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The experimental effects of wave processes on arthropod taphonomy: implications for Lagerstätten and Small Carbonaceous Fossils


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2020.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Dr Nicholas Minter, Dr Steve Mitchell and Dr Anthony Butcher.

The work on this project will involve:
● Experimental palaeontology and fluid dynamics
● Scanning Electron Microscopy
● Hypothesis testing and statistical analysis

Arthropods are one of most speciose groups of animals on Earth, having undergone a series of diversification events and successfully colonised the marine, freshwater, terrestrial and aerial realms. It is therefore important to understand how the group has reached its present-day biodiversity and the potential biasing factors that might be affecting what is preserved in the fossil record both as a whole and in terms of the composition of individual assemblages and their reflections of communities.

Terrestrial arthropods are frequently preserved in the deposits of lakes; whereas much of what we know about the early evolution of marine arthropods comes from deep-marine Cambrian-aged sites of exceptional preservation. Complementary to this, a record of fragmentary microfossils known as small carbonaceous fossils has been recognized increasingly over the last decade. These are preserved in shallow marine shelf deposits and provide evidence of previously cryptic biodiversity at the time and from different palaeoenvironments.

Actualistic experiments provide one of the best ways to study the likelihood of certain organisms being fossilized, and therefore any biasing factors that might be having an effect. Experiments have tended to focus on the pathways of decay and mineralisation once a carcass has been incorporated into the sediment; whereas the effects of hydrodynamic processes and the transport of organisms to their final resting place has received much less attention. This project will aim to answer questions on the action of wave processes on preservation potential in shallow water lacustrine and marine environments. It will integrate experimental taphonomy and hydrodynamics by using wave-generating flume tanks to replicate shallow water environments and test hypotheses on the effects of wave action and sediment movement on the decay, disarticulation and patterns of microwear for a variety of analogue terrestrial and marine arthropods.

General admissions criteria
You’ll need an upper second class honours degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
You should ideally have a background in palaeontology, geology, or biology/zoology. Experience of experimental design and statistical analysis is desirable but not essential.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Nicholas Minter () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SEGG4871020 when applying.

Funding Notes

The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,009 (UKRI 2019/20 rate) for three years. Bursary recipients will also receive up to £1,500 per year for research project costs, as well as office space and computing facilities.

How good is research at University of Portsmouth in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 25.73

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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