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Neanderthal evolution in Pleistocene Gibraltar: reconstructing the environmental context

Project Description

The aim of this project is to unlock records of high magnitude rapid environmental change in the Gibraltar region using coupled amino acid racemization and luminescence dating of sediment archives, in order to better understand the context in which Neanderthal occupation and evolution took place. These sedimentary archives indicate that past high magnitude environmental change was accompanied by widespread landscape modification in Gibraltar and the surrounding region. Understanding climatic drivers and environmental responses at the Gibraltar Neanderthal world heritage site can be achieved by strategically combining recent developments in optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and amino acid racemization (AAR) applied to key Pleistocene sedimentary archives.

As a member of a dynamic team, the successful candidate will develop combined OSL-AAR chronologies, including at the world heritage Vanguard Cave on Gibraltar, and sites nearby in Spain. The focus will be sedimentary archives of Neanderthal evolution and ecology, and accompanying Quaternary environmental change, developing novel chronological approaches applicable at a wide range of sites. Key to the success of the project will be developing age estimates for different horizons and sediment packets that contain the environmental records that relate to Neanderthal occupation and activity. This will include cave sediments and deposits from open sites, and the candidate will work closely with archaeologists and palaeoecologists to supplement this environmental record.

The position will suit a highly motivated student with a strong science background capable of undertaking extended periods of fieldwork under challenging circumstances, who can work independently but also respond well to working within a team, and who is driven by a desire to solve problems. This is a well-funded CASE studentship, providing a superb opportunity to extend the scientific envelope in this exciting research area. This means that there will be an additional level of funding available in comparison to many other studentships, providing the candidate with more opportunity for fieldwork, conference attendance, and research analyses. Applicants with a masters degree in Quaternary Science or similar topic, or with some experience in luminescence or AAR dating, are particularly encouraged to apply. Support and training will be provided in the techniques that will be used, both in the laboratories in Sheffield (OSL, sediment analysis) and York (AAR, environmental geochemistry), and at the field sites in Gibraltar. The experience gained during the PhD research and training will provide an excellent first step on an academic career trajectory. Please contact the lead supervisor () in advance of your application if you would like to discuss the project, if you would like to find out more details of the work involved, or to explore how your own ideas and motivation might fit within the project.

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentship cover: (i) a stipend at the UKRI rate (at least £14,777 per annum for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.
This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment View Website. ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York, CEH, and NHM.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of Sheffield the w/c 11th February 2019.

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