University of St Andrews

PhD Funding Opportunities

For a complete list of current funding opportunities please see the database maintained by the University’s Fees and Funding Team.

Enquiries from self-funding students are welcome. Information on tuition fees and other costs of studying at St Andrews can be found on the University’s Fees and Funding page.

Details of any funding opportunities that are especially suitable for Geography/Sustainable Development students will also be posted below as they arise.

 Please select from the list below:

Fully Funded (3.5 years) PhD project available

Title: A national inventory of sedimentary Blue Carbon for Scotland, UK

Funding: MASTS CASE award with funding from Marine Scotland + University of St Andrews

Supervisors: Professor William Austin (University of St Andrews), Dr Ian Davies (Marine Scotland Science), Professor John Baxter (Scottish Natural Heritage), Dr John Howe (Scottish Association for Marine Science), Dr Sophie Green (British Geological Survey).

Eligibility and funding amount: UK/EU students are eligible to apply for full funding. Successful candidates will receive an annual stipend in line with RC-UK rates, and payment of their (UK/EU) tuition fees. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of academic quality and research promise.

Application deadline: Friday 27th January, 2017.

Background

Blue Carbon is defined by Nelleman et al (2009) as carbon stored and sequestered in coastal and marine ecosystems, including tidal and estuarine salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests. For the purposes of this study, this definition has been extended to include the geological substrate (sediments) on which the marine ecosystem has developed. The rate at which carbon is sequestered by natural systems is a critical factor in mitigating anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion as is a proper understanding of the Blue Carbon stocks themselves. Previous studies (Burrows et al 2014) have identified that up to 7.7 Mt C is sequestered in the 470,000 km2 across Scotland’s seas. However, Burrows et al (2014) acknowledged that their assessment of sedimentary Blue Carbon was likely a significant underestimate (Burrows et al., 2016) and our work has recently demonstrated that previously unrecognized, yet significant stocks of carbon exist in the coastal ocean (Smeaton et al., 2016).

The objectives of this research are: (1) To establish the first, first-order sedimentary Blue Carbon inventory of Scotland’s territorial waters. (2) To evaluate the long-term development of this significant Blue Carbon store and to assess its potential significance, including a ‘mind the gap’ approach that will inform future research priorities. (3) To evaluate the relative proportion of organic and inorganic carbon sequestration in Scotland’s offshore sediments. (4) To identify vulnerabilities in the Blue Carbon sequestration potential of Scotland’s offshore sediments due to changing environmental conditions.

Project aims and outputs

The main aim of this project is to produce the first quantitative assessment of Sedimentary Blue Carbon stocks in Scottish territorial waters, developing a new collaborative effort with Scottish Government through a funding partnership with Marine Scotland Science. The project will extend work which was led by Professor Mike Burrows (SAMS) to assess Blue Carbon resources in Scotland’s inshore Marine Protected Area Network (a collaboration with SNH, including William Austin (St Andrews/SAMS) and NERC-funded PhD student Craig Smeaton (St Andrews)). We will work with Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Geological Survey (and potentially the International Union for Conservation of Nature) to deliver a comprehensive assessment of these stocks.

With this new understanding of the scale and geographical/temporal pattern of Blue Carbon storage in our shelf seas, the project will develop a new framework within which advice on the role of Blue Carbon can be extended beyond the coastal ecosystems in order to provide new understanding of these important carbon sinks and stores and a more systematic assessment of the whole system. Our ultimate aim is to contribute new evidence that will have policy resonance with the Scottish Government and that will help Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage, British Geological Survey and others to deliver effective advice on the threats to Scotland’s Blue Carbon resources. Such advice will offer the potential for global signalling of the value of sedimentary Blue Carbon resources.

Research Training: in sediment analysis and geophysical interpretation methods will be integral to the project and will include close collaborative links with SNH and the BGS. Laboratory based training in sedimentology, geochronology and spatial analysis will be an important element of the project to build the first sedimentary Blue Carbon inventory for Scottish territorial waters. There is significant scope to work with colleagues at Scottish Natural Heritage in developing policy-relevant advice in, for example, the assessment of vulnerable Blue Carbon stocks. You will be a member of the MASTS Graduate School and will also be eligible to participate as an affiliate member of the SAGES Graduate School.

Application Enquiries: For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Bill Austin, University of St Andrews or visit our Postgraduate Opportunities page.

Application Process: All interested applicants should submit (1) a cover letter outlining their interest in the project and relevant skill-sets, and (2) a full CV. Please send these to Mrs Helen Olaez by no later than 27th January 2017.

 

PhD studentship opportunity 1

Title: Source to sink: long-term catchment dynamics and carbon sequestration in the coastal ocean

In collaboration with the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society we invite applications for the following project from which the two strongest candidates will be selected for interview.

Supervisors: Dr Althea Davies (University of St Andrews), Dr Dmitri Mauquoy (University of Aberdeen), Professor William Austin (University of St Andrews), Dr John Howe (Scottish Association for Marine Science)

Funding: Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society / University of St Andrews

Outline: Recent evidence highlights the importance of the coastal ocean as a reservoir for ‘blue carbon’, notably carbon lost from terrestrial sources (Smeaton et al. 2016). In contrast with progress made in understanding land-use and climate impacts on terrestrial carbon, trends and drivers of carbon dynamics at the land-sea interface remain poorly understood. A clearer understanding of these dynamics and the potential for coastal sequestration to offset terrestrial carbon losses is needed to formulate integrated catchment management policy and strategy. The aim of this project is to develop a catchment-scale understanding of the long-term relationship between terrestrial and coastal marine carbon accumulation rates, including responses to climate, land-use and vegetation cover change. The research will be conducted in three land-fjord catchments on the Atlantic coast of Scotland, focusing on the last millennium. The research objectives are to: (1) characterise recent coastal catchment histories using land cover data and sedimentary records as a baseline for interpreting longer-term variability; (2) examine isotopic signatures in sea loch sediment cores to understand carbon provenance; (3) develop improved chronologies for coastal carbon deposition; (4) characterise carbon accumulation and land-use/cover shifts in terrestrial sediment cores using palaeoecological techniques for comparison with coastal carbon dynamics; and (5) develop Bayesian models of climate/land cover/carbon interactions over time in terrestrial-coastal sedimentary systems. Research skills and training in field sampling, sediment analysis, palaeoecological proxies and modelling will be integral to the project.

Eligibility & funding amount: UK/EU students are eligible to apply for full funding. Successful candidates will receive an annual stipend in line with RC-UK rates, and payment of their (UK/EU) tuition fees.

How to apply: We invite applicants with a suitable undergraduate and/or Masters degree, equipped with skills in physical geography, environmental or palaeoenvironmental science, to apply. Applicants should send a CV (including details of two referees) and a covering letter outlining their interest in the project and relevant skill-sets to Mrs Helen Olaez by 10 February 2017. The two strongest candidates will be selected for interview, with interviews to be held in Edinburgh from 21-24 February. For informal enquiries, contact Dr Althea Davies.

 

PhD studentship opportunity 2

Title: The role of ice mélange in ice sheet – ocean interaction

Supervisors: Dr Tom Cowton(University of St Andrews), Prof Peter Nienow (University of Edinburgh), Dr Finlo Cottier(Scottish Association for Marine Science), Dr Andrew Sole(University of Sheffield)

Funding: Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society in collaboration with the University of St Andrews

Eligibility and funding amount: UK/EU students are eligible to apply for full funding. Successful candidates will receive an annual stipend in line with RC-UK rates, and payment of their (UK/EU) tuition fees. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of academic quality and research promise.

Background: Mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has increased rapidly in recent years, in part due to the dramatic retreat, thinning and acceleration of marine-terminating outlet glaciers. A leading hypothesis is that this behaviour has been caused by increased submarine melting at the calving fronts of these glaciers, driven by ocean warming. In turn, increased discharge of meltwater and icebergs affects ocean circulation, ecosystems and shipping hazards. It is thus crucial that we understand processes occurring at the interface between the ice sheet and the ocean. An overlooked feature of this environment is the ice mélange, a matrix of icebergs and sea ice that can choke the inner reaches of fjords. Having calved from the ice sheet, icebergs melt as they pass slowly through this mélange, inputting vast quantities of freshwater into the fjord. Estimates of submarine melt rates at Greenland’s glaciers may therefore be exaggerated, with much of the meltwater present in fjords instead originating from iceberg melt. Furthermore, this melting means that estimates of iceberg and meltwater output from marine-terminating glaciers may be a poor representation of the true quantities leaving fjords and entering the ocean. In this way, the effects of the ocean on the ice sheet and the ice sheet on the ocean may both be misrepresented at present.

Project outline: This project will explore these issues in three parts. Firstly, modifications will be made to the MIT General Circulation Model (MITgcm) to allow the submarine melting of ice mélange to be modelled. The modelled rate and distribution of mélange melting will then be compared to that inferred from remote sensing, improving understanding of controls on and thus prediction of melt rates in a wider range of fjords and under various warming scenarios. Finally, model results will be used to assess the effect of ice mélange melting on existing estimates of submarine melt rate at Greenland’s outlet glaciers. Combined, these objectives will provide a greatly improved understanding of the controls on and rates of submarine melting (both of the mélange and glacier calving fronts) and the role of fjord processes in modifying the proportion of icebergs and meltwater exported to the shelf.

How to apply: In collaboration with the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society, we invite applicants with a suitable undergraduate and/or Masters degree equipped with quantitative skills in earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, engineering, physics or mathematics. Experience with computer models would be advantageous. The two best candidates will be selected for interview. The deadline for applications is 10 February 2017 with interviews for candidates in Edinburgh between 21st - 24th February. Applicants should send a CV (including details of two referees) and a covering letter outlining your interest in the project and relevant skill-sets to Mrs Helen Olaez. Please send informal enquiries to Dr Tom Cowton.