leading geoenvironmental consultancy. You will benefit from an extensive training programme to help secure employment after the PhD. A current student summarises their DTP experience as: "The training opportunities have been amazing. The opportunity to present at international conferences such as EGU (Vienna) and attend the short courses run there has also been great".

How to apply: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/stars/projects/2017-studentships-details/#layers-widget-column-65

Application deadline: 22 January 2017

Further details: are available from Dr Simon Gregory

Land, soil, and coasts
Reconstructing 2000 years of hydrological change in Africa – implications for future climate scenarios

BGS Supervisor: Dr Keely Mills

University Supervisor: Dr Matt Jones

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002866/reconstructing-2000-years-of-hydrological-change-in-africa--implications-for-future-climate-scenarios

Tropical lakes systems provide vital ecosystem services to some of Earth's fastest growing and most vulnerable human populations, but in response to climatic and anthropogenic pressure, the latter caused by land-use changes, lakes are under threat from shifts in water balance. There is an urgent need for regional climate information from tropical regions to allow the downscaling of climate projections that will aid the setting of useful policy, management and adaptation targets. Knowledge of rainfall variability and its associated temporal and spatial patterns are essential for developing sustainable water resources and land use management in this region,, ensuring ecosystem security.

This studentship will involve the production of new proxy timeseries for hydrological change in Uganda over the last 2000 years using lake isotope records. In addition monitoring data will be used to derive hydrological mass balance models for the lake systems. These new data and modelling approaches will be used to investigate how anthropogenic activity affects local hydrological balance in recent decades, against a background of natural change, and the consequences of such impacts under future climate scenarios.

As part of this studentship the successful candidate will have the opportunity to undertake fieldwork in Uganda, and develop research links with colleagues based in overseas institutions. This research is collaboration between the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham. At BGS, the project will be located within the Land, Soil and Coast Science Directorate and isotope analyses will be undertaken in partnership with the NERC Isotope Geosciences Facility. At UoN, the student will be based within the School of Geography.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Geography, Environmental Sciences or Geoscience. An MSc in a related discipline would be an advantage.

How to apply: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/apply.php

Application deadline: Friday 6th January, 2017

Further details: are available via the links below or from Dr Keely Mills or Dr Matt Jones.

Envision – NERC DTP led by Lancaster University: http://www.envision-dtp.org/

Funding and other information: http://www.envision-dtp.org/students/

BGS CASE opportunities

Earth hazards and observatories
Anticipating the next very large volcanic eruption: formation and transport of volcanic ash

BGS Supervisor: Dr Samantha Engwell

University Supervisor: Prof Katharine Cashman

DTP: GW4Plus, University of Bristol

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/anticipating-the-next-very-large-volcanic-eruption-formation-and-transport-of-volcanic-ash/

Very large explosive eruptions are the only natural rapid onset phenomenon, apart from impactors from space, which can have global impacts. Moreover, the effects of very large explosive eruptions may last for years or even decades, both by perturbing climate and because of cascading global environmental and societal impacts. Immediate global impacts are caused by injection of ash and volcanic gases into the stratosphere; these volcanic materials interact with the atmosphere and can encircle the globe, with far-reaching effects on civil aviation. Additionally, huge land areas (million of km2) can be covered in ash, which may take years to decades to erode away, causing long-term dust and lahar hazards. The consequences for civil aviation of volcanic emissions from even moderate eruptions have been graphically demonstrated over the past several years. Critically, however, despite recent statistical analyses suggesting that there is a 30% chance of such an eruption in the 21st century, we currently have very poor constraints on the physical characteristics of ash produced by these eruptions [1] or the extent to which ash continues to be remobilised after the eruptions end. This project seeks to address this knowledge gap.

Very large (VEI 7) eruptions can form in different environments, and produce a range of eruptive deposits. For this reason, this project will include analysis of ash samples from three different eruptions:

  1. The Holocene (c. 7700 ybp) rhyodacitic Mazama eruption USA; unusually, ash from this eruption is largely distributed on land and in an arid environment [2].
  2. The 39 ka phonolitic Campanian eruption from the Phlegrean Fields (near Naples, Italy), and the most recent very large eruption in Europe [3]; and
  3. The Pisolitic Tuffs from Colli Albani, a Quaternary volcano SE of Rome, Italy, which erupts unusual high-K mafic magma [4].

For each deposit, the textural (grain size and shape) and physical (density and settling velocity) characteristics of ash will be determined as a function of time (stratigraphic location) and distance. These data will be used to address fundamental questions regarding ash generation (both primary and secondary fragmentation), ash transport (in conjunction with S. Engwell, BGS) and post-emplacement remobilization.

This project will require a student with a degree in geology; a background in volcanology would be helpful, as would some programming skills (including Matlab). Good communication skills will be an asset as will field skills, as the project will involve fieldwork. The student will receive training in field-based physical volcanology, electron microscopy, laboratory experiments (measurements of settling velocities) and ash transport modelling. This diverse set of skills will be useful for both academia and hazard analysis. The student will be expected to present their research at leading international conferences and to publish results in leading scientific journals.

References

[1] Cashman, K V, Rust, A C. 2016. Volcanic ash – generation and spatial variations. In: Mackie, S, Ricketts, H, Watson, M, Cashman, K V, Rust, A C (eds.). 2016. Volcanic ash – Hazard Observations. Elsevier.

[2] Bacon, C R. 1983. Eruptive history of Mount Mazama and Crater Lake caldera, Cascade Range, USA. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 18, 57-115.

[3] Engwell, S L, Sparks, R S J, Carey, S. 2014. Physical characteristics of tephra layers in the deep sea realm: the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption.Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 398, 47-64.

[4] De Rita, D, Giordano, G, Esposito, A, Fabbri, M, Rodani, S. 2002. Large volume phreatomagmatic ignimbrites from the Colli Albani volcano (Middle Pleistocene, Italy). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 118, 77-98.

How to apply: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/phd-projects/2017-projects/

Application deadline: 6 January 2017.

Further details: available from Prof Katharine Cashman Telephone 0117 3315131.

Energy systems and basin analysis
Phosphate in belemnite fossils: A new palaeo-nutrient proxy?

BGS Supervisor: Dr James Riding

University Supervisor: Prof Stephen Hesselbo

DTP: GW4 Plus, University of Exeter

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/phosphate-in-belemnite-fossils-a-new-palaeo-nutrient-proxy/

Understanding biological productivity of marine palaeoenvironments is severely complicated by the lack of a direct proxy for nutrient availability. Such a proxy, however, would significantly improve our understanding of how the Earth system operates, both at steady state and during transient events of severe environmental change. Currently available tools for approximating this parameter require work-intensive laboratory routines and expensive analytical equipment, making the generation of large, robust datasets difficult.

The fossil remains of belemnites are ubiquitous in Jurassic and Cretaceous shelf sediments and provide a potential target for revolutionizing the understanding of nutrient availability in marine environments throughout this time interval. A considerable amount of phosphate (ca. 0.4 to 1 atom P per 1000 atoms Ca, Fig. 1) is present in the calcite rostra of belemnites (Fig. 2) which can be readily measured by spectrophotometry. The amount of phosphate in the rostra is expected to be dominantly controlled by the amount of phosphorus present in ambient water. The P concentration is likely to carry an additional, species-specific signature that may aid in species determination by way of chemical characterization.

The main aim of the project is to assemble comprehensive records of belemnite P concentration from key regions throughout important intervals of Mesozoic environmental change. Candidate study targets are the Pliensbachian-Toarcian (Early Jurassic) strata from the Yorkshire coast (Cleveland Basin; NE England), the Mochras drill core (Cardigan Bay Basin; NW Wales) and Peniche (Fig. 3; Lusitanian Basin; Portugal). Work on other time intervals in Jurassic and Cretaceous as appropriate can be included according to the interest of the candidate. A further aim of the project is to develop a method for extracting phosphate from the belemnite rostra for the determination of the oxygen isotopic composition of the phosphate molecule – a proxy that can give further insights into the dynamics of nutrient cycling in the water column.

The findings of the project will tie in with ongoing collaborative research at the Universities of Exeter, Leeds, Oxford, the BGS and international partner organizations advancing the understanding of Early Jurassic palaeoenvironment (JET project for understanding Early Jurassic environments and time scale; NERC large grant and ICDP support to PI Prof. Stephen Hesselbo). The candidate will thus be able to experience a variety of academic working environments, and be associated with a prestigious research project bringing together leading experts in their field.

How to apply: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/phd-projects/2017-projects/

Application deadline: 6 January 2017.

Further details: available from Prof Stephen Hesselbo telephone: 01326 253651.

Groundwater
Investigating drainage beneath the British-Irish Ice Sheet: groundwater flow modelling and meltwater channel networks

BGS Supervisor: Dr Christopher Jackson

University Supervisor: Dr Domenico Baú (Lead), Dr Stephen Livingstone and Prof Chris Clark

DTP: ACCE, University of Sheffield

DTP project details: https://acce.shef.ac.uk/investigating-drainage-beneath-the-british-irish-ice-sheet-groundwater-flow-modeling-and-meltwater-channel-networks/

Ice sheet behaviour is largely controlled by bed conditions. Observations beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets reveal significant basal meltwater generation, storage and evacuation, which can lubricate the bed causing rapid ice-flow. Meltwater flow patterns beneath modern ice sheets are poorly understood. Glaciologists have often assumed the bed as an impermeable surface, but the weight of an overlying ice mass is likely to have a strong influence on the groundwater recharge rates, flow patterns, recharge rates, and distribution. Detailing the complex aquifer–ice-sheet interactions is, therefore, crucial for understanding draining meltwater as well as landform and sediment genesis mechanisms.

In this project we will use data on the bed of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, which has fully retreated revealing a bewildering array of meltwater features, to develop a groundwater flow model that reconstructs the form, evolution and drainage of groundwater and basal meltwater over the last 70,000 years.

Candidates with knowledge/interests in groundwater/ice-sheet modelling, glacial hydrology and/or glacial geomorphology are encouraged to apply. Preferred qualifications include: master degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines; computer programming skills; and strong research motivation.

How to apply: http://www.shef.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/apply/applying

Application deadline: Monday 9 January 2017 at 2359 GMT.

Further details: available from Dr Domenico Baú or Telephone: +44 (0) 114 22 20253.

National scale conceptual modelling of hydrology coupled to groundwater processes to improve predictions of river flows

BGS Supervisor: Chris Jackson

University Supervisor: Prof Jim Freer

DTP: GW4 Plus, University of Bristol

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/national-scale-conceptual-modelling-of-hydrology-coupled-to-groundwater-processes-to-improve-predictions-of-river-flows/

The UK’s rivers, due to the variability of our climate from year to year and associated extreme weather events, are prone to flooding and periods of drought and water scarcity. Making robust predictions of these impacts is critical to developing effective planning and management of our precious water resources both for now and in the future.

Predicting river flows, especially for extreme high and low flows, involve dynamically changing complex, interacting and non linear processes of surface, near subsurface and deeper flow pathways. At national scales, such characterisations are now possible using a range of modelling approaches that differ in their mathematical treatment and level of physically based representation of these combined catchment processes. However such larger scale modelling has many challenges in how to characterise each river catchment individually. Therefore it is necessary to ensure the dominant hydrological processes are well represented and that the models provide robust predictions of river flows for the ‘right reasons’ over a range of hydrological behaviour.

This PhD project will address a critical aspect of improving our conceptualisation of river catchments, namely where groundwater is a critical component of the hydrological cycle and how it interacts with the near-surface hydrological processes. In the context of the UK, better representations of groundwater dynamics in hydrological models will be particularly important in south-east England; here major aquifers provide high quality water into public supply for millions of people, in addition to supporting important aquatic ecosystems. Whilst strategies for exploring sources of uncertainty in complex distributed groundwater models have been developed (e.g. Refsgaard et al., 2012), there has been little research on the appropriate degree of complexity to use when representing groundwater in conceptual hydrological models, though this is recognised as a limitation (e.g. Rojas et al., 2010). Furthermore the project shall utilise a new national scale uncertainty analysis modelling framework to explore these interactions between near surface and groundwater flow paths by improving the conceptualisation of how these flow paths interact and are coupled in space and time (Coxon et al., 2014). This will ensure the concepts developed are fully evaluated for hundreds of catchments across the UK where river flow data and groundwater monitoring are available. Furthermore the student will quantify the changes in our predictive capability of river flows within an uncertainty analyses framework that importantly quantifies the quality of both the river flow and the groundwater data in the way the modelling approaches are evaluated (Coxon et al. 2015).

References

Refsgaard, J C et al. 2012. Review of strategies for handling geological uncertainty in groundwater flow and transport modeling. Advances in Water Resources 36, 36.

Rojas R, et al. 2010. Application of a multimodel approach to account for conceptual model and scenario uncertainties in groundwater modelling. Journal of Hydrology 394, 416.

Coxon, G, et al. 2014. Diagnostic evaluation of multiple hypotheses of hydrological behaviour in a limits-of-acceptability framework for 24 UK catchments. Hydrological Processes 28(25), 6135-6150.

Coxon, G, et al. 2015. A novel framework for discharge uncertainty quantification applied to 500 UK gauging stations. Water Resources Research 51(7), 5531-5546.

How to apply: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/phd-projects/2017-projects/

Application deadline: 6th January 2017

Further details: available from Dr Jim Freer or telephone 0117 3318388.

Land, soil, and coasts
Tropical lake ecosystems in the Anthropocene: quantifying recent human impacts on aquatic biodiversity and biogeochemical cycling

BGS Supervisor: Dr Keely Mills

University Supervisor: Dr David Ryves and Prof John Anderson Department of Geography, Loughborough University

DTP: CENTA, Loughborough

DTP project details: http://www.centa.org.uk/themes/anthropogenic/lb1/

Tropical freshwater lakes are critical natural systems of global importance, yet are scientifically under researched. Their catchments provide vital ecosystem services to some of Earth’s fastest growing and most vulnerable human populations, but the provision of fundamental ecological and life-supporting services is under threat due to the impact of human activities acting at the landscape-scale in the current Anthropocene (Butzer, 2015). Separating anthropogenic impacts from natural variability on aquatic systems is a key challenge to understanding their past and present development in the Anthropocene, and so for managing livelihoods in East Africa into the future (e.g. NERC HyCRISTAL project).

Human activity often drastically alters both nutrient cycling and biodiversity in lakes and their catchments (Mills et al. in press). Lakes are now seen as hotspots of biogeochemical dynamics (e.g. for carbon, silicon, phosphorus) within their landscapes, especially in small lakes, which have the highest rates of nutrient cycling. Very little work has been carried out on productive tropical lakes, which are often undergoing rapid catchment and environmental change, with largely unknown impacts on these.

This PhD will address this gap, in the lake-rich region of equatorial western Uganda, where there are ˜100 crater lakes in 4 lake districts varying from shallow and saline, to deep and fresh (Mills & Ryves 2012), together comprising one of the world's top 200 most biologically valuable ecoregions (Fig. 1) and acting as a natural aquatic laboratory. These freshwater lakes are important resources for drinking, irrigation and nutrition (e.g. fishing), as well as centres of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, within landscapes often heavily impacted by human activity (Fig. 1). Anticipating how ecosystems change in space and time is crucial to understanding the future resilience of these systems at a time when anthropogenic impacts increasingly drive global environmental change.

This PhD project combines contemporary and palaeolimnology across a suite of contrasting crater lakes in western Uganda with the aim of characterising environmental and ecological change over the recent past (Ryves et al. 2011; Mills et al. 2014), to link changes in lake functioning as hotspots of both biodiversity and biogeochemistry (e.g. C and Si burial) in the last ˜100–150 years. Specific objectives include addressing the extent to which catchment land use change over this period has affected aquatic (especially algal) biodiversity and productivity, lake sedimentation and nutrient dynamics (e.g. C, Si), and critically testing the linkages between these using new sediment records collected within the project. Outcomes of this project will have great relevance for management of these crucial freshwater resources.

How to apply: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/

Application deadline: 23rd January 2017

Further details: contact Dr David Ryves.

For enquiries about the application process, please contact Susan Clarke, Department of Geography, Loughborough University. Please quote CENTA when completing the application form: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/.

Marine geoscience
Interaction between proglacial lake development and Icelandic glacier dynamics

BGS Supervisor: Prof Emrys Phillips

University Supervisor: Dr Rachel Carr and Prof. Andy Russell

DTP: IAPETUS, Newcastle University

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002892/
understanding-coastal-vulnerability-in-an-uncertain-world

Glaciers and ice caps are major contributors to global sea level rise and this is forecast to continue during the 21st Century. Consequently, understanding the mechanisms by which glaciers retreat and identifying the factors controlling ice losses are essential for accurate prediction of near-future sea level rise. A growing influence on ice loss is the expansion of proglacial lakes, which develop at the glacier margins as the ice retreats. As a consequence of climate warming, these lakes are currently expanding in many regions, including Iceland, the Himalaya and New Zealand. Here, they represent major natural hazards, with outburst floods threatening human life and causing severe and costly damage to infrastructure. Despite their expanding impact, the detailed interaction between proglacial lakes and their associated glaciers is not properly understood, which limits our capacity to accurately predict glacier loss and its associated hazards, as climate warms.

The formation of a proglacial lake markedly alters the conditions at the glacier terminus and allows the glacier to loose mass through calving of icebergs, in addition to surface melting. Iceberg calving is a key mass loss mechanism for both lake- and marine-terminating glaciers, but the process and its triggers are not properly understood. A number of potential controls have been identified to date, including: lake level; lake properties (temperature, circulation); pre-existing weaknesses created by crevasses; surface melt inputs; and ice thinning. However, it is unclear which factor(s) dominate and how this may change over time, as proglacial lakes develop grow. Furthermore, it is uncertain how the interaction between the lake and the glacier evolves temporarily and the types of feedbacks that might develop.

Iceland and Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, has a number of outlet glaciers with recently developed proglacial lakes (e.g. Skeiðarárjökull, Skaftafellsjökull, Fjallsjökull, Heinabergsjökull and Hoffellsjökull. Iceland is therefore an ideal location for investigating interactions between proglacial lakes and glacier dynamics. Icelandic glaciers have been highly responsive to climate change and has experienced negative mass balance and margin retreat for the past 20 years (Aðalgeirsdóttir et al., 2006). During this time, proglacial lakes have expanded rapidly at the margins of its southern outlet glaciers (Schomacker, 2010) and have been identified as a cause of their variable response to climate change (Hannesdóttir, et al., 2015), but this relationship is not properly understood, due to a lack of detailed data. Given that major ice loss is forecast to continue in the region during the 21st and 22nd centuries (Aðalgeirsdóttir et al., 2006), it is vital to understand controls on ice loss from the region.

How to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/

Application deadline: 20th January 2017 (5pm GMT)

Further details: available from Dr Rachel Carr telephone +44 (0) 191 208 6436

Offshore records of subglacial bedforms: using marine geophysics to test process hypotheses

BGS Supervisor: Dr Claire Mellett

University Supervisor: Prof Richard Chiverrell and Dr James Lea

DTP: Earth Atmosphere and Ocean (EAO), University of Liverpool

DTP project details: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/geography-and-planning/studentships/physical-geography/offshorerecordsof
subglacialbedformsusingmarinegeophysicstotestprocess.html

Introduction: The sea floor geomorphology (e.g. van Landeghem et al., 2009) between Great Britain and the Isle of Man displays extensive geophysical evidence for subglacial landforms preserved in a pristine condition on the floor of the Irish Sea basin. The landform and sedimentary record preserved in this offshore realm documents the last deglaciation. The aim is to use extensive marine geophysical and geotechnical datasets for the Irish Sea basin to test hypotheses about the character and processes associated with the formation of subglacial bedforms preserved on the sea floor. The Irish Sea basin is a fertile testing ground for research of this nature, with >2000 drumlins, numerous ribbed moraine and flutes, gridded by shallow marine geophysics and borehole data and sediments.

Project summary: The last British – Irish Ice Sheet declined rapidly after 24,000 years ago, with the Irish Sea home to one of the largest ice streams draining this former ice mass. Geochronological modelling constrains the decline of this ice mass to 24,000 to 19,000 years ago (Chiverrell et al., 2013). The subglacial bedform record comprises mega-scale glacial lineations, drumlins, ribbed moraine and flutes; all well described in three marine geophysical datasets. BriticeChrono is a 5 year NERC Consortium Project running 2012-2018; the explicit aim was to constrain the rates and styles of ice stream retreat. The lead supervisor (Chiverrell) is the Terrestrial Lead for Britice-Chrono and Transect Lead for Irish Sea East. The recent Britice-Chrono cruise of the RRS James Cook obtained >h;40 cores and 100's km of geophysical (seismic) and multibeam morphological data for the Irish Sea (Dataset 1). This coupled with >h;270 cores and a comprehensive survey dataset for the High Voltage Direct Link (HVDL) that crosses the Irish Sea from the Wirral to the Firth of Clyde (Dataset 2). The R3 Rhiannon dataset comprises ˜2000km2 of multibeam echosounder data, 2D sub-bottom seismic (Chirp) data forming a 150x500m grid and 43 borehole records. Van Landeghem and Chiverrell (2011) undertook a comprehensive assessment of the landform and sediment record in the R3 Rhiannon area (Dataset 3). Together these three datasets provide an unrivalled opportunity to test hypotheses about the morphology, composition and processes associated with one of the largest subglacial bedform clusters off-shore of the British and Irish Isles.

This project will use an unrivalled geophysical data archive and comprehensive collection of core materials to explore the environments and ice marginal retreat sequence in the Irish Sea broadly north from the Llyn Peninsula to SW Scotland and Cumbria. Focusing entirely on the offshore record the project will test hypotheses about: nature and influence of grounded ice masses, the extent and ice flow indications in the subglacial landforms, the sediment signature across the subglacial to proglacial transition, the extent and degree of marine influence (there is unambiguous evidence for an active calving margin during ice retreat). Though independent of the NERC Consortium BriticeChrono the research will benefit from a comprehensive marine and land-based geochronology developed by that Consortia and the PhD candidate would benefit from the connections and research environment of the Britice-Chrono research community (Field and Annual Meetings, and Conferences). The overarching aim is to use these extensive marine geophysical datasets to test hypotheses about the character and processes associated with the formation of key subglacial bedforms. For example, ideas about the formation of drumlins have evolved towards attribution as an emergent phenomena arising from self-organization in the coupled flow of ice, sediment and water. Bedform pattern perhaps linked to self-organisation driven by instability in the coupled flow of ice and subglacial sediment. Characterising the internal structure and composition of large numbers of drumlins and other subglacial bedforms would test the hypothesis that the structure and composition in part governs the development of these bedforms.

The prospective PhD research will gain comprehensive training in geophysical methods, sedimentology, and build a comprehensive database of subglacial bedform characteristics. These data will be used to test an ensemble of process hypotheses. He/She will benefit from a supervisory team including Richard Chiverrell (geophysics/sedimentology/geochronology), James Lea (glaciology and sedimentology), Claire Mellett (CASE Partner: British Geological Survey: offshore geology), Chris Clark (Sheffield: Glaciology) and Katrien van Landghem (Bangor: marine geophysics). He/She will benefit from training opportunities inherent to the Doctoral Training Partnership that joins expertise from Liverpool, Manchester and the National Oceanographic Centre, and be part of the fourth cohort of enthusiastic DTP PhD students and will develop strong interdisciplinary skills through specific training.

References

Chiverrell R C et al. 2013. Bayesian modelling the retreat of the Irish Sea Ice Stream. Journal of Quaternary Science 28, 200-209.

Clark C D. 2010. Emergent drumlins and their clones: from till dilatancy to flow instabilities. Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 51, No. 200, 2010.

Hindmarsh R C A. 1998. Drumlinization and drumlin-forming instabilities: viscous till mechanisms. J. Glaciol., 44 (147), 293–314.

Mellett C, Long D, Carter G, Chiverrell R C and Van Landeghem K J J Geology of the seabed and shallow subsurface: The Irish Sea. BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, Energy and Marine Geoscience Programme, COMMISSIONED REPORT CR/15/057

Van Landeghem K J J et al. 2009. Seafloor evidence for palaeo-streaming and calving of the grounded Irish Sea Ice Stream: implications for the interpretation of its final deglaciation phase. Boreas 38, 119-113.

How to apply: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applying//

Application deadline: 18 January 2017

Further details: available from Prof Richard Chiverrell

Scotland's Pockmarks: how and when did they form?

BGS Supervisor: Dr Joana Gafeira

University Supervisor: Dr Tom Bradwell and Dr John Howe (SAMS)

DTP: IAPETUS, Stirling

DTP project details: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/IAP-16-37-Bradwell-Stirling-1.pdf

Pockmarks are roughly circular, concave, crater-like depressions in the seabed. They were first reported by King and MacLean (1970) offshore Nova Scotia (Canada), who suggested that gas and/or water from the underlying bedrock was released in sufficient quantities to put fine-grained marine sediment into suspension. Since then, pockmarks have been found worldwide: within lakes and estuaries, on open shelves and in deep oceans. Pockmarks are now considered to be the most abundant expression of gas seepage seen at seabed. This process of gas release is of great interest to geologists, but also has important implications for marine civil engineering and offshore industry (i.e. the renewable energy sector) as well as potentially impacting on marine life.

Higher-resolution multibeam echo-sounder surveys conducted over the last 10 years have identified increasing numbers of pockmarks around Scotland’s western and northern coast. Notable pockmark fields have been found within several sea lochs, including: Loch Eriboll, Loch Broom and the Minch (Stoker et al., 2006), areas east of the Small Isles (Howe et al., 2012) and the Firth of Lorn & Loch Linnhe (Howe et al., 2015). All these Scottish sea lochs occur within Precambrian to Early Palaeozoic metamorphic terrain which has subsequently been modified during the Quaternary – when extensive ice sheets carved out numerous basins into which late-glacial to Holocene sediments have collected.

The presence of deep basins and shallow sills has effectively trapped organic matter within the sediments since deglaciation resulting in the subsequent build-up and release of shallow biogenic gas. Importantly, the timing and evolution of pockmark formation and gas release can now be examined through the use of U-Th geochronology of methane-derived authigenic carbonates (MDACs) sampled from the seabed. Recent dating studies using this technique have resulted in high-impact journal publications (e.g. Cremiere et al., 2016).

Pockmark distribution is non-random; with their occurrence being apparently strongly controlled (Roy et al., 2016). Pockmark morphology also varies markedly with spatial location.

This project would have twin aims:

  1. to assess the degree of geological and bathymetric control on pockmark formation and morphology;
  2. to examine the association between pockmark setting, rapid ice-sheet unloading and neotectonics (postglacial fault movement).

For instance in Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorn, pockmarks tend to form in lines reflecting the strongly faulted underlying geology of the area (Howe et al., 2015). In Loch Eriboll, pockmarks are subtle and very shallow; whilst around the Small Isles (Inner Hebrides), pockmarks are deeper and steeper-sided than any equivalent-sized pockmarks on the UK continental shelf (internal depths of >18 m). How can these differing morphological traits be explained? What do they mean for pockmark formation rate, gas escape, and seabed stability?

  • Does seabed geology determine pockmark distribution and morphology?
  • Was pockmark formation triggered by rapid retreat of the last British Ice Sheet?
  • Do Scotland's pockmarks result from long-term reduced marine sedimentation above active seeps? Or did they form by episodic gas-release events and sediment expulsion?
  • When did they form? And are Scottish pockmarks still active?
  • What risks do they pose for marine infrastructure and engineering projects in UK waters?

This fully funded PhD studentship would aim to answer these outstanding research questions and contribute to a significant knowledge gap.

How to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/ Reference IAP-16-37

Application deadline: 20th January 2017 (5pm GMT)

Further details: available from Dr Tom Bradwell or Dr Joana Gafeira

Sea-level change, glacial isostatic adjustment and drowned geomorphology of northern Scotland

BGS Supervisor: Dr Claire Mellett

University Supervisor: Prof Ian Shennan and Prof Antony Long (Durham University) and Dr Tom Bradwell (University of Stirling)

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

DTP project details: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/IAP-16-27-Shennan-Durham.pdf

Current highly sophisticated glacial-isostatic adjustment (GIA) models used to predict long-term land and sea-level changes generally show good agreement with empirically derived postglacial sea level curves from around the British Isles (Shennan et al., 2006, 2011) (Fig. 1). But these models struggle to predict the relative sea-level variations at sites around the NW margins of the last British and Fennoscandian ice sheets, partly owing to a lack of good empirical data constraints on ice sheet dimensions and thickness and also because of a lack of good quality empirical observations of past sea-level and shoreline positions (Kuchar et al., 2012).

The NW seaboard and northern isles of Scotland provide unique constraints on both the sea level and ice sheet components relevant for GIA modelling. Between Applecross and Shetland, a distance of 400 km, relative sea level and crustal motions change considerably across a steep spatial gradient. Whilst Applecross experienced overall lateglacial emergence and uplift; Shetland has experienced continuously rising sea levels coupled with the highest current rates of subsidence in the UK and Ireland (˜1 mm/yr) (Shennan et al., 2006).

Explaining the contrasting sea-level records across northern Scotland is rooted in the ice sheet history of the wider area. Until relatively recently it was widely thought that parts of northernmost Scotland were largely unaffected by the last British and Scandinavian Ice Sheets – with any evidence of glaciation on Orkney or Shetland related to small, thin local ice caps or to earlier glacial cycles (Lambeck, 1993).

This model has since been overturned, largely through the advent of new shelf-wide digital bathymetry data (e.g. Bradwell et al., 2008) showing numerous ice sheet moraines with fresh morphology on the seafloor around northern Scotland. Although not currently dated, seismic stratigraphy and selected offshore cores place this widespread glaciation of northernmost Scotland and the adjacent continental shelf within Marine Isotope Stage 2 (Bradwell et al., 2008). Recent ice-sheet modelling experiments support these empirical reconstructions, with a considerably thicker and more extensive ice mass developing over northern Scotland (Hubbard et al., 2009). The maximum British-Irish ice sheet extent, flow configuration and decay history are currently the subject of a major NERC-funded research project – Britice-Chrono.

Importantly only some of the new, glaciologically realistic, ice sheet models provide reasonable fits with the sea-level records – the minimum model of Hubbard et al. (2009) for example, but not the median and maximum models. Increasing numbers of cosmogenic-exposure ages also point to a thicker ice sheet across NW Scotland, with a younger age for thinning and final deglaciation (e.g. Bradwell et al., 2008; Mathers, 2014). These increased ice-volume scenarios all predict RSL above present ca. 16-12 ka BP in parts of NW Scotland.

One of the key aims of this doctoral training project is to gather empirical constraints from across northern mainland Scotland to test the hypothesis that RSL was above present during the lateglacial. The student will integrate their new observations with dated ice-sheet margins arising from Britice-Chrono and systematically compile these to produce a geospatial database of palaeo-shoreline information to integrate with Long and Shennan’s continuing collaborations with GIA modellers (G. Milne, Ottawa; S. Bradley, Utrecht). In addition, the student will undertake new mapping of the offshore zone, especially the seafloor around Shetland where numerous submarine features have been attributed to marine erosion (Flinn, 1964), and may date from the lateglacial period. This aspect of the project will draw on state-of-the-art high-resolution multibeam echosounder bathymetry data (Fig.4) to extend the geospatial database to drowned sea level features, in order to produce detailed onshore/offshore palaeo-coastline maps from ˜20ka to the present day. These maps will be used to target further nearshore marine geophysical surveys (multibeam, sub-bottom seismic, etc), and geological seabed coring within the second half of the studentship to establish the sedimentary architecture and age of the drowned shorelines (Mellett et al., 2012). Crucially these spatially and temporally constrained palaeo-marine limits will enable a new long-term sea-level curve to be constructed for northern Scotland and will serve as valuable index points to refine future GIA models of the British Isles – reducing uncertainties and improving predictive capability in this weakly constrained sector.

The research methodology will be transdisciplinary, supervised by recognised experts working in sea level research and process geomorphology, marine geology, ice sheet science, and GIA modelling. This studentship will involve fieldwork (terrestrial and marine), geological and geophysical data collection and analysis; as well as using new and recently acquired bathymetric, geological and geochronological data.

The research methods will include: GIS and database construction, 2D and 3D geomorphological mapping (terrestrial and submarine); geophysical data analysis; geological core analysis; ITRAX sedimentology and geochemistry; C-14 dating techniques; integration of GIS databases with GIA models.

Timeline

Year 1:

Autumn-winter: Doctoral training methods programme at Durham including field techniques; training in sediment analyses methods; training in GIS techniques and database compilation; bathymetric dataset evaluation (at BGS); submarine landform mapping; evaluation of field sites in NW and N Scotland.

Spring-Summer: assessment and sub-sampling of previously collected marine cores; first field season (NW Scotland); laboratory analyses of core material; C-14 application submission; PhD progression paper presentation.

Year 2:

Lab analyses of core material; selection of further material for C-14 dating; second field season (Orkney & Shetland); continued analysis of bathymetric data; develop GIS shoreline model; collection of seabed geophysical data, and possible offshore coastal coring campaign (with BGS); presentation of results at national conference (e.g. QRA Annual Discussion Meeting).

Year 3:

Final field season; lab analyses of core material and selection of material for C-14 dating; completion of GIS palaeo-shoreline model and interfacing with GIA; lead authorship of key manuscript(s); presentation at international meeting or workshop (e.g. AGU 2019, EGU or PALSEA2); thesis preparation, write-up and final submission.

Training & Skills

Training in specialist and complementary skills is the most important aspect of a PhD programme. Specialist training will be provided in: Quaternary geology field techniques, including 2D and 3D (terrestrial and submarine) geomorphological mapping; marine geophysical data interpretation; DEM generation, 3D visualisation and interrogation in ArcGIS, Fledermaus, etc.; field site selection; a range of (terrestrial, lacustrine, and shallow marine) sediment coring methods; sediment analysis: e.g. LOI, X-ray, MSCL, ITRAX (XRF); 14C dating and construction of age-depth models using Bayesian methods (with NERC RCL and SUERC, East Kilbride); stratigraphic correlation techniques; micropalaeontological analysis.

The student will take the Geography Department training course which covers research skills and techniques; research environment; research management; personal effectiveness; communication skills; networking and team-working; career management. The student will join a vibrant community of staff and students with interests in ice sheet history and sea-level changes at Durham and BGS. The supervisors will also provide tailored training: e.g. fieldwork, data analysis, oral and poster presentations, paper writing, thesis writing, compiling bibliographies, troubleshooting, interview preparation.

References & Further Reading

Bradwell, T et al. 2008. The northern sector of the last British Ice Sheet: maximum extent and demise. Earth-Science Reviews 88, 207-226.

Brooks, A J et al. 2008. Postglacial relative sea-level observations from Ireland and their role in glacial rebound modelling. Journal of Quaternary Science 23, 175-192.

Flinn, D. 1964. Coastal and submarine features around the Shetland Islands. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 75, 321-339.

Hubbard, A et al. 2009. Dynamic cycles, ice streams and their impact on the extent, chronology and deglaciation of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 758-776.

Kuchar, J et al. 2012. Evaluation of a numerical model of the British-Irish ice sheet using relative sea-level data: implications for the interpretation of trimline observations. Journal of Quaternary Science 27, 597-605.

Lambeck, K. 1993b. Glacial rebound of the British Isles. 2. A high resolution, high precision model. Geophysical Journal International 115, 960-990.

Mathers, H. 2014. The impact of the Minch palaeo-ice stream in NW Scotland. University of Glasgow, Unpublished PhD Thesis.

Mellett, C et al., 2012. Preservation of a drowned barrier complex: a landscape evolution study from the north-eastern English Channel. Marine Geology 315-318, 115-131.

Shennan, I et al. 2006. Relative sea-level changes, glacial isostatic modelling and ice-sheet reconstructions from the British Isles since the Last Glacial Maximum. Journal of Quaternary Science, 21, 585–599.

Shennan, I et al. 2012. Late Holocene vertical land motion and relative sea level changes: lesson.

How to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/ (Ref IAP-16-27)

Application deadline: 20 January 2017

Further details: available from Prof Ian Shennan, or Dr Tom Bradwell or Dr Claire Mellet

Minerals and waste
How do submarine landslides evolve in salt-withdrawal basins?

BGS Supervisor: Dr Davide Gamboa and Prof. David Tappin

University Supervisor: Dr Tiago Alves

DTP: GW4-Plus, Cardiff

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/how-submarine-landslides-evolve-in-salt-withdrawal-basins/

Submarine landslides are major hazards in underwater environments as they can generate tsunamis and, in parallel, compromise the safety and integrity of seafloor and subsurface infrastructure. Furthermore, the presence of stratigraphic and structural heterogeneities in submarine landslide deposits has the potential to change the hydrological properties of buried units, with variable impacts on subsurface fluid retention and drainage systems. Despite continued research, important questions still prevail on submarine landslide occurrence, run-out distance and their internal deformation. The classical models for landslide deposition show a continuum of deformation styles and internal structures that range from intact blocks near the headwall to completely disaggregated strata in their toe area. These models, however, are constantly under scrutiny as new data is made available to academia and industry. In addition, the spatial and temporal recurrence of submarine landslides is of great importance to assess areas that can retain and trap fluid in the subsurface. To assess these areas is relevant for underground storage and offshore carbon sequestration.

The PhD project will focus on the quantitative analysis of submarine landslides and their deformation styles. High-quality 3D seismic from the Brazilian, Australian and Norwegian margins will be used to map submarine landslides in offshore domains affected by salt tectonics (Figures 1 and 2). The geomorphological and statistical analysis of the landslides will be used to estimate, and correlate their sizes, recurrence and persistence. Specialised software will be used for the 3D reconstruction of the movement of landslides, aiming to quantify and compare the differential movement in distinct deposits. A modelling component is to be included to replicate the observations undertaken on seismic data. This approach will allow to understand which factors control the geometry of submarine landslides after they are triggered. The aim is to produce a hazard susceptibility model for submarine landslides generated in salt-withdrawal basins. The results of the project will be important to other continental slopes where confined landslides occur, such as the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa or Pacific Central American margin, and also to understand landslides’ internal character in lacustrine environments.

The project benefits from a close collaboration between the 3D Seismic Lab (Cardiff University), one of the top basin analysis research centres in Europe, and the British Geological Survey. The student will benefit from state-of-the-art interpretation resources at Cardiff, and have access to British Geological Survey’s renowned expertise on geohazard characterisation and modelling. Training courses will also be available to the successful candidate through the British Geological Survey.

References

Li, W, Alves, T M, Wu, S, Rebesco, M, Zhao, F, Mi, L, Ma, B. 2016. A giant, submarine creep zone as a precursor of large-scale slope instability offshore the Dongsha Islands (South China Sea), Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 451, 272-284.

Gamboa, D and Alves, T M. 2016. Bi-modal deformation styles in confined mass-transport deposits: Examples from a salt minibasin in SE Brazil, Marine Geology, vol. 379, 176-193.

Alves, T M. 2015. Submarine slide blocks and associated soft-sediment deformation in deep-water basins: a review, Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 67, 262-285.

Alves, T M, Cartwright, J A. 2009. Volume balance of a submarine landslide in the Espírito Santo Basin, offshore Brazil: quantifying seafloor erosion, sediment accumulation and depletion, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 288, 572-580.

How to apply: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/phd-projects/2017-projects/

Application deadline: 6th January 2017

Further details: contact are available from Dr Tiago Alves or telephone 029 208 76754.

Understanding the origin of alkaline igneous provinces and associated critical metal mineralisation: the Chilwa Alkaline Province, Malawi

BGS Supervisor: Dr Kathryn Goodenough

University Supervisor: Prof Frances Wall

DTP: GW4 Plus, University of Exeter

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/understanding-the-origin-of-alkaline-igneous-provinces-and-associated-critical-metal-mineralisation-the-chilwa-alkaline-province-malawi-2/

The Chilwa Alkaline Province (CAP), in southern Malawi, is one of the 'classic' areas of car-bonatite and alkaline magmatism. It comprises large alkaline intrusions ranging from Mlanje, at approximately 640 km2 and rising to 3000 m, to smaller intrusions and minor plugs and dykes. These intrusive centres, mainly late Jurassic, are remarkable for their lithological diver-sity, including granites, quartz syenites, syenites and trachytes, nepheline syenites and phono-lites, ijolites and nephelinites, and a plethora of dykes and carbonatites with associated fenites. They are characteristically associated with critical metals deposits, especially REE and Nb. Critical metals are essential for a range of essential environmental and digital technologies. They are difficult to substitute, and at risk of supply disruption because of their limited number of sources. Better exploration models will help diversity and secure critical metals supply.

The genesis of alkaline provinces such as the CAP is contentious, with two main controls ad-vocated: a structural control, in the lithosphere (Woolley, 1987); and a mantle plume derived control (e.g. Bell, 2001). The CAP is an example of a province considered to be emplaced through structural control in the lithosphere, with up-doming, lithospheric focussing and rifting ascribed to an early stage of the East African Rift (Woolley, 1987). However, this hypothesis is supported by geochemical analyses from only a few intrusions in the north of the province, and limited Ar-Ar and fission track data. There is no holistic model for the critical metal mineralisa-tion.

The project objective is to produce a model for the CAP that relates the processes that concen-trate the resources, especially REE, P and Nb, in certain intrusions, to the fundamental petro-genesis. Project partner, Mkango Resources, operates in Malawi and can support fieldwork to obtain samples from the poorly-studied intrusions of the southern CAP (Fig 1). The Natural History Museum (NHM) project partner will facilitate access to collections of material from the northern CAP and aid whole-rock geochemical analyses. The project will use state of the art spatially-resolved geochemical techniques. The results will be an important step in the devel-opment of a mineral deposit model for this area, which can be applied to other alkaline igneous provinces globally.

The project will run alongside two large consortia research programmes: SoS RARE (www.sosrare.org) researching mobility and concentration of REE and HiTechAlkCarb (www.carbonatites.eu) a new European level project developing exploration geomodels for al-kaline rocks and carbonatites.

References

Bell, K. 2001. Carbonatites: relationships to mantle plume activity. Pp. 267 -290 in: Mantle plumes: their identification through time (. Ernst, R E and Buchan, K L. editors). Geological So-ciety of America, Special Paper, 352.

Woolley, A R. 1987. Lithosphere metasomatism and the petrogenesis of the Chilwa Province of alkaline igneous rocks and carbonatites, Malawi. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 6, 891-898.

How to apply: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/phd-projects/2017-projects/

Application deadline: 6th January 2017

Further details: available from Prof Frances Wall telephone: 01326 371831.

Stable Isotope Centre
Changes in ice volume and ocean stratification across the Mid Pleistocene Transition: A multiproxy paleoceanographic study on the Agulhas Plateau

BGS Supervisor: Dr Sev Kender

University Supervisor: Prof Ian Hall (Cardiff University) and Prof Sidney Hemming (Columbia University).

DTP: GW4 Plus, Cardiff University

DTP project details: http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/project/changes-in-ice-volume-and-ocean-stratification-across-the-mid-pleistocene-transition-a-multiproxy-paleoceanographic-study-on-the-agulhas-plateau/

Explanations of the glacial–interglacial and millennial timescale variations in atmospheric pCO2 invoke an important role for the deep ocean in the storage of CO2. Deep-ocean density stratification has been proposed as a mechanism to promote the storage of CO2 in the deep ocean during glacial times. Little is known, however, about how ocean stratification might have evolved across much of the Pliocene–Pleistocene and therefore its potential role in regulating atmospheric pCO2.

The recent International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 361 drilled six sites on the southeast African margin and in the Indian-Atlantic ocean gateway (IAOG), southwest Indian Ocean during spring 2016 (Hall et al., 2016). This project, which will be collaborative with an international team, intends to utilise material collected during EXP 361 to provide quantitative reconstructions of water-column hydrography, dynamics, sediment provenance and relative export production in the Subantarctic Zone (SAZ) and IAOG during key intervals of climate change over the past ˜5 Ma. Will we also assess changes in the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater as a proxy for ice volume.

The project will initially focus the on the Early Middle Pleistocene Transition (EMPT; 1.4-0.4 Ma) – which marks a fundamental shift in the Earth's climate state with a progressive increase in the amplitude of glacial-interglacial oscillations and a shift towards a quasi-100 kyr frequency – to investigate (i) the extent of changes in ocean stratification during the EMPT (ii) the response of the soft-tissue biological pump to the increased iron deposition observed during the onset of the EMPT (iii) the intensity of oceanic CO2 leakage from the SAZ and (iv) these processes in the context of changes in ice volume and meridional overturning circulation on a regional and global scale. These records will then be compared to similar reconstructions across other key Pliocene glacial events, which may have been global and occurred at ˜4.9-4.8 Ma, ˜4.0 Ma, ˜3.6 Ma and ˜3.3 Ma. It is anticipate that this study will provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of the processes that resulted in lower glacial atmospheric pCO2 in the post-EMPT world.

TThe PhD project will involve a range of palaeoceanographic and geochemical techniques. The student will work within a very active and dynamic research environment and will be trained fully in laboratory techniques. The project will also involve a visit to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Columbia University, New York) for 40Ar/39Ar and K/Ar analyses. This project would suit a student with an analytical geochemistry/sedimentology background and a strong interest in Earth science and climate change. It is envisaged that the student will gain seagoing experience.

References

Hall, I R, Hemming, S R, LeVay, L J, and the Expedition 361 Scientists. 2016. Expedition 361 Preliminary Report: South African Climates (Agulhas LGM Density Profile). International Ocean Discovery Program. http://dx.doi.org/?10.14379/?iodp.pr.361.2016.

Clark, P U, Archer, D, Pollard, D, Blum, J D, Rial, J A, Brovkin, V, Mix, A C, et al. 2006. The Middle Pleistocene transition: characteristics, mechanisms, and implications for long-term changes in atmospheric pCO2. Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 3150-3184.

Ziegler, M, Diz, P, Hall, I R, Zahn, R. 2013. Millennial-scale changes in atmospheric CO2 levels linked to the Southern Ocean carbon isotope gradient and dust flux, Nature Geoscience, 6, 457-461.

Beal, L M, De Ruijter, W P M, Biastoch, A, Zahn, R Cronin, M, Hermes, J, Lutjeharms, J, Quartly, G, Tomoki, T, Baker-Yeboah, S, Bornman, T, Cipollini, P, Dijkstra, H, Hall, I R, Park, W, Peeters, F, Penven, P, Ridderinkhof, H and Zinke, J. On the role of the Agulhas system in ocean circulation and climate. Nature, 472 (7344): 429 DOI: 10.1038/nature09983 (2011).

How to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/

Application deadline: 6th January 2017

Further details: available from Prof Ian Hall Tel 00 4429 2087 5612

Holocene climate evolution in Alaska: gaining new insights from high-resolution isotope records

BGS Supervisor: Prof Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Dr Andrew Henderson and Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek (Newcastle), Prof Darrell Kaufman (Northern Arizona University) and Prof Mat Wooller, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

DTP: IAPETUS, Newcastle University

DTP project details: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/IAP-16-03-NEW-Henderson.pdf Ref IAP-16-03

Understanding the mechanisms involved in past climate variability, especially at a regional scale, is essential to assessing the dynamic nature and the trajectory of climate change. While meteorological and satellite data have improved our knowledge of the modern North Pacific climate system, regional climate responses to large-scale forcing remains poorly constrained. Documenting regional responses in the North Pacific is essential because they may be nonlinear due to complex land-ocean-atmosphere feedbacks. Such nonlinear behaviour constitutes a major source of climate "surprises" with significant socioeconomic and ecological implications. Distinct changes in moisture have already been documented during the Holocene across Alaska and the Yukon, and these have been linked to shifts in large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.

Using non-glacial lakes, the proposed studentship aims to develop a network of proxy diatom oxygen isotope records to improve our understanding of regional hydrological variability in Alaska. The student will reconstruct Holocene climate change using lake sediments recovered from the Kenai Peninsula, south Alaska and from Tanana Valley, central Alaska. This palaeoclimate work will be coupled with a modern experimental study at Lost Lake in central Alaska to gain insights into the isotope systematics of oxygen isotopes in diatoms. Together, this research will be used to address research questions over the Holocene focusing on the last two millennia, the mid-Holocene transition and the evolution of climate from the deglacial period, onset of the Holocene and the Holocene thermal maximum.

The student will develop two new high-resolution palaeoclimate records using the oxygen isotope composition of diatoms (18Odiatom) from the sediments of Paradox and Lost Lake. Both of these lakes have previously been worked on before, but not for diatom isotopes, and the their high biogenic silica abundance lends them to being suitable sites for generating oxygen isotope records that will be linked to atmospheric circulation (open basins fed by precipitation).

The motivation for this project comes from recent work that highlights the sensitivity of these and other regional lakes to seasonal changes in precipitation abundance. Southern and central Alaska has been chosen because its maritime influenced climate is sensitive to changes in the strength and location of atmospheric circulation centres, which in turn are modulated by climate variability across the North Pacific region. This project will contribute to understanding the sub-Arctic and Artic system by placing recent climate change in the context of mid-Holocene climate transitions and early Holocene climate instability of the last ˜15 ka.

How to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/

Application deadline: 20th January 2017

Further details: available from Andrew Henderson Tel: +44 (0) 191 208 3086

BGS Joint opportunities

Minerals and waste
Bubbles rising through rocky cracks

BGS Supervisor: Lorraine Field

University Supervisor: Barbara Turnbull and Matt Scase

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham

DTP project details: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/projects/002871/bubbles-rising-through-rocky-cracks

This project will explore the coalescence and break up of bubbles as they emerge through cracks in the earth's crust. This is truly interdisciplinary work, where you will define your experiments and mathematical modelling through detailed examination and characterization of rock samples, jointly supervised by the British Geological Survey.

You will be part of the ENVISION Doctoral Training programme, where you will have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of environmental scientists, geographers and natural scientists. This programme will provide training in interdisciplinary research skills and provide access to over 40 partner businesses to open your future career opportunities.

The studentship will allow you to attend the prestigious 2-week summer school 'Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment', hosted by Cambridge University and Ecole Polytechnique (Paris). This will introduce you to different perspectives in environmental science and provide support and insight as you develop your theoretical and experimental fluid mechanics skills, directly benefitting your research.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honors Degree at 2:1 level (or equivalent) in Natural Sciences, Physics, Engineering or Mathematics.

How to apply: http://www.envision-dtp.org/portal/apply.php

Application deadline: Friday 6th January, 2017

Further details: are available via the links below or from Dr Barbara Turnbull

Envision – NERC DTP led by Lancaster University: http://www.envision-dtp.org/

Funding and other information: http://www.envision-dtp.org/students/

BGS Oil and Gas opportunities

Energy systems and basins analysis
Controls on Mesozoic-Recent sediment routing in the Falkland Basins: implications for reservoir distribution in a frontier exploration setting

BGS Supervisor: David McCarthy

University Supervisor: Uisdean Nicholson, Dorrik Stow and John Underhill (heriot Watt) and David Macdonald (Aberdeen)

CDT: Oil and Gas, Heriot-Watt University

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/
2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_HWU_Nicholson_Stow.pdf

The Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous rifting and subsequent separation of South America from Africa was accommodated along the southern margin of both continents by the ˜1200 km long Agulhas-Falklands Transform-Fracture Zone. The Falklands Plateau and its various sub-basins were dominated by the tectonic evolution of the transform margin for most of the Mesozoic, until the onset of continental collision along the southern margin of the plateau at the start of the Cenozoic (Bry et al., 2004).

These evolving tectonic boundary conditions led to significant changes in the structural evolution of the sedimentary basins surrounding the Falkland Islands, including the rate of subsidence and the orientation and style of faulting and magmatic intrusions, which vary significantly across the region (Richardson and Underhill, 2002; Stone et al., 2008). This in turn had a first-order control on the generation (by erosion during thermally in-duced and tectonically driven uplift) and distribution of sediments, including the sands which now form the main reservoirs for hydrocarbons in the region. This project aims to understand the distribution and nature of reservoir sands, particularly in the Cretaceous-Early Tertiary deep-water sequences; the presence and quality of such sands is a key risk for hydrocarbon exploration in these basins. This will be done by taking a 'source-to-sink' approach: by palinspastically reconstructing the various source regions; sys-tematically evaluating existing petrographic and heavy mineral data and supplementing with new datasets where necessary; constraining the timing of rock uplift and defor-mation using geochronology and thermochronology; and seismic mapping of shelf-deepwater sedimentary systems using an extensive 2D and 3D seismic dataset cover-ing the North Falklands Basin and Falklands Plateau Basin, together with a suite of ex-ploration and development wells which will be provided by the BGS. The combined da-tasets will lead to the construction of a suite of detailed palaeogeographic maps, which can be used to aide hydrocarbon exploration in this challenging offshore environment, as well as providing an important scientific contribution to models of landscape and ba-sin evolution along this transform margin.

How to apply: https://www.hw.ac.uk/study/apply/uk/postgraduate.htm

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Lorna Morrow, School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society, Riccarton, Edinburgh. 00 44 (0)131 451 4725

Geological Uncertainty of CO2-EOR in North Sea Tertiary Oil Fields

BGS Supervisor: Martyn Quinn

University Supervisor: Masoud Babaei, Jonathan Redfern and Mads Huuse

CDT: Oil and Gas, University of Manchester

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Manchester_Babaei.pdf

Unlocking additional oil resources from the North Sea, whilst locking in greenhouse gases, is of vital importance for the UKs energy security. The most readily available future oil production from the UKCS is that which can be unlocked from existing fields by EOR using miscible CO2 injection1. Considering the lack of a framework for pure CCS projects, the only currently viable mechanism for geological carbon disposal is through CO2 EOR, providing a dual incentive to designing optimal workflows and models for CO2 EOR of existing depleted oil fields.

Two reservoirs that have been considered for potential CO2 storage through EOR in the UK Sector of the Central North Sea are the Forties and Nelson oilfields, which feature high-quality Palaeocene channel sandstone reservoirs. A detailed reservoir model has been constructed by which accounts for the lithological facies distribution of the Forties Sandstone Member dominated by channelized turbidites. Considering the initial-oil-in-place of 800 MMBO (125 x106 m3) and a recovery factor of ˜0.58 by 2016, the reservoir still contains significant quantities of oil left in-place. Modelling work indicates that the Nelson Field is not a "single tank" but more complex, producing from nine discrete drainage volumes. Of these nine cells, four have been identified to contain significant remaining "mobile" oil. As identified by previous researchers, the distribution of shale within the channel sands and defining the character and location of the channel margins are some of the main sources of uncertainty. These uncertainties can be addressed through subsurface characterization using an extensive set of well data tied with advanced seismic data including 4D.

The aim of the research is to quantify and constrain the geological uncertainties in the reservoir architecture and properties that will influence our understanding of the lithological facies distribution and compartmentalization. The PhD will assess the viability of secure sequestration of CO2, and quantify the effect of geological uncertainty on the economic case to generate additional revenue from the hydrocarbons generated. The research will assess the sensitivity for infill drilling wells to evaluate the potential of incremental oil recovery due to CO2 injection and possible related carbon sequestration benefits. CO2 injection into the reservoir will be considered by miscible oil-gas displacement modelling. The dissolution of CO2 in aqueous phase, surrounding aquifer influx, communication with the neighbouring hydrocarbon fields, and risk of leakage through the existing wells in the Nelson platform will be accounted for.

How to apply: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/admissions/how-to-apply/

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Professor Jonathan Redfern, School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester.

Integrated subsurface characterization of a basin-scale carbon reservoir target

BGS Supervisor: Margaret Stewart

University Supervisor: Mads Huuse and Jonathan Redfern

CDT: Oil and Gas, University of Manchester

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Manchester_Huuse.pdf

Carbon capture and storage is crucial for reduction of the climate impact of fossil fuel consumption and the only way for the UK to retain energy security without breaching CO2 quotas1. The Utsira sandstone is one of the largest and most widespread sand bodies in the North Sea basin and is identified as a prime target for carbon sequestration due to its large pore volume and ideal subsurface distribution some 800-1200 m beneath the North Sea2. However, its reservoir properties are relatively poorly documented and its top seal capacity to withhold a gas column over human or geological time scales is unknown beyond the immediate vicinity of the successful Sleipner CO2 injection site3. Until 2015, thousands of wells drilled in the North Sea had not encountered any hydrocarbons in the Utsira sandstone raising doubts over its top seal integrity, also questioned by recent (local) studies of seal bypass systems4 and sand injectites5 that affect both the reservoir and its topseal. Existing models for the Utsira sandstone range from deep- to shallow marine and its environment is likely to vary across the basin. The North Sea has been explored for hydrocarbons for over 50 years resulting in a vast legacy database comprising thousands of wells and almost complete 3D seismic coverage allowing unprecedented insights into both reservoir architecture and facies and overburden properties and plumbing systems providing possible pathways for fluid escape into shallower aquifers and eventually to the seabed.

This study will leverage state of the art 3D seismic technology calibrated by wells to provide the first basinwide characterization of the Utsira sandstone and its overburden in order to provide a comprehensive inventory of viable carbon injection sites and top seal risk, which will be key to successful implementation of carbon storage for both UK and Norwegian carbon sources. Generic insights regarding the links between deeper structures, reservoir architecture and overburden leakage paths will be extracted to provide insights into the formation of seal bypass systems in general. Shallow gas reservoirs will be examined to avoid misinterpreting imaging artifacts as leakage paths. The methods and insights developed will have general applicability to basin analysis, petroleum exploration and carbon storage, and will yield crucial insights to inform future policy and implementation of carbon storage strategies. in the UK and Norway.

How to apply: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/admissions/how-to-apply/

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Professor Jonathan Redfern, School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester.

Jurassic Oceanic Gateways of the North Atlantic

BGS Supervisor: Tim Pharaoh

University Supervisor: Tiago M. Alves and Stephen Hesselbo (University of Exeter)

CDT: Oil and Gas, Cardiff University

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/
2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Cardiff_Alves_Hesselbo.pdf

Jurassic rifting and breakup are still poorly understood in the North Atlantic region, particularly when considering that large swathes of NW Europe record the development of proto-oceanic gateways as early as the Late Triassic-Jurassic [1]. The first of these proto-oceanic gateways to form, and to effectively link the North and Central Atlantic regions, was the Iberia-Newfoundland gateway with its prolongation towards Ireland and the North Sea.

Following widespread evaporite deposition in the Late Triassic-earliest Jurassic, marine strata were first deposited during the Sinemurian in West Iberia. Black shales were episodically developed during the Pliensbachian-Toarcian and again during Oxfordian-Kimmeridgian. Outcrop and borehole data provide information on these periods of basinal deoxygenation in Iberia, Southern UK, and in extended areas of the Central North Sea [2]. However, an integrated analysis of the petrophysical, geochemical and stratigraphic significance of 'North Atlantic' black shale events is still to be undertaken to unravel the tectonic, climatic, and eustatic controls.

The project will use seismic, borehole and outcrop data from West Iberia, Canada, Southern UK and North Sea to investigate the conditions in which Jurassic black shales were deposited. We aim to document at seismic, borehole and outcrop scales the occurrence (and distribution) of these black shale events and to understand the main local and regional controls on their generation, and at what time and length scales these operate. The student will interpret a suite of 50+ boreholes from the region, tying stratigraphic, petrophysical and geochemical information to 2D and 3D seismic data. In parallel, field analogues from the Lusitanian (Portugal) and Wessex Basins (England) will be comprehensively studied and sampled. Data from these sites are necessary to correlate petrophysical, seismic and geochemical data at different scales, and to document the stratigraphic architecture of black shales.

Training in seismic interpretation will be provided using state-of-the-art workstations. Following a recent upgrade, Cardiff houses one of the most advanced seismic interpretation laboratories in Europe and the student will have access to leading edge computational facilities, namely Schlumberger’s Petrel®, CGG-Veritas Hampson-Russell® and IKON Rock-Doc® for petrophysical modelling and borehole analyses. IGI Ltd. will provide geochemical data and the P:IGI software.

References cited:

Hesselbo, S P. 2007. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 253, 455-470.

Pereira, R and Alves, T M. 2012. Tectonics, TC4001.

How to apply: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applying/how-to-apply/online-application-service

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Dr Tiago Alves, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University 00 44 (0)2920 876754

Microfossil records of basin evolution

BGS Supervisor: Dr Sev Kender

University Supervisor: Ian Boomer and Kirsty Edgar

CDT: Oil and Gas, University of Birmingham

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/
2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Birmingham_Boomer.pdf

The Early Jurassic of the UK is recognised as a significantly important interval of source-rock formation (e.g. Sinemurian Shales with Beef). Bottom water conditions change in response to basin evolution, (reflecting changes in depth and oxygenation) and in the most extreme cases, bottom water dysoxia can result in the deposition of organic rich sediments that may ultimately become hydrocarbon source rocks. Early Jurassic benthic microfossil assemblages (Forami-nifera, Ostracoda) reflect environmental changes at and immediately below the sediment-water interface. These groups are known to be particularly susceptible to changes in bottom water oxygenation through changes of circulation/ventilation and/or surface productivity.

The study will focus on changing abundance, diversity as well as indicators such as mor-phogroup analysis to study the response of benthic ecosystems to changes in palaeo-depth, palaeo-oxygenation and palaeo-productivity through time. The project will evaluate changes in microfossil assemblages at a number of key localities (both onshore and offshore UK) to better understand the impact of palaeoceanographic and palaeoclimatic changes on bottom-water conditions.

Events such as the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event are relatively well known and plans are advanced to re-core one of the key UK sections over this interval at Mochras, Wales (Hesselbo et al., 2013 Sci Drilling.16, 81-91, ICDP and NERC supported). It is hoped that material from the new borehole will form part of this study alongside additional offshore records of the same age from the same region (e.g. 107/21-1 St Georges Channel). There are also a number of less well known/incipient OAEs recorded from areas such as Lincolnshire (Sinemurian, Riding et al., 2013 Palaeo-3. 374, 16-27.), the Midlands and the Weald Basin which may also be incorporated into a wider, comparative study. Much of the material is already available through the BGS Core store, Keyworth.

How to apply: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/courses/apply-pg/application-guidance-notes.aspx

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Dr Tom Dunkley-Jones, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham Tel 00 44 (0)121 414 6751

Geology and regional geophysics
Fracturing and fluid-flow in an exhumed Jurassic basin: an integrated field, microstructural, geochronological and isotopic study of vein mineralisation within mudstone-dominated successions

BGS Supervisor: Dr Nick Roberts and Dr Richard Haslam

University Supervisor: Dr Jonny Imber and Prof Andy Aplin

CDT: Oil and Gas, University of Durham

CDT project details: https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/earth.sciences/postgraduate
/2017/Imber_NERC_Oil_Gas_PhD_Studentship_2017.pdf

Organic-rich mudstone successions can act as unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs, and as source rocks and/or top seals in conventional hydrocarbon plays. In each case, it is important to understand: 1) how fluids, including hydrocarbons, are either retained or expelled, and to constrain the timing of such fluid flow "events"; 2) whether fractures that could have enabled fluid movement are sealed, and the timing of this sealing; and 3) how fracturing and mineralisation relate to the burial and exhumation histories of the basin. This understanding relies on linking the relative structural and tectonostratigraphic chronologies to an absolute timescale, but to date, has been hampered by the lack of precise geochronological data. The primary aim of this PhD research project is to develop tools for the absolute chronology of fracturing, fluid-flow, burial and exhumation within sedimentary basins, primarily focusing on the application of the recently developed U-Pb calcite geochronometer (Roberts & Walker, 2016). By coupling age determinations of calcite with structural characterisation and elemental, stable and clumped isotope analyses, the student will develop detailed models that integrate evolving fluid composition and formation temperatures (e.g. John, 2015), with the timing of fracturing and faulting related to subsidence and exhumation. The student will test and apply these techniques within an exhumed and previously well-characterised, mudstone-dominated succession within the Cleveland Basin, Northern England (Imber et al., 2014). The student will undertake: 1) detailed fieldwork to establish the relative chronology and kinematics of calcite-filled faults and veins; 2) detailed microstructural characterisation of the sampled fault and vein fills, using optical, SEM- & ICP-MS-based techniques; and 3) novel U-Pb and clumped isotopic analyses. The project outcomes will be: 1) improved knowledge of hydrocarbon expulsion, retention and migration; 2) fundamental advances in applying the U-Pb geochronometer to calcite-filled structures; and 3) improved constraints on the tectonics of northern England and the Sole Pit Basin (Southern Gas Basin). The student will be registered at Durham University, co-hosted by the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory (BGS Keyworth) and will collaborate with the Carbonate Research Group at Imperial College London.

How to apply: https://banss.dur.ac.uk/blive_ssb/bwskalog.P_DispLoginNon

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Professor Andy Aplin, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham tel 00 44 (0)191 334 3223

Structural, stratigraphic and geodynamic controls on the evolution of the Carboniferous succession of northern England and southern Scotland

BGS Supervisor:

University Supervisor:

CDT: Oil and Gas, Keele University

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/
2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Keele_Egan.pdf

The structural and geodynamic processes that have controlled the evolution of the Carboniferous basin system of northern England and southern Scotland, as well as interactions with the neighbouring North Sea, are very poorly understood. As a consequence, correlations of sedimentary fill, and sequence stratigraphical controls upon them, remain elusive. The main aim of this project will be to apply and further develop 3D lithosphere-scale tectonic modelling techniques in order to determine the interplay of geological and geodynamic processes that have controlled the evolution of the Carboniferous succession within the Northumberland Trough, Solway Basin, Stainmore Trough, Vale of Eden Basin and Midland Valley, as well as their offshore extensions and intervening areas of relative uplift such as the Alston Block, which contain large granitic intrusions within the pre-Carboniferous basement. The models will be constrained by regional-scale cross-sections constructed from the BGS database and the public domain, with selected profiles sequentially restored to provide a “snapshot” of structural and stratigraphical architecture during the Carboniferous Period. Further constraint will be provided by the wealth of subsurface mining-related sedimentary data, combined with the field acquisition of structural data. The study will provide insights into the importance of deep processes, such as depth-dependent extension, and how they interact with basin-controlling processes, such as bathymetry and sedimentary infill, within intra-continental, 'basin and block' settings. In particular, model results will provide insights into the development of accommodation space through time in response to sea level, tectonics and sediment supply, providing a structural and geodynamic framework for the sequence stratigraphical interpretation of the Carboniferous succession within this relatively poorly understood basin system.

How to apply: https://www.keele.ac.uk/pgapply/

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Dr Stuart Clarke, Geology, Geography and the Environment, Keele University. Tel 00 44 (0)1782 733171

The reservoir potential of submarine slide blocks and associated deposits

BGS Supervisor: Davide Gamboa

University Supervisor: Tiago M. Alves

CDT: Oil and Gas, Cardiff University

CDT project details: http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/images/documents/
2017/projects/NERC_CDT_2017_Cardiff_Alves_Gamboa.pdf

Submarine slide blocks reflect periods of intense tectonism on continental margins, and comprise a drilling hazard when occurring in units where hydrocarbons accumulate. They are generated during major instability events in a variety of geological settings and their size exceeds that of boulders, which are <4.1 m. In practice, slide blocks can be >500 m high by >4.5 km long on a number of continental margins, presenting internal folding, thrusting and rolling over basal breccia-conglomerate carpets [1]. Strata containing slide blocks can comprise prolific reservoirs for oil and gas. However, no systematic characterisations of the structural styles and morphology of slide blocks, and associated successions, have been undertaken, thus creating a gap in knowledge. This gap needs to be addressed at a time when hydrocarbon exploration is moving to deep-water areas of continental margins, where slide blocks and mass-transport deposits are ubiquitous [2].

This project will use high-quality 3D seismic data and borehole data from SE Brazil, North Sea, Barents Sea and NW Australia to document the internal compartmentalisation and distribution of slide blocks in distinct geological settings. Emphasis will be given to the interpretation of fluid flow features, and magmatic intrusions, associated with the main periods of slide-block formation and deposition. Using 3D Stress©, the prospective student will model fluid flow paths in fractured blocks, documenting the regions where fluid accumulations are more likely to occur. Field analogues from SE Crete will be used to document depositional facies variations in slope successions rich in slide blocks. In summary, this project aims to:

  1. Document the internal structure of submarine slide blocks, and 3D seismic character of different deformation styles.
  2. Identify the type(s) and timing(s) of faults in blocks, relating them with specific stages of movement and fluid migration in sedimentary basins.
  3. Quantify differential compaction using novel 3D seismic interpretation methods, documenting the main control(s) on the formation of stratigraphic and structural traps above slide blocks.

[1] Alves, T M. 2015. Marine and Petroleum Geology 67: 262-285.

[2] Kvalstad et al. 2005. Marine and Petroleum Geology 22: 245-256.

How to apply: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applying/how-to-apply/online-application-service

Application deadline: usually 31 January, check with the institute you are applying to.

Further information: available from Dr Tiago Alves, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University tel 00 44 (0)2920 876754