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Jungle BOOGIE: An investigation of the tropical riverine supply and fate of organic matter to the ocean skin layer

School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

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Dr R Pereira No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are seeking applicants for a 3 year PhD studentship fully funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No [949495]), starting 1 March 2021.

Oceans are a global reservoir of greenhouse gases, estimated to account for 20–40% of the post-industrial sink for anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2). However, quantifying the exchange of gases such as CO2, methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) between the ocean and atmosphere is a major challenge. Understanding how the ocean’s organic skin layer modulates this exchange is critical to estimate the intrinsic oceanic sinks and sources of these key greenhouse gases both now and in the future. Organic substances in the skin layer, known as surfactants, span across traditional operational definitions and are derived from multiple sources undergoing biotic and abiotic transformations along the land-ocean continuum.

This PhD project will investigate the key processes that drive the dynamic composition of organic matter in the ocean skin layer that affects the air-sea exchange of climate active gases. The PhD student will be trained in cutting-edge techniques to analyse and identify dissolved organic matter, using liquid chromatography, UV-Vis absorbance and fluorescence spectrophotometry, isotope ratio mass spectrometry, NDIR gas sensor platforms, and AC voltammetry. This novel dataset will be explored using statistical and process-based modelling approaches in collaboration with Newcastle University. This project encompasses a large amount of international travel with an extensive field work programme in the tropical rainforests of Guyana, and research cruises in the Atlantic Ocean where the candidate will participate in the Atlantic Meridional Transect programme. The successful candidate will also be expected to travel to other UK and European laboratories to complete relevant analyses for the completion of their thesis.

The student will join a vibrant research group working on a variety of aspects of carbon and water cycle interaction. The student will be based at the Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh and receive further training from project partners including Newcastle University, NERC Environmental isotope laboratories, and the ICBM, Germany. These exciting collaborations will provide the student with excellent training and highly valuable experiences. The combination of skills and facilities will prove a very strong asset for their training and enhance the student’s ability for critical thinking and their future career prospects. For more information on our activities please visit our website: and

To be eligible, applicants should have a first-class or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants must be highly motivated with an environmental science/biogeochemistry related qualification. Applicants with an interest in advanced organic/isotope geochemistry and computer programming are particularly encouraged. Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.

To apply you must complete our online application form at and select PhD programme Environment and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.

You must complete the section marked project proposal and upload a supporting statement documenting your reasons for applying to this particular PhD project, and why you are an ideal candidate for the position. You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Interviews to be carried out week commencing 22 February 2021. The expected start date will be either May or September.

Funding Notes

The scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for the 36 month duration of the studentship, as well as research support and travel costs.
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