Globally the late Oligocene to middle Miocene was a time interval of warmer than modern temperatures. The late Oligocene was an interval of relatively warm global climate, whilst the early Miocene was one of significant fluctuations in global temperatures. This fluctuating, cooling climate then gave way to the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum – a prolonged interval of sustained global warmth that has been attributed to greenhouse gas concentrations and shifts in ocean currents. The aim of this proposed PhD is to explore how terrestrial environments responded to these changes in the Earth’s climate system.
Our understanding of how vegetation on the Atlantic margin of Europe responded to climate changes during this time interval is limited. Our knowledge of the terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycles during the Oligocene and Miocene is also limited, but it has been proposed that these may limit the Earth’s atmospheric CO2 minima. This PhD will explore the terrestrial biota and biogeochemical cycles from fossil deposits on the edge of Europe. The PhD project offers excellent opportunities for research training on proxy analyses, fieldwork palaeoclimates and molecular organic geochemistry.
Key Research Gaps and Questions:
1) How did terrestrial biota respond to climate change during the Oligocene – Miocene? 2) Is there evidence for the onset or intensification of North Atlantic thermohaline circulation before the Pliocene? 3) What were the carbon/nitrogen cycles like in these warmer than modern Cenozoic forests?
Full laboratory and analytical training will be provided. However, candidates with experience in environmental reconstruction and familiarity with palynological analysis are desirable. An understanding of global climatic change over the last 65 million years and UK Cenozoic stratigraphy would be advantageous.
These are (3.5 year) fully funded PhD studentship awards available for entry September 2019. Each award includes fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£14,777) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).