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Sea-Level Reconstructions at subsiding coastlines in New Zealand

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Rewi Newnham
    Prof R Gehrels
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

We are seeking a highly motivated student to undertake a PhD project in late Holocene sea-level reconstruction in the School of Geography, Environment & Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The PhD will be part of a new Research Programme funded by the New Zealand government that aims to develop improved sea-level rise projections for New Zealand to better manage and anticipate impacts.

PhD Project Description
Satellite and tide-gauge observations from around the globe show sea level rising at accelerating rates that are projected to continue. Whilst the underlying causes are well understood, much less certain is how different coastal areas will be affected. In tectonically active New Zealand, subsiding coastal areas will exacerbate the effects of ice melt and thermosteric expansion. Recent GPS observations provide a basis for constraining vertical land movement (VLM) and targeting high-risk coastlines, but – much like the recent sea-level observations – they need to be evaluated in a longer term context. For example, we do not know if the direction of VLM observed at one locality has been maintained beyond the few decades for which observations exist.

This project aims to address the problem with a two-pronged approach. First, it will compare existing decadal (instrumental) and centennial (geological) records for sea-level change in New Zealand with recent GPS observations for VLM to provide a national scale assessment of the tectonic impacts of recent sea-level rise. Second, and guided by this first task, the project will develop new centennial-scale sea-level reconstructions at a small number of targeted sites where VLM is likely to have been significant. This second phase of the project will include a substantial amount of fieldwork and labwork, applying proxy methods for reconstructing sea-level change from microfossils (foraminifera and, possibly, diatoms) preserved in salt-marsh sediments.

The outcomes of this PhD project will inform local sea-level projections and, more generally, coastal infrastructure providers, national policy statements and hazards and planning guidance documents. This project is also part of a much wider research programme aimed at determining how future sea-level rise will affect New Zealand’s coasts.

The studentship will be based at Victoria University of Wellington, but with provision to work for ca. 3 months at University of York, UK. Depending on available skills and experience, the successful applicant will receive training in palaeoecological techniques, modelling, dating methods, and field techniques. The supervisory team includes Victoria supervisors Prof. Rewi Newnham and Dr Andrew Rees (New Zealand Quaternary, modelling and statistical analysis) and Prof. Roland Gehrels at the University of York (UK) (sea-level reconstruction and salt-marsh geology). The project is open to students with a Masters degree 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. Experience in using R for analysing environmental data would be beneficial.

Funding Notes and Application Procedure
Fully funded for 3 years, the studentship covers an annual stipend of $NZ25,000, research costs, and tuition fees. Studentships are available to non-resident New Zealand students (language requirements apply for non-native English speakers).
To apply, please send a single pdf document containing CV (including details of academic transcripts), a cover letter that explains why this position interests you and the names of two academic referees who we may contact in support of your application. Applications close: April 30th 2018.

Further inquiries to Rewi Newnham: [Email Address Removed] or Roland Gehrels: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Fully funded for 3 years, the studentship covers an annual stipend of $NZ25,000, research costs, and tuition fees. Studentships are available to non-resident New Zealand students (language requirements apply for non-native English speakers).


Application should include the names of two academic referees who have agreed to be able to be contacted in support of your application

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