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Exploring tephrostratigraphic links of climate records in southern England with continental Europe for the last 15,000 years


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.

The PhD will be based in the Department of Geography and will be supervised by Dr Sabine Wulf, Dr Mark Hardiman and Dr Dave Giles.

The work on this project will:
- establish a detailed tephrostratigraphic framework for the Holocene and Lateglacial periods from terrestrial records in central-southern England
- identify intervals of abrupt climate change in these records and provide high-resolution multi-proxy data for these intervals
- identify common tephras that can be used to establish detailed comparisons with high-resolution proxy records from continental Europe
- better understand spatiotemporal lead/lag-phase relationships of environmental and vegetation responses during past abrupt climatic changes
- test theories of tephra dispersal pattern across the British Isles


Project description

In light of current global warming, there is an increasing interest in understanding mechanisms and phasing between abrupt climate change and environmental responses. High-resolution terrestrial sediment records provide this type of information if analyzed by a similar multi-proxy approach and if directly linked to other valuable records. Common tephra (volcanic ash) layers are ideal for providing such isochrones to comparing palaeoclimate data on a regional to over-regional scale. First examples for data synchronizations exist from Lateglacial records across continental Europe revealing the idea of complex spatiotemporal lead/lag-phase relationships of environmental responses to abrupt climate changes.

The British Isles are located in a key climatic-transitional zone between the North Atlantic regions and dry continental Europe and have received a fair amount of tephra fallout mainly from Icelandic and subordinately from Italian and North American explosive eruptions throughout the Lateglacial and Holocene periods. Nevertheless, synchronisations of palaeoclimate data has not been undertaken yet mainly because of the facts that either British palaeoclimate records with well-established tephrochronologies lack published high-resolution multi-proxy data for this time interval (e.g., Scotland, Ireland, Wales) or that tephrostratigraphies for longer records in southern England have not yet been established due to methodological limitations at the time of investigations. The recent advances of cryptotephra identification, however, are proposed to overcome these limitations.

Within this 3-year PhD project detailed cryptotephra studies will be obtained from several key sites in central-southern England to construct a detailed tephrostratigraphic framework for the Lateglacial and Holocene period in this region. Tephra studies are sought to be accompanied by high-resolution multi-proxy analysis for selected intervals of abrupt climate change, including, for example, XRF elemental scanning, charcoal and pollen analyses, to enable comparisons with published and evolving palaeoclimate data from continental Europe.

The successful candidate will receive training in peat and sediment coring, as well as laboratory techniques including sediment processing, LOI, and tephra glass shard identification, high and low-powered microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Electron Probe Microanalyses (EPMA), LA-ICP-MS, geochemical tephra data evaluation and age-depth modelling. Training for high-resolution XRF scanning, charcoal and pollen analyses will be undertaken in cooperation with department-internal and external researchers.



Entry Requirements

General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university ( first or upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in geography or related subject area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
We’d welcome applications from strong and independently working candidates. You should have previous knowledge of cryptotephra identification and motivation to refine current techniques.



How to Apply

We’d strongly advise you to contact Dr Sabine Wulf () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency (if applicable) and an up-to-date CV.

Please also submit a research proposal (up to 1000 words), which includes:
-An introduction to the topic, including background and context
-Aims and objectives
-Summary and justification of research methods
-Timeline of work
-Anticipated outcomes

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process and writing a research proposal.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code GEOG4870219 when applying.

Funding Notes

The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19) for three years.

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