PhD Studentship: Variability of the western inflow routes of atlantic water into the northern north sea

Deadline: 6 January 2014 

Start Date: October 2014.

Supervisory Team: Professor Karen Heywood, Email:

The Project:

This project will use novel oceanographic techniques (ocean gliders, high frequency radar) alongside current meters, drifters, and ship based measurements to determine how and why the Atlantic inflow into the North Sea (NS) Varies. Variability in the inflows is hypothesised to cause NS regime shifts/ecosystem changes. The East Shetland Atlantic inflow and the Fair Isle Current (FIC) join the cyclonic residual circulation that dominates the region. Despite the recognised importance of these processes, little research has been done on the stability and variability of the inflows, and their forcing mechanisms.

In late 2013, MSS is running a High Frequency (HF) Radar demonstration project in the Fair Isle Gap. UEA deployed a Seaglider for nearly 2 months providing >2500 temperature and salinity profiles and depth-averaged current within the radar footprint. These observations and regional models will allow the first comprehensive understanding of the variability of Atlantic inflows and the processes driving them.

You will address these research questions:

  • Can we estimate the mean FIC transport into the NS and its seasonal interannual variability from existing data and/or from models alone?
  • Is the FIC largely density-driven in the summer and wind-driven in winter?
  • How spatially variable is the FIC? What mechanisms affect variability (bathymetry, density, seasonal fronts, wind forcing, etc)?
  • How do HF radar current measurements compare with other observations and model output?

This is a CASE studentship with Marine Scotland Science (MSS) in Aberdeen, where you will spend several months each year working with your supervisors. You will benefit from working with a team of 4 supervisors: Karen Heywood and Rob Hall (UEA) and Alejandro Gallego and Bee Berx (MSS). You will learn about Seaglider deployment, piloting and data analysis, seagoing oceanography and numerical modelling techniques. We expect you to participate in research voyages and Seaglider campaigns.

This project will be linked to our new Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), a collaboration between the Universities of East Anglia, Kent and Essex and 9 other core partners. This will support over 60 PhD students in the EnvEast DTP in research in the environmental, earth, ecological sciences. You will join a vibrant research community of other PhD research students from the UK and across the globe studying in the same or similar areas. The partnership draws together relevant expertise from a complementary set of research organisations to train scientists capable of making outstanding contributions to their discipline and able to apply their knowledge to the challenges facing the UK economy, the quality of life for its citizens, and the state of the global environment.

Entry Requirements:

A first degree (2.1) in Physics, Maths, Meteorology, Oceanography, Natural Sciences or Environmental Sciences.


This is a NERC Industrial Case studentship with Marine Scotland Science as the industrial partner and is funded for 4 years. The successful candidate will receive an annual stipend of £13,726. Please refer to the NERC website for full details of eligibility

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

To apply, please click on the ‘Apply’ button below.

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