Ocean eyes: novel optical measurements of trace elements in shelf seas

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 doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk.

Project description

The availability of iron can severely limit phytoplankton growth and alter the ecological structure and carbon fluxes of vast ocean regions. Due to the integration of Fe in cellular functions and its particle reactivity, its primary transport is tightly coupled to particle fluxes through the ocean. These particles are often lithogenic in origin (e.g. silts) or biogenic carbon-based (e.g. cells, detritus). 

Despite the importance of marine particles, relatively little is known of their elemental composition. Analysis involving discrete sampling is low resolution and expensive, meaning in situ sensor analysis is highly desirable. Hence, the overall aim of this studentship is to investigate optical and spectroscopic properties of suspended marine particles as proxies for elemental concentrations. 

The project will specifically address the question of whether remote monitoring systems all across the globe (e.g. float networks, buoys and autonomous vehicles) can estimate particulate iron concentrations. The Plymouth trace metal labs have some of the few data for marine particle analysis for ocean provinces in the world. 

This PhD studentship will involve a comprehensive laboratory and field training in trace metal techniques (including mass spectrometry) and spectroscopic analyses at the University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and University of Leeds. It will involve laboratory investigations, marine field surveys at the Western Channel Observatory (WCO) and working with time series measurements in the Atlantic Ocean (Bermuda). You will also use past and current sensor and satellite observations to investigate the potential for mapping particulate element concentrations using the optical and spectroscopic proxies.

Eligibility and funding 

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant masters qualification. 

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 simon.ussher@plymouth.ac.uk.

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

For more information on the admissions process contact doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk.

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.