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Crumbling reefs: Simulation based monitoring of coral reefs (EPS2020/31)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The project aims to develop computational models to analyse the impact of ocean acidification on cold-water coral reefs. Results will be used in the development of monitoring strategies to preserve some of the most vulnerable ecosystems.

Cold-water corals (CWC) are key habitat-forming organisms found throughout the world's oceans from 30 to 3000 m deep which are threatened by climate change induced ocean acidification. The complex three-dimensional frameworks made by these vulnerable marine ecosystems support high biodiversity and commercially important species compared to neighbouring, less complex habitats. If this habitat complexity was reduced, the ability of these habitats to support high levels of biodiversity would decrease. Recent experiments suggest that this reduction is due to a reduced structural integrity of the coral skeleton. This would allow development of monitoring and assessment strategies of these ecosystems (similar to strength or lifetime analyses) based on the structural integrity of CWC reefs, and determination of how this may change under projected future ocean acidification scenarios.

The project aims at developing computational models of CWCs to compute failure rates and investigate the impact of acidification. Key tasks of the project are:

i. analysing CWC structure and porosity using existing µCT data,
ii. developing a multiscale mechanical model of the coral skeleton,
iii. developing image based computational models,
iv. integrating micromechanical experimental data into these models, and analysing strength comparing living and dead samples.

Given the importance of cold-water habitats the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has recently stated that there is “a need to develop predictive model research to determine how projected climate change will impact cold-water biodiversity over different timescales”. If successful, this project will help to close this gap.

Requirements

All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). This scholarship is only open to UK/EU applicants who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC.

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 28th February 2020. All successful candidates should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply

Apply Online - https://hwacuk.elluciancrmrecruit.com/Admissions/Pages/Login.aspx

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:
(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Mechanical engineering PhD, chemical engineering PhD or Bio-engineering and Bio-sciences PhD and select September 2020 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’
You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be approx. £15k and full fees will be paid for 3.5 years.

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