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PhD in SUERC - How fast can an ice cap collapse? Pushing the limits of geochronology with large particle accelerators

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Shanks
    Dr D Fabel
    Dr T Bradwell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

How fast will terrestrial glaciers and ice caps melt in response to global warming? Will they disappear in decades, adding all of their water rapidly to the oceans, or will the melting occur over a longer time span, with a less rapid but similar amount of sea level rise. For the millions of people living on coastal lowlands, and those concerned about maintaining trillions of pounds worth of global coastal infrastructure, answering the question of how fast glaciers and ice caps will melt and contribute to sea level rise is important.

To determine how fast ice caps can melt requires access to their beds, which is not possible for present day ice caps. Hence we will determine the rate of retreat of the former Scottish ice cap about 11600 years ago when temperatures rose rapidly by 6-8°C, similar to the temperature rise predicted for the Arctic by 2100. By measuring how quickly the Scottish ice cap disappeared you will establish how quickly equivalent sized ice masses could disappear, providing empirical data for predictive sea level rise models.

The dating technique of choice in many palaeo-glaciological studies is surface exposure dating because it allows direct determination of ice retreat from glacial landforms. However, the precision of the technique is currently insufficient to resolve the rate of retreat of the Scottish ice cap, or to correlate the retreat to high resolution climate proxies.

Key research questions: Can surface exposure dating with 10Be and 26Al using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) and/or positive ion mass spectrometry (PIMS) provide 1% precision routinely? When and how fast did the Scottish ice cap disappear? Was the retreat of the ice cap steady or intermittent?

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:

• Access to extensive research support funding; &
• Support for an external placement of up to six months.
Part-time award-holders are funded for seven years and receive a maintenance grant at 50% of the full-time rate.

Application guidelines can be found via the Website.

Funding Notes

All applicants need to meet NERC’s eligibility criteria to be considered for an IAPETUS studentship and these are detailed in the current UKRI studentship terms and conditions.


IAPETUS2 is only able to consider applications from Home/European Union candidates. International candidates are not eligible to be considered and where an candidate from another EU country has not been resident in the UK for 3 years or more prior to the commencement of their studies with IAPETUS2, they will only be eligible for a fees-only studentship.
IAPETUS2 is looking for candidates with the following qualities and backgrounds:

• A first or 2:1 undergraduate degree, or have relevant comparable experience – we welcome applications from those with non-traditional routes to PhD study;
• In addition, candidates may also hold or be completing a Masters degree in their area of proposed study or a related discipline; &
• An outstanding academic pedigree and research potential, such as evidenced through the publication of articles, participation in academic conferences and other similar activities.

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