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Investigating subglacial hydrological processes in East Antarctica

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Felicity Graham
    Dr Leo Peters
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Knowledge of glacial hydrological processes is important for understanding the dynamics and flow of ice sheets, the contribution of glacial meltwater to sea level budgets and oceanic salinity and the response of ice sheets to climate change. There has been considerable progress in recent years in the development of hydrological models of Antarctica, which are now capable of simulating large-scale features of the glacial hydrological environment, including exchanges between the surface, englacial, and subglacial hydrological systems (e.g., Marshall, 2005).

Despite this recent progress, ice sheet hydrology is one of the largest contributors to uncertainty in ice sheet evolution. For example, relatively little is known of the spatial and temporal structure of, and variability in, the basal hydrology of the East Antarctic ice sheet. This is partly due to a limited observational record that likely does not adequately define features such as subglacial lakes or differentiate between transient and more permanent hydrologic pathways. Furthermore, modelling exercises of East Antarctic glacial hydrology that employ a fully-coupled transient ice sheet/hydrology model, which also incorporate recent topographic and hydrologic constraints from the ICECAP aerogeophysical surveys, have yet to be undertaken.

This project will involve the development and integration of a hydrological model into a coupled thermomechanical ice sheet model. The candidate will explore modelled and observed glacial hydrological structures and processes, including the location and extent of subglacial lakes, and flow paths between lakes, with a primary focus on the Aurora Subglacial Basin, East Antarctica (Wright et al., 2012). Analysis of temporal variability in East Antarctic glacial hydrological processes and their impact on ice dynamics will lead to an improved understanding of the response of the ice sheet to climate change. Modelled and observed spatial variability in meltwater will also be examined with the aim to ​assess model sensitivity and also to guide future field campaigns.

The successful applicant for this project will need strong numerical skills, with a background in physical sciences and experience in numerical modelling.

The supervision team on this project will also include Dr Jason Roberts (AAD, ACE CRC)

This project is supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Special Research Initiative for Antarctic Gateway Partnership. For information about the Antarctic Gateway Partnership visit the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) web page.

Funding Notes

The ARC Antarctic Gateway Partnership is seeking applications from suitably qualified graduates for living allowance Scholarships to undertake PhD projects.

The UTAS Graduate Research Office provides detailed information about scholarships including eligibility, award conditions and application processes.

To be considered for an ARC Antarctic Gateway Partnership living allowance Scholarship it is necessary to specify this on the Admissions and Scholarship Application Part 9.1.

Tuition fees apply to all international candidates. Limited numbers of UTAS tuition fee scholarships are also available on a competitive basis to candidates undertaking projects closely aligned with the ARC Antarctic Gateway Partnership's research objectives.


Marshall (2005): Recent advances in understanding ice sheet dynamics, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 240, pp 191-204.

Wright et al. (2012): Evidence of a hydrological connection between the ice divide and ice sheet margin in the Aurora Subglacial Basin, East Antarctica, Journal of Geophysical Research, 117(F01033), p1-15.

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