Rainfall intensity reconstruction from past greenhouse worlds via microbes in peat bogs

Project title: Rainfall intensity reconstruction from past greenhouse worlds via microbes in peat bogs

Director of Studies: Dr Sabine K Lengger 

2nd Supervisor: Professor Simon Belt 

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2018.

Project description

Scientific background

The recent rise in extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods, is likely linked to the increase in global temperatures. To prepare, create mitigation strategies, and assess economic and infrastructural risks, we thus must understand the link between global warming and the strength and frequency of precipitation. This can be achieved by studying past warm worlds using molecular organic remains of microorganisms and plants in geological samples (molecular fossils). Proportions of deuterium and hydrogen atoms (δD values) of precipitation water are typical for precipitation regimes (storm vs drizzle). Organisms using this water transfer this signature into their molecules, where it can be preserved for millions of years. The δD values of molecular fossils can thus provide information about the hydrology of past worlds. In your project, you will study this relationship in modern peatbogs, and apply this knowledge to fossilised peat to better understand the hydrology of past warm worlds.

Your project

You will plan, and conduct fieldwork, collect and analyse water and peat samples, and geological samples from collaborators, using chemical techniques; and receive appropriate training. You will use GC/LC with (isotope ratio-) mass spectrometry; and with collaborators at Bristol University. You will relate δD values of lipid biomarkers to hydrological conditions in the present; apply this knowledge to interpret results from geological samples from past warm worlds; and present your work at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

You …

… are a motivated chemistry (interested in earth and environment), earth/environmental science, or physical geography graduate.


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

The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,553 per annum. The studentship will fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between Home/EU and overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £10,350 per annum).

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

General information about applying for a research degree at Plymouth University is available at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/your-studies/research-degrees/applicants-and-enquirers

Please apply via the online application form which can be found at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/study/postgraduate and select 'Apply'.

Please mark FAO Sharon Healy and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process please contact Sharon Healy.

The closing date for applications is 12 noon, 28 February, 2018. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview week beginning 19 March. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer by 30 March should consider their application has been unsuccessful.