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The seasonal ocean dynamics of the Amundsen Sea Embayment

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, December 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Thwaites and neighbouring glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) are rapidly losing mass in response to recent climate warming and related changes in ocean circulation. This mass loss can become even stronger soon due to the marine ice sheet instability. Such mass loss from the ASE could lead to the eventual collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which would raise the sea level by up to 2.5 meters in as short as 500 years. Such model predictions, however, are still lacking spatially and temporally detailed understanding of the dominant oceanographic processes in the ASE. The largest Earth science funding agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States are collaborating currently to investigate these processes and collect relevant data from this area. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) covers research across Thwaites Glacier and the ASE. Within the ITGC the TARSAN (Thwaites-Amundsen Regional Survey and Network) project aims to collect data from a range of platforms, including data collected from animal-borne sensors.
This project aims to investigate the dynamical oceanographic processes on the shelf of the Amundsen Sea in Antarctica, their variability and the mechanisms that regulate the along and across-slope exchange of properties by using data collected by Weddell and Southern Elephant seals. We will lead three campaigns into the ASE in 2019, 2020 and 2021 to tag seals with small CTD sensors after their annual moult. These will provide data over the following winter, a unique opportunity to obtain measurements in a region covered with sea ice. Data are transmitted by satellite until the tag falls off when the seal moults. The student will use these data as well as archived data from previous years to investigate the seasonal dynamics of the water mass properties and structure in the ASE.
This work involves training in analysing telemetry, behavioural and oceanographic data and the student will develop their skills in computer programming using Matlab or R including oceanographic data analysis and visualisation. The student has the possibility to participate in a research cruise into the ASE giving them skills in ocean data collection techniques. The tags will be transmitting their data back via satellites and the student will be involved in the data collection, quality control, calibration and analysis. They will be trained in science communication and encouraged to attend summer schools, international conferences and workshops to present their science. The student will join a group of climate scientists and will participate in the ITGC and TARSAN programme meetings.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a good first degree in marine sciences with a good background in oceanography. Applicants with degrees in other subjects, such as physics or mathematics, are invited to discuss their qualifications with the supervisor. A masters-level degree is an advantage.
Eligibility requirements: Upper second-class degree in Biology or a related area.
Funding: Fees and stipend is provided for 3.5 years.


Boehme, L., P. L. Lovell, M. Biuw, F. Roquet, J. Nicholson, S. E. Thorpe, M. Meredith and M. A. Fedak.
2009. Animal-borne CTD-Satellite Relay Data Loggers for real-time oceanographic data collection. Ocean
Science, 5, 685-695.
Scambos, T., R. Bell, R. Alley, S. Anandakrishnan, D. Bromwich, K. Brunt, K. Christianson, T. Creyts, S.
Das, R. DeConto, H. A. Fricker, D. Holland, J. MacGreregor, B. Medley, J. Nicholas, D. Pollard, M. Siegfried,
A. Smith, E. Steig, L. Trusel, D. Vaughan, and P. Yager. 2017. How Much, How Fast?: A Review and
Science Plan for Research on the Instability of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier in the 21st century. Glob.
Planet. Change, 153, 16-34

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.45

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