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PhD, AMOC - Bonn, Germany

PhD, AMOC - Bonn, Germany

Bonn (18 months, then St Andrews, UK), Germany
Duration of award
Up to 3.5 years. The student will be expected to spend approximately the first half (21 months) of the award term at the University of Bonn and the second half (21 months) at the University of St Andrews. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.

Value of award
The funding comprises a scholarship equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend for a period of up to 3.5 years. It is expected that the student will spend half of the scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn:

For the period spent at the University of St Andrews, the scholarship will comprise a full fees award and a stipend paid at the current UK Research Council rate (£17,668 each year in 2022–2023).
For the period spent at the University of Bonn, the scholarship will comprise a monthly maintenance grant of €1,500. The University of Bonn does not charge any tuition fees, but students must pay a so-called social contribution once per semester (currently €315 per semester).
A new proxy for ocean circulation and its impact on rapid climate change Project description

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) plays a fundamental role in transporting heat from the tropics to NW Europe. The finding that AMOC can rapidly weaken, resulting in major cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, remains one of the most fascinating yet enigmatic results in the study of past climates, with critical lessons for our rapidly warming world. The potential impacts of a future shutdown in Atlantic overturning are closely informed by these changes in the past, as recently highlighted in the IPCC’s AR6. However, despite its critical importance, our ability to reconstruct past changes in ocean circulation remains rudimentary.
To advance our understanding of changing ocean circulation and its impact on the carbon cycle and climate, we need new ways of reconstructing past ocean circulation. In this project we will develop a brand-new circulation proxy, based on redox sensitive elements in fossil foraminifera shells, which can vary based on the strength of the circulation. Preliminary data highlight the potential to obtain a remarkably clean and coherent record of change of overturning circulation over rapid millennial climate change events, supporting the use of this novel proxy.
This PhD project will use both new geochemical measurements and novel modelling approaches to probe the potential of this proxy for ocean circulation.
A first step will be the creation of a test dataset in modern samples. Sites have been chosen to span a wide range of current speeds and sedimentary redox conditions and have nearby geochemical measurements in bottom waters. The student may also have the option to supplement these data by participation in a research cruise. In parallel, we will compare these redox sensitive elements in sediments with additional elements (e.g. Si, Al, K) that we predict will undergo some shared and some distinctive sedimentary processes. This, alongside sequential leaching and in situ analyses of foraminiferal shells, will allow us to better constrain the processes leading to enrichment of redox sensitive elements in shells.
To build a quantitative understanding of the operation and limitations of the proxy, the project will then examine the controls on redox sensitive elements in a sediment biogeochemistry model. This is a well-established tool for the examination of sedimentary element cycling and will be expanded to incorporate novel elements. Having established a robust framework of understanding, we will then apply this exciting new tool to address fundamental questions about the control of ocean circulation on CO₂ and climate. An initial target will be the rapid climate and CO₂ change events of the last ice age, although there will be flexibility to pursue topics of greatest interest to the successful student.
Very good Bachelor's, ideally Master's degree, in Geology, Geosciences, Environmental Sciences or a related discipline. Interest in paleo-environmental research, geochemical lab work, scientific writing and presenting, and collaboration within an international team. Previous experience with geochemical data and/or laboratory analyses is an advantage.

Language requirements
Good English skills in speaking and writing. Knowledge of German is a "personal advantage" for this post, but will not be considered in the selection process.

Geographical criteria
No restrictions.

Domicile for fee status
No restrictions.

Level of study
Postgraduate Research (Doctoral).

Year of entry
2023–2024 academic year.

The successful student will initially spend 18 months at Bonn, where they will work with Professor März as part of the Environmental Geology group. The student will work on compilation and examination of sediment core, pore water, and seawater data. They will also initiate work with the sedimentary redox model to examine mechanistic controls on redox elements in sediments.

The student will then move to St Andrews, to take advantage of the state-of-the-art laboratory facilities in Rae’s and Burke’s research groups that will allow them to make new analyses to test hypotheses emerging from their modelling. With improved understanding of the fundamentals of the proxy, they will then make analyses on sediment cores spanning the rapid climate change events of the last ice age, to better understand the critical role of ocean circulation.

It is expected that the student will begin the degree at the University of Bonn. The student may start their degree at any point in the academic year 2023-2024 prior to a final entry date of May 27, 2024 subject to agreement with the supervisory team.
Applicants should submit their application to the co-supervisors by March 31, 2023. Please send your application to Dr James Rae and Dr Andrea Burke (St Andrews) and Professor März (Bonn) at the following email addresses:

Dr James Rae:
Dr Andrea Burke:
Professor März:

Your application should include the following:

Statement why you are the right candidate for the project (max. 800 words)
References(s) - CONTACT INFO FOR REFEREES (important to avoid having them submit the references themselves)
Other (please specify): Academic transcript

Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for this Global PhD Scholarship St Andrews and Bonn (reference Rae-Burke-Maerz).

Terms and conditions

Please read the University of St Andrews scholarships terms and conditions. These are applicable during the St Andrews duration of the award; please consult the partner institution for their terms and conditions relating to scholarships.
Application deadline
Further information
The project will be managed jointly between the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at St Andrews and the Institute for Geosciences at Bonn. The student will be supervised by Dr James Rae and Dr Andrea Burke (St Andrews) and Prof. Dr. Christian März (Bonn).
Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to the co-supervisors:
• Dr James Rae:
• Dr Andrea Burke:
• Professor Christian März:
For further information, please visit Joint Doctoral Program St Andrews and Bonn and Global Doctoral Scholarships – St Andrews and Bonn.
Contact email
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