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NERC studentship and Royal Holloway Reid Research Scholarship

Posted on 02/02/2012

We are pleased to announce the Geography Department has been awarded one NERC studentship, plus one Royal Holloway Reid Research Scholarship, both to begin in October 2012. The deadline for applications for the NERC studentship is 22nd February, 2012, whilst applications will remain open for the Reid until the 9th March, 2012.

If you would like to apply, please follow the on-line application link from the college website: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/studyhere/researchdegrees/applying/home.aspx

For further details of the Reid Sholarship please follow this link:


Applicants are encouraged to contact individual Physical Geography staff members to discuss potential PhD research topics. Staff web pages detailing research interests can be found at http://www.rhul.ac.uk/geography/staffdirectory/home.aspx

Applicants are welcome to propose their own research topics however please note that there are also some specific PhD projects available as follows:

Simon Blockley and Tom Stevens are offering two Phd’s in developing chronologies and event stratigraphies from Loss palaeosol deposits. Please see their staff web pages for a description of their research interests and projects. Contact Simon.Blockley@rhul.ac.uk or Thomas.Stevens@rhul.ac.uk for further details.

Danielle Schreve would be interested in supervising a project on any area relating to Quaternary vertebrates (palaeoecological reconstruction, taphonomy, evolution, human-faunal interactions and other topics). Contact Danielle.Schreve@rhul.ac.uk for further details.

Reconstructing the structure and seasonality of Quaternary climate events
Ian Candy (ian.candy@rhul.ac.uk)

Oxygen isotopes in terrestrial and freshwater carbonates have a huge potential for understanding the pattern and magnitude of Quaternary climate change (Candy, 2008; Candy et al., 2011a). Oxygen isotopic analysis of such materials has three main advantages over traditional proxies; 1) the oxygen isotopic composition of carbonate is primarily controlled by temperature, 2) the isotopic composition of continental systems respond very rapidly, almost instantaneously in geological terms, to temperature changes with minimal lag times, and 3) the amount of material required for isotopic analysis is minimal in relation to other proxies allowing records to be analysed at a much higher resolution that has previously been possible. All of these factors mean that studies of oxygen isotopes greatly enhanced our ability to reliably reconstruct the magnitude and duration of short-lived climatic fluctuations (Marshall et al., 2002; 2007).

Applications are encouraged from enthusiastic Earth scientists who are interested in investigating a diverse range of climatic events using oxygen isotopic techniques. The focus of research could be on; 1) abrupt climate forcing during the Lateglacial/Holocene using lacustrine lake carbonates (Marshall et al., 2002; 2007), 2) identifying abrupt 8.2ka-like events in past interglacial, 3) investigating long-term changes in interglacial climate characteristics such as magnitude of warmth or variations in seasonality (Candy et al., 2010; Candy et al., 2011b), or 4) variations in climatic characteristics across major climatic transitions, such as the Mid-Pleistocene Revolution or the mid-Brunhes Event (Candy et al., 2010). Students interested in formulating projects around these questions are encouraged to contact Dr Ian Candy at the above email address. 

How sensitive is Britain to abrupt climate oscillations during the Last Glacial to Interglacial transition (16.0-8.0ka BP)?
Ian Matthews (I.P.Matthews@rhul.ac.uk), Ian Candy, Simon Blockley, and Adrian Palmer

The Greenland ice cores provide a record of abrupt climatic oscillations over the Last Glacial to Interglacial Transition (LGIT, c. 16.0-8.0 ka BP), and indicate that this period was characterised by decadal to centennial-scale climatic oscillations, many of which have been identified across the North Atlantic region (Lowe et al., 2008). While some evidence for these oscillations is present in the terrestrial archives of the LGIT in Britain, their temporal and spatial complexity is poorly understood and is not comparable to the structure observed in the ice-core records. It is common for these British records to have low-resolution climatic data with poor chronological control, issues exacerbated by the fact that many traditional climatic proxies, such as pollen, respond relatively slowly to climatic forcing. Allied to this the lack of continuous high-resolution records from a variety of locations means it is difficult to understand how these events affected the climate, ecosystems and surface processes across Britain. Recent development of techniques, including: varve counting (Palmer et al., 2010), oxygen and carbon isotopic analysis, and cryptotephra studies (Blockley et al., 2005; Matthews et al., 2011), provide the potential to generate robust and precise records of abrupt climatic changes and which, through Bayesian age-modelling, can be used to assess the relative sensitivity of British palaeoenvironments to abrupt climate change.

The aim of this PhD is to produce high-resolution climate records with precise chronologies for lacustrine sequences in Britain. The chosen sites occur in Scotland, Ireland, northern and south-eastern England, and Wales, consequently allowing not just the production of individual high-resolution climate records but also the potential investigation of regional gradients of climate change. The successful candidate will receive full training in required field and laboratory techniques.

Quantifying Late Holocene flood response to changing land-use and climate
Varyl Thorndycraft (Varyl.Thorndycraft@rhul.ac.uk), Ian Matthews and Simon Armitage

Understanding flood response to changes in catchment land-use and/or climatic variability is an important goal for effective river management as both drivers can influence sediment delivery and flood quantiles. Recent studies at RHUL led by VT have demonstrated the successful application of a combined stratigraphic and hydraulic modelling methodology to quantify the response of flood hydraulics (e.g. stream power, bed shear stress) to changing sediment loads and reach scale autogenic (internal) controls. The aim of this studentship will be to apply the methodology to test current models of regional hydrological response in the UK, in particular focusing on study catchments in SW and NE England. In particular the research will aim to determine whether the impact of climate change can be deciphered from changing land-use-land-cover and/or autogenic processes through alluvial sedimentary archives. In order to achieve these aims, the research will combine state-of-the-art methodologies for reconstructing environmental change in upland peat and lowland alluvial environments, with hydraulic flood modelling. The student will therefore be trained in a range of techniques in the fields of hydraulic flood modelling; high precision geochronology; and remote sensing.

The timing and rates of glacier response to Late Pleistocene climate change in the North Patagonian Ice Field.
Varyl Thorndycraft (Varyl.Thorndycraft@rhul.ac.uk), Adrian Palmer and Ian Matthews

The predictions of 21st Century glacier response to anthropogenic warming is reliant on accurate and precise palaeoglaciological models. Whilst the behaviour of palaeo ice sheets in the mid-latitude regions’ of the northern hemisphere are relatively well –understood through geomorphological mapping, detailed sedimentology and high resolution geochronology, as yet there are few similarly resolved reconstructions and models of mid-latitude ice fields from the Southern hemisphere. Recently, improved ice-field reconstructions analysing the timing and duration of glacier response to palaeoclimate change have been achieved through the examination of clastic annually-laminated (varve) sediments in areas such as North America and Northern Europe. However, this approach has yet to be fully developed in South America. This project aims to reconstruct the last deglaciation of the Lago Buenos Aires (Argentina)/Lago General Carrera (Chile) basin, situated on the eastern iceshed of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. This basin has a complex Quaternary history with a series of latero-terminal moraines marking the limit of glacial advances during the Last Glacial Maximum. Subsequent ice retreat has allowed a complex of retreat moraines to form, with sediments characteristic of glaciolacustrine varves deposited within these margins. These annually-laminated sediments provide an excellent opportunity to reconstruct the rate of glacier retreat at annual-to-decadal scales and will also allow a reconstruction of the frequency of glacier outburst floods and linking sequences through tephrochronology. The student would be trained in geomorphological mapping in the field and using aerial and satellite photography, field sedimentology, micromorphology (thin section and SEM), high precision geochronology, including varve chronology, tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating.


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