Deciphering submarine slope processes in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Deciphering submarine slope processes in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Director of Studies: Dr Jenny Gales

Second Supervisor: Dr Phil Hosegood

Third Supervisor: Professor Tony Morris

Additional Supervisors: Dr Laura De Santis (OGS, Italy)

                                          Dr Michele Rebesco (OGS, Italy)

Project description

The need to substantially improve knowledge about the future behaviour of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has taken on a new urgency with rates of ice loss doubling in recent years around Antarctica (McMillan et al., 2014). Determining the signature of past slope processes (e.g. debris flows, turbidity currents, down-slope currents, along-slope currents, mass wasting) (e.g. Gales et al., 2014) provides huge potential for understanding how ocean and climate circulation changed in the past and may provide important clues as to how they may change in the near future; and what effects this may have on ice retreat and sea-level rise.

This project will examine an exceptional multidisciplinary dataset including geomorphological, geophysical, geological and oceanographic evidence of past and present slope processes on the Eastern Ross Sea continental slope. Data includes new multibeam swath bathymetry, sub-bottom profiles, seismic data and oceanographic data collected in 2017 and sediment cores collected during the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 374 in 2018.

The signature of past slope processes are visible in newly collected seismic data along the shelf edge of the Ross Sea margin. This includes buried palaeo-gullies and channels at the shelf edge. This project aims to link these features through seismic-sediment core integration to understand when gullies and channels were active, the processes influencing their formation, and the triggering mechanisms behind the processes. The project will include grain size analysis using a laser particle size analyzer, sediment core and geotechnical analysis and integration with oceanographic and geophysical datasets. This will provide key insights into past ocean circulation, ice-sheet dynamics and climate change, critical for future ice-sheet and sea-level predictions.

Gales, J., et al., 2014. Marine Geology 337, 112-124.

McMillan, M., et al., 2014. GRL 14, 3899.


Applicants should have a minimum of a first class or upper second class bachelor degree. Applications from candidates with a relevant masters qualification will be welcomed.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Jenny Gales.  However, application must be made in accordance with the details below.


The studentship will have a three year duration and will cover full-time Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,777 per annum. The studentship will only fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between Home/EU and overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £10,350 per annum).

General information about applying for a research degree at the University is available at: 

You can apply via the online application form which can be found at: and select ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Miss Aimee McNeillie and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences.

For more information on the admissions process contact Aimee McNeillie.

Closing date for applications: 12 noon, 06 April 2018.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in early May. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 May 2018 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.