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Oceanographic drivers of habitat use in tropical atoll lagoons: a hydrodynamic numerical modelling approach

   Faculty of Science and Engineering

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  Dr Vasyl Vlasenko  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

DoS: Dr. Vasyl Vlasenko ([Email Address Removed], tel.: +44-1752-584729)

2nd Supervisor: Dr. Nataliya Stashchuk ([Email Address Removed], tel.: +44-1752-584700)

3rd Supervisor: Dr. Phil Hosegood ([Email Address Removed], tel.: +44-1752-584729)

Applications are invited for four year PhD studentship. The studentship (funding) is available for 3.5 years and will aim to start on 1st April, 2022.

Project Description

The dynamics controlling circulation within tropical atoll lagoons are critical to the marine ecosystem due to their influence on local productivity, biomass accumulation and the creation of biophysical environments exploited by apex predators. The complexity of the bathymetry and tidal forcing throughout these systems, however, renders efforts to accurately predict the currents arising throughout them challenging. Previous atoll hydrodynamic studies have considered a range of different morphologies with varying degrees of reef enclosure, which in turn influence the total exchange between lagoon waters and the open ocean. Closed atoll lagoons are virtually separated from the open ocean, which can cause lagoon water levels to remain higher than offshore at all phases of the tide, while semi-enclosed atolls have channels or wide reef flats through which water exchange may occur. As a result, circulation is driven by a combination of atoll morphology and the surrounding oceanic environment (wave-climate, tidal regime, and winds).

This studentship will investigate the hydrodynamics of tidally forced, semi-enclosed, coral reef atolls in the Western Indian Ocean using the Delft3D model numerical model. The model will be initialised and validated with a wide range of field observations collected during research cruises to the region during 2019 – 2022. Of wider interest is the impact of the highly localised currents in driving habitat use; this project is one of several recently funded by the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science within which researchers are interested in understanding how the physical oceanographic regime influences the movements of animals including foraging seabirds, sea turtles, and manta. You will work directly with collaborators in South Africa (University of Cape Town) and the United States (Stanford University) where complementary numerical models are being developed to study the basin- and regional-scale dynamics throughout the region. Together, this project will contribute to one of the first multi-scale modelling approaches to understanding these complex, but critically endangered, marine systems.


Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths) subject and, preferably, a relevant Masters qualification in marine science. This position would suit a student with strong numerical and/or computing skills, and experience in MATLAB or similar computational environment. Good communication skills, and an ability to work within a culturally diverse team are expected.

The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes full international tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,609 per annum (2021/22 rate).

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr. Vasyl Vlasenko, [Email Address Removed] tel.: +44-1752-584724.

For further information on research studentships at the University of Plymouth and to apply for this position please visit: and select the studentship you would like to apply for. Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on your personal statement.

Please see here for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please contact [Email Address Removed].

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 14th February 2022. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview during the week beginning 21st February 2022. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.


Funding Notes

The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes full international tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,609 per annum (2021/22 rate).
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