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Resistance of Antarctic marine species to predicted freshening and lower salinity in the Southern Ocean

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 07, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Climate models for Antarctica are predicting warming over the coming decades over a large part of the continent. A part of this is that there is predicted to be a large increase in freshwater runoff from the ice sheets and glaciers with a concomitant freshening of the Southern Ocean. In coastal areas the reduction in salinity will depend on many factors including the shape of bays, the underwater topography and the amount of runoff. In fiordic systems freshwater inputs will be restricted in the movement offshore and some predictions are for very low coastal salinity in some areas. These salinity changes are likely to be larger than those at lower latitudes and hence this is a magnified polar problem.

The project will assess salinity tolerances and ability to acclimate to low salinity in Antarctic marine species It will also assess the impacts of multiple stressors (e.g. warming and low salinity). This will improve understanding of the traits (e.g. taxonomic identity and functional roles) making species more and less resistant to predicted changes in Antarctic coastal ecosystems. The project will assess tolerances of species in the laboratory in both survival limits and sublethal responses. Morphological, physiological and genomic methods will be used to evaluate capacities to respond to the environmental insult. Experiments will be conducted in the cold-water marine aquarium in the British Antarctic Survey on animals returned to UK from Rothera station in Antarctica. The project does not require Antarctic fieldwork and such work would depend on winning further resources.

The student will firstly assess the state of this field from a comprehensive literature review . They will be trained and familiarised with a range of techniques needed for the experiments. They will be responsible for the animal husbandry of the Antarctic animals brought to the UK for their experiments (likely to be between 5 and 20 species and 50-100 of each over the 3 year project, depending on the final emphasis of the work. The student will conduct the experiments in the laboratory, analyse the data and write up the results as science papers and in a thesis. There is also the expectation that the results will be presented to the science community in conferences and to the public in a range of media.

Funding Notes

UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements will be eligible for a full NERC studentship. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. More information can be found in the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions
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Kennicutt II, M.C., Bromwich, D., Liggett, D., Njåstad, B., Peck, L.S., Rintoul, S.R., Ritz, C., Siegert, M.J., Aitken, A., Brooks, C.M., Cassano, J., Chaturvedi, S., Chen, D., Dodds, K., Golledge, N.R., Le Bohec, C., Leppe, M., Murray, A., Nath, P.C., Raphael, m.N., Rogan-Finnemore, M., Schroeder, D.M., Talley, L., Travouillon, T., Vaughan, D.G., Weatherwax, A.T. & Steven L Chown, S.L. 2019. Sustained Antarctic Research - a 21st Century Imperative. One Earth in press
Mintenbeck, K., Barrera-Oro, E.R., Brey, T., Jacob, U., Knust, R., Mark, F.C., Moreira, E., Strobel, A. & Arntz, W.E. 2012. Impact of climate change on fishes in complex Antarctic ecosystems. Adv Ecol Res 46, 351–426
Telesca, L., Michalek, K., Sanders, T., Peck, L.S., Thyrring, J., Harper, E.M. 2018. Blue mussel shell shape plasticity and natural environments: a quantitative approach. Scientific Reports 8, 2865

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