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The past, present and future of the Great Barrier Reef: integrating machine learning, ecology and sedimentology.

  • Full or part time
    Dr J Hill
    Prof P Burgess
    Prof Fiona Whitaker
    Prof Jody Webster
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 08, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Coral reefs are the marine equivalent of rainforests: occupying 0.1% of the world’s ocean surface but hosting 38% of marine species. Reefs around the world are currently being destroyed by a number of factors, including rising ocean temperature. How will they react to predicted climate change?

We can use geological and biological knowledge, such as rock cores and changes in ecology through time, to predict the future. This project will create the first machine learning model of reef dynamics and incorporate both geological and biological data, enabling more accurate predictions of the impacts of future climate change. The model will be based on the current prototype of the Carst model:

We are looking for a student to join a growing research team in York that uses numerical methods to tackle environmental problems. You should have a background in mathematics or computer science with a passion to develop geological and ecological knowledge or a background in geosciences/ecology with a keen interest in computer modelling. The project is interdisciplinary so we will provide specialist training as needed.

There is the possibility of travelling to the Great Barrier Reef to collect data to calibrate and test the model with partners at the University of Sydney within the project.

The research will be based in the Environment Department at the University of York. Rated second in the UK and 17th in the world for the impact of our research, the Environment department at the University of York offers an outstanding, dynamic and multidisciplinary environment in which to carry out PhD research.

Our current PhD students come from many countries around the world and are well supported by a comprehensive programme of training and an inclusive supervision network.

For more information on supervisors see:

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.


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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