Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.


PhD, Palaeoclimatology - Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Duration: 3.5 years funded by NERC
Start date: October 2023
Workplace: Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University
Principal supervisor: Vasile Ersek
Studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees, an annual living allowance (£17,668) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).
Project title: A detailed climatic context for the growth and decay of Cretan Civilisations

Project Description: The degree to which ancient civilisations have been affected by climate changes is hotly debated. Many ancient societies were resilient to climate changes and the causal link between societal collapse and climate change often remains obscure. Associations between climate change and collapse of civilisations have been proposed in many parts of the world, including the Yucatan Peninsula, the Middle East, the Indus Valley and the Eastern Mediterranean. However, such links have often been made based on palaeoclimate reconstructions with large chronological uncertainties or using low-resolution records. The island of Crete is the site of the oldest European civilisation, the Minoans. It also has a rich history of subsequent cultures, including Dorian, Mycenaean, classical Greek, Roman, Venetian and Ottoman. The island has a complex mountainous topography and a spatially heterogeneous climate. Recent palaeoclimate records from Crete document significant climate changes during the last 10,000 years and suggest that humans have played a dominant role in shaping the ecosystem of this region. But there is still a need for well-dated, high-resolution, spatially distributed palaeoclimatic records from Crete. With such records we will be able to constrain the seasonal to decadal-scale extreme climate events (droughts, wildfires) that are more likely to have impacted human societies. Speleothems grow in caves close to sites of human occupation and in Crete have a wide altitudinal and longitudinal distribution, allowing for a robust characterisation of Crete’s microclimates. They can be dated accurately and precisely with U-series dating, and several geochemical proxies (e.g. oxygen and carbon isotopes, trace elements, clumped isotopes) can be used to derive a wide range of paleoenvironmental information. This project will focus on producing high-resolution, well-dated climate records using speleothems from Crete and you will synthesise the existing climatic and archaeological data for the island. You will also take part in field expeditions to collect additional materials and you will set up a cave monitoring programme to understand how the climate signal is transmitted from the surface to the cave environments. You will be trained in state-of-the-art geochemical techniques and you will work with earth scientists and archaeologists from University of Birmingham, University of York, University of Patras, and the Heraklion Ephorate of Antiquities. You will receive training in getting papers published, writing grant applications, and conference presentations. There will also be opportunities for undergraduate teaching and research supervision.
Geochemical analyses of speleothems
MSc or BSc in Earth Sciences or related disciplines
To apply please go to and select October 2023. In the application, please mention project code OP2321.

You will be part of the OnePlanet Doctoral Training Partnership. For more information please see:
Further information
Vasile Ersek,
Contact email