Internship, coral climatology - Bremen, Germany

A three-month paid internship in coral climatology is available in the Department of Biogeochemistry and Geology at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research in Bremen, Germany.


Undergrads from US, UK, Canada and Ireland are eligible to apply.

The internship will be held in European summer 2020.

There will be a monthly stipend of 750 Euros and travel costs will be covered, as well as medical insurance while there.


The project is titled "Effects of Ocean Acidification and Warming on the Pacific Ocean in the Anthropocene".

Rapid rising of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has led to systematic changes in our oceans. Increasing temperatures and ocean acidification are impacting tropical ecosystems and its calcifying organisms such as corals. The instrumental records of ocean pH only began in the 1980s, a period far too short to study longer-term climate change impact. Thus, the need for longer records to understand natural climate phenomena exists.

Massive scleractinian corals growing in the tropical oceans are able to record a wide-range of climatological and environmental signals in their calcium carbonate skeleton, which can be used to reconstruct pH, carbonate chemistry, and various environmental changes since before the Industrial Revolution to the present day. The Pacific Ocean is an important research region because of its significance as the major driver of global atmospheric and climate variability over interannual (El Niño Southern Oscillation; ENSO) to decadal interdecadal timescales (Pacific Decadal Oscillation; PDO).


The main objectives of this project are to study the evolution of the natural variability of pH and sea surface temperature (SST) over the past centuries along for the signals of anthropogenic influences. The project aims to investigate the capacity of the tropical oceans to absorb human-induced excess CO2, and the impact that has on the modulations of ENSO and PDO with pH and SST variability in the Pacific Ocean.

Experimental approach

To reconstruct climate and environmental variations from corals using geochemical techniques, previously collected coral cores from living corals in the tropical Pacific were sampled and subsampled. The sampling and analytical procedure includes producing x-radiographs to observe the annual growth banding of the coral similar to tree rings.

The optimal sub-sampling paths are determined based on the maximum growth axis of each individual coral. Sub-sampling is based on each individual coral’s vertical linear extension that allows for coral skeletal materials to be collected. The coral skeletal materials will then be analyzed by mass spectrometry techniques (Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS), ICP-Optical Emissions Spectrometer (ICP-OES), Multi-Collector ICP-MS), which make it possible to detect concentrations of desired chemical elements.

Ratios of trace elements to Calcium (e.g. Sr/Ca) have been shown to be proxies of climate or the environment (e.g. SST). Additional stable isotope measurements have shown the ability of corals to record changes of seawater pH (δ 11B of coral) and uptake of atmospheric CO2 by seawater (δ13C of coral). We can achieve monthly to annually-resolved reconstructions dating back to approximately 1750 CE.


As a research intern in the team, you will gain an insight into coral-based paleoclimatology research; learn how to prepare and sample corals involving chemistry lab work; learn how to perform time-series and biogeochemical data analyses with examples on RStudio and QAnalyseries for the reconstructions.

Depending on the individual RISE internship length as well as the applicant’s primary focus in research and goals for the future, the internship can be tailored to focus more on paleoclimatology, geochemistry, or data transformation/visualization. This experience will be of high relevance for you if you plan to continue working on or studying modern climate change. If you want to work in climate modeling or forecasting in the future, this internship experience will be useful to gain good background knowledge on the large-scale climate processes and feedbacks involved (i.e. carbon cycling, ocean pH buffer, ocean and atmosphere interactions).

About the working group, the university and the region

We are looking forward to welcoming you to the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, Germany. The leader of the Coral Climatology Working Group and my PhD supervisor is Dr. Henry C. Wu.

Dr. Wu has extensive research experience in the field of past climate reconstructions from corals and has gained experience at international institutions (i.e. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, USA; Institute for Research and Development, France; MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, Germany).

Since its establishment in 1991, the mission of ZMT has been to provide a scientific basis for the protection and sustainable use of tropical coastal ecosystems. This is achieved by conducting excellent research with inter- and transdisciplinary approaches, capacity development and consulting activities in close cooperation with international and national partners, thus bridging the science-practice gap.

The University of Bremen is a research-oriented university and one of the top 50 European universities under the age of 50. With its adjoining institutes, it constitutes a leading research hub in northwest Germany. One of its strongest research areas is marine, polar and climate research. The University of Bremen and the ZMT are very well connected to the rest of the city (15 min by bike, 20 by tram/bus).


Read the full position description and apply by 15 December 2019 here:

The application is submitted completely online through the RISE database. If you are interested in participating, the first step for you is to register and to login to access the internship database. Then fill in the online application form and upload all necessary documents. Please check the list of application documents you must submit at the Application portal. The internship database is open until 15 December 2019.

Further information

Informal questions can be sent to Sara Todorovic, PhD candidate, WG Coral Climatology: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.