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Microfaunal response to Early Jurassic climate cyclicity following the late Triassic mass extinction

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Triassic-Jurassic boundary interval witnessed a marked global extinction with profound consequences for all ecosystems. Significant diversification occurred after this event but the pattern and process of recovery in marine shelf environments, particularly over the short-term, is not well known. The earliest Jurassic in Britain is often characterised by cyclical sedimentation, considered to reflect astronomically-driven climate variability. These sediments contain abundant and diverse assemblages of calcareous microfossils, i.e. ostracods (microscopic Crustacea) and foraminifera (Protista) that will be used to quantify the biotic response to Jurassic cyclic climate changes for the first time. Pilot studies on cycles within the Blue Lias Formation, SW England (see photo below) have shown that microfossil assemblages display marked changes on a centimetric-decimetric scale within these cycles. However, to examine these interactions in greater detail and understand the benthic ecosystem response to these cycles requires (i) relatively expanded sedimentary sequences, (ii) complimentary geochemical records and (iii) relatively abundant and diverse faunal assemblages, all three requirements are met by this project.

Working alongside the ICDP/NERC funded JET project (Hesselbo et al., 2013), the student will have access to a new ~850m core from Prees (Cheshire Basin) through this interval. The project will benefit from synergies created by working with this diverse, multinational research network while contributing important chronostratigraphic and palaeoenvironmental data to JET objectives. The project will include a comparative study of the Carnduff-1 & 2 cores from the Larne Basin, Northern Ireland, thanks to ongoing collaboration with BGS colleagues at GSNI (the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland) and outcrops such as Dorset. Investigating these events from different depositional basins will help understand the spatial variability in their response while the high-resolution faunal sampling through cycles in the Prees & Carnduff cores, will elucidate benthic ecosystem responses during all stages of these climate cycles, in particular linkages to surface water productivity.

In collaboration with partners at Merlin Energy Resources Ltd, the student will also develop an understanding of how these microfossils can be used to establish correlations and, for the first time, develop microfossil-derived sequence stratigraphic frameworks for the Early Jurassic using industry-standard software.

Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.
• Annual stipend, set at £15,009 for 2019/20
• Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000


Boomer, I., Copestake, P., Raine, R., Azmi, A., Fenton, J., Page, K., O’Callaghan, M. Palaeoenvironments and geochemistry of the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic interval in the Carnduff-1 & 2 boreholes, Northern Ireland. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. In review.
Copestake, P. & Johnson, B. 2014. Lower Jurassic Foraminifera from the Llanbedr (Mochras Farm) Borehole, North Wales, UK. Monograph of the Palaeontographical Society, London: 1-403. (Publ.641, part of Vol. 167 for 2013).
Hesselbo, S. P. Bjerrum, C. J. Hinnov, L. A. MacNiocaill, C. Miller, K. G. Riding, J. B. van de Schootbrugge, B. (2013) Mochras borehole revisited: a new global standard for Early Jurassic earth history, Scientific Drilling, 16, pp. 81-91.

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