Investigating the impact of explosive volcanism on the carbon cycle and life in the deep biosphere

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start 1 October 2021


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Environmental Sciences, then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.

For more information on the admissions process please contact

Project description

Preservation of organic carbon (OC) in marine sediments plays a major role in modulating Earth’s climate. Volcanic eruptions eject large amounts of products (tephra) into the atmosphere, much of which falls into the oceans, settles to the seafloor and undergoes rapid reaction with seawater. These reactions enhance OC preservation by up to 10%, making their contribution to the marine carbon cycle significant. Nutrients supplied by volcanic ash have been linked with increased primary productivity in the oceans, influencing marine OC burial in the modern day and throughout periods of climatic upheaval such as the Cretaceous Period, demonstrating the importance of volcanic ash throughout Earth’s history. Tephra can also be an energy source for distinct microbiological communities, making the study of tephra also important in understanding how life thrives in extreme environments. 

In this multidisciplinary project, you will investigate the role of explosive volcanism in modulating the marine carbon cycle using International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) samples from a range of global locations, including the Nankai Trough, Japan and northern Hikurangi margin, New Zealand. You will also explore tephra’s potential as a habitat for distinct microbial life in the marine realm. This will directly impact our understanding of the marine carbon cycle and life in extreme environments. 

Training will include organic, inorganic, microbiological and microscopic methods, as well as transferrable skills such as scientific communication skills. Analyses will be performed across all named institutions depending on supervisor expertise and all supervisors will be involved in data handling and discussion.

Eligibility and funding 

Applicants should have at least a 2:1 bachelor/master’s degree in Chemistry, Environmental Science, Oceanography, or a related subject, and preferably research experience in environmental geochemistry/a related field. 

The studentship is supported for three years and includes full home tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,609 per annum (2021/22 rate). The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover international fees will have to cover the difference between the home and the international tuition fee rates (approximately £12,697 per annum). 

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Hayley Manners ( 

Please see a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process contact

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 26 May 2021. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in early June. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 9 June should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.