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A national inventory of sedimentary Blue Carbon for Scotland, UK

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  • Funded PhD Programme (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Programme (European/UK Students Only)

Profile Description

Funding: MASTS CASE award with funding from Marine Scotland + University of St Andrews
Supervisors: Professor William Austin (University of St Andrews), Dr Ian Davies (Marine Scotland Science), Professor John Baxter (Scottish Natural Heritage), Dr John Howe (Scottish Association for Marine Science), Dr Sophie Green (British Geological Survey).
Eligibility and funding amount: UK/EU students are eligible to apply for full funding. Successful candidates will receive an annual stipend in line with RC-UK rates, and payment of their (UK/EU) tuition fees. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of academic quality and research promise.
Application deadline: Friday 27th January, 2017.

Blue Carbon is defined by Nelleman et al (2009) as carbon stored and sequestered in coastal and marine ecosystems, including tidal and estuarine salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests. For the purposes of this study, this definition has been extended to include the geological substrate (sediments) on which the marine ecosystem has developed. The rate at which carbon is sequestered by natural systems is a critical factor in mitigating anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion as is a proper understanding of the Blue Carbon stocks themselves. Previous studies (Burrows et al 2014) have identified that up to 7.7 Mt C is sequestered in the 470,000 km2 across Scotland's seas. However, Burrows et al (2014) acknowledged that their assessment of sedimentary Blue Carbon was likely a significant underestimate (Burrows et al., 2016) and our work has recently demonstrated that previously unrecognized, yet significant stocks of carbon exist in the coastal ocean (Smeaton et al., 2016).

Objectives of this research are: (1) To establish the first, first-order sedimentary Blue Carbon inventory of Scotland's territorial waters. (2) To evaluate the long-term development of this significant Blue Carbon store and to assess its potential significance, including a ‘mind the gap' approach that will inform future research priorities. (3) To evaluate the relative proportion of organic and inorganic carbon sequestration in Scotland's offshore sediments. (4) To identify vulnerabilities in the Blue Carbon sequestration potential of Scotland's offshore sediments due to changing environmental conditions.

Research Training: in sediment analysis and geophysical interpretation methods will be integral to the project and will include close collaborative links with SNH and the BGS. Laboratory based training in sedimentology, geochronology and spatial analysis will be an important element of the project to build the first sedimentary Blue Carbon inventory for Scottish territorial waters. There is significant scope to work with colleagues at Scottish Natural Heritage in developing policy-relevant advice in, for example, the assessment of vulnerable Blue Carbon stocks. You will be a member of the MASTS Graduate School and be eligible to participate as an affiliate member of the SAGES Graduate School.

Application Information Enquiries: contact Professor Bill Austin, University of St Andrews ([email protected]) or visit

Application Process: interested applicants should submit (1) a cover letter outlining their interest in the project and relevant skill-sets, and (2) a full CV. Please send these to Mrs Helen Olaez ([email protected]) no later than 27th January 2017.

Funding Notes

Some or all of the PhD opportunities in this programme have funding attached. It is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full programme details for further information.

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