Funded Studentship School of Environmental Sciences

Shelf-sea Gross and Net Production Estimates from Triple Oxygen Isotopes and Oxygen-argon Ratios in Relation to Phytoplankton Physiology

Deadline: 17th May 2013. This studentship is available for a 1st October 2013 start.

Supervisory Team: Primary: Dr Jan Kaiser

The Project:

Shelf-seas support up to one fifth of global primary productivity and thus help sustain fisheries and regulate global climate by taking up carbon dioxide (CO2). This CO2 uptake function is dubbed the ‘shelf-sea carbon pump’, which is at the heart of NERC’s £6 million-Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry (SSB) research programme. This PhD project will be embedded within the SSB programme and make direct contributions to key research questions, such as the magnitude of the current annual exchange of carbon between UK/European shelf seas, the atmosphere, and the open ocean as well as physical and biogeochemical controls on shelf primary production, from the local to the shelf sea scale.


In particular, you will measure net production (N) based on underway measurements of oxygen/argon concentration ratios to constrain the biological component of the shelf-sea pump. This technique together with gross production (G) measurements based on triple oxygen isotope ratios of dissolved oxygen have emerged as alternative biogeochemical approaches to traditional bottle incubations. These biogeochemical methods provide rates at unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution, are less laborious and the derived rates are free from errors caused by increased mortality or exclusion of grazers due to enclosure of the sample.

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This project will involve shipboard membrane inlet mass spectrometry and triple oxygen isotope ratio analyses in discrete samples, combined with estimates of air-sea exchange using satellite remote sensing. The triple oxygen isotope-based gross production estimates, G(17O), will be compared with G estimated from fast repetition rate fluorescence, G(FRRF). The project will also explore whether differences found in previous G(FRRF) and G(17O) comparisons can be reduced by using recent advances in protocols for the interpretation of FRRF data.


We seek a student with good laboratory, practical and technical skills. You are expected be fit and able to join two research cruises of at least 4 weeks’ duration each. Experience in the use of modern mass spectrometry, marine optical techniques and remote sensing is desirable, but not essential. Visits to partner labs Cefas (Lowestoft), University of Essex and Plymouth Marine Laboratory will be integrated into the project. You will participate in regular SSB meeting and attend national and international conferences to present your results. You will be enrolled in the UEA Science Graduate School and acquire transferable skills in IT, management and communications, while participating in research of global significance.

Entry Requirements:

A first or upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences, Environmental Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geology, Agricultural Sciences, Oceanography or other suitable science disciplines.

Funding is available to UK/EU applicants, and will cover the full cost of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, as well as a Research and Training Support Grant of £10,762.

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Making Your Application:

Please apply via the University’s online application system.

To discuss the application process or particular projects, please contact the: Admissions Office, email: or telephone +44 (0)1603 591709.


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