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Sea-level rise and carbon storage in US Gulf Coast salt marshes


Project Description

Sea levels are rising and threaten many coastal environments, including salt marshes. These valuable environments absorb and store carbon at remarkably rapid rates, much faster than, for example, rain forests. While future changes in sea level and wave climate may lead to erosion of salt marshes, it is also possible that increased rates of sea-level rise can stimulate more rapid carbon uptake and therefore help to reduce climate change. This project aims to test this hypothesis. It will do this by establishing records of recent sea-level change from salt-marsh sediments and comparing these with changes in carbon accretion in cores. Research sites will be in Mississippi (USA) where some of the most productive salt-marsh ecosystems in the world are found. Parts of these coastal wetlands are already being lost due to a combination of factors, including sea- level rise, storm erosion and human impacts.
The project will include a significant amount of fieldwork, followed by micropalaeontological and geochemical analyses in the laboratory. The objectives of the project are to: (1) establish vertical distributions of sea-level indicators (foraminifera and diatoms) across salt marshes, (2) from these create transfer functions to reconstruct historical sea-level changes from sediment cores, (3) measure carbon in cores, and (4) determine the relationship between carbon storage and sea-level rise over past centuries.
The studentship will be based at the University of York with training opportunities at the Natural History Museum. Depending on skills and experience, the successful applicant will receive training in palaeoecology, dating methods, and field techniques. The supervisory team combines expertise in sea-level reconstructions (Gehrels), carbon cycling (Redeker), micropalaeontology (Hill), and coastal change along the Gulf Coast (Törnqvist). The project is open to students with at least a 2/1 degree (and ideally a Masters) in Physical or Environmental Geography, Geology, Environmental Science or a closely-related subject. Relevant field and lab skills and interests in sea-level and climate change are obviously a plus. For informal discussion please contact the main supervisor ().

Funding Notes

This is a NERC ACCE DTP studentship fully funded for 3.5 years in the first instance, and students must complete their PhD in four years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. You can extend your funding period for up to 3 months by applying for an industrial placement.

References

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.

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