PhD, paleoceanography/marine biology, Edinburgh, UK

The Department of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society at Heriot-Watt University, UK, seeks a PhD student for "Lessons from the past: Deoxygenation and the 'dead-zones' of the ocean".


The availability of oxygen in the ocean is fundamental for marine life. As the ocean warms with future climate change the amount (or solubility) of oxygen in seawater declines. Alongside ocean circulation becoming sluggish this leads to the expansion of the so-called ‘dead-zones’ of the ocean – the oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). But this has all happened before – over geological time oxygen concentrations in the oceans have fluctuated, the OMZs expanded and contracted, however we have very little understanding of such variability, the environmental drivers or the biogeochemical consequences, especially in a quantitative sense. We seek a highly motivated PhD candidate interested in contributing to a revolution in our understanding of changes in oceanic oxygen concentrations in the geological past, working on the development and application of novel proxies for seawater oxygenation.

This project will further develop and ground-truth recently developed proxies with new modern and paleo-data to construct time-series seawater oxygen concentrations, including expansion and contraction of OMZs. These proxies are based on chemical analysis of foraminifera living in the water-column and deep-sea sediments, and the project will involve analysis of fresh and ancient specimens. The time-series developed will be crucial to Earth System Modelling examining future changes in ocean oxygenation, helping to provide greater clarity to IPCC-type predictions of future climate by understanding the past.


The student will be based at the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology in Edinburgh, within an active research group looking at marine biogeochemistry in both the modern ocean as well as the past. The Lyell Centre offers a dynamic and stimulating research environment enabled by the exciting collaborative research initiative between Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey (BGS). The student will have the opportunity to spend time at the BGS Environmental Science Centre in Keyworth and participate in fieldwork.

This is a full scholarship which will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £14,500 for the 36 month duration of the studentship. The funding is available to UK, EU and international students.


Applicants should have a first-class honours degree or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Highly motivated applicants with a qualification in earth and ocean sciences, marine biology, biogeochemistry, and an interest in the advancement and application of foraminiferal proxies are particularly encouraged to apply. Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.


The closing date for applications is 24 November. Interviews will be held in December 2017. The anticipated project start date is northern spring 2018.

Quote reference number: EGIS2017BH

For all details and to access the online application form, go to:

Further information

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Babette Hoogakker: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.