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The origin and fate of blue carbon in coastal habitats

School of Life Sciences

, , , Tuesday, January 12, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Scientific Background
‘Blue carbon’, or carbon in marine environments, is receiving increasing attention from scientists and policy makers. The capacity of marine systems to mitigate against CO2 emissions by storing carbon, provides the potential to value these systems as a method of off-setting carbon emissions. However, significant uncertainty remains around the size of carbon stocks, their sources and burial. This studentship will fill critical gaps in understanding of the fluxes of carbon across coastal transition zones and into shelf sediments.

Research Methodology
The project will focus on the salt marsh, intertidal mud flats and offshore shallow seas along the East Anglian coastline, benefitting from existing datasets, and strong relationships between supervisors and regional stakeholders (Conservation organisations, Government Agencies, Local Authorities). Hypotheses concerning the different sources and sinks for carbon across gradients from the upper intertidal to sub-littoral zones along estuaries, including vegetated and unvegetated sediment, will be tested. Fieldwork will include spatial and temporal sample collection (sediment cores), identification of sources and burial rates of carbon using isotopic analysis (including δ13C and δ15N), and associated biological and environmental parameter. These data will be used in an estuary-coast-shelf observational and modelling (OMEXDIA) approach (Cefas) to estimate carbon budgets.

The candidate will be based at Essex, but have opportunities to spend time at Cefas (data modelling; links to coastal policy development) and UEA (stable isotope analysis), equipping them with a relevant set of skills and wider network. There will be a significant amount of coastal fieldwork, and the opportunity to participate in Cefas-led research cruises on the North Sea, providing key fieldwork skills (project management, sampling in the field, organisation and coordination of fieldwork logistics). Support will be provided for participation in national and international conferences at the discretion and approval of the supervisory team.

Person Specification
The successful candidate will have a degree in a relevant scientific discipline (marine sciences, earth sciences, environmental sciences). Some experience of chemical laboratory analyses and coastal or estuarine fieldwork experience would be preferred.

How to apply
Please apply by sending a CV (including contact details of two academic referees) and a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the PhD to Emma Revill . If you have any questions please feel free to contact any member of the supervisory team. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria are awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020-21) and research funding. International applicants (EU/non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded studentships. ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or costs associated with relocation to the UK.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries/ applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Please visit View Website


1. Legge, O., Johnson, M., Hicks, N., Jickells, T., Diesing, M., Aldridge, J., Andrews, J., Artioli, Y., Bakker, DCE., Burrows, MT., Carr, N., Cripps, G., Felgate, SL., Fernand, L., Greenwood, N., Hartman, S., Kröger, S., Lessin, G., Mahaffey, C., Mayor, DJ., Parker, R., Queirós, AM., Shutler, JD., Silva, T., Stahl, H., Tinker, J., Underwood, GJC., Van Der Molen, J., Wakelin, S., Weston, K. and Williamson, P., (2020). Carbon on the Northwest European Shelf: Contemporary Budget and Future Influences. Frontiers in Marine Science. 7
2. Hicks, N., Ubbara, GR., Silburn, B., Smith, HEK., Kröger, S., Parker, ER., Sivyer, D., Kitidis, V., Hatton, A., Mayor, DJ. and Stahl, H., (2017). Oxygen dynamics in shelf seas sediments incorporating seasonal variability. Biogeochemistry. 135 (1-2), 35-47
3. Luisetti, T., Turner, KR., Andrews, JE., Jickells, TD., Kröger, S., Diesing, M., Paltriguera, L., Johnson, MT., Parker, ER., Bakker, DCE, Weston, K. (2019) Quantifying and valuing carbon flows and stores in coastal and shelf ecosystems in the UK. Ecosystem Services 35, 67-76,
4. Bristow, L., Jickells, T., Weston, K., Marca, A., Parker ER., Andrews, J. (2013) Tracing estuarine organic matter sources into the southern North Sea using C and N isotopic signatures Biogeochemistry. 113, 1-3, 9-22
5. Cousins, LJ., Cousins, MS., Gardiner, T, Underwood, GJC. (2017). Factors influencing the initial establishment of salt marsh vegetation on engineered sea wall terraces in south east England. Ocean & Coastal Management, 143, 96-104.

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