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Numerical Modelling of oxygen isotopes in the atmosphere over key intervals in Earth History

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Mark Claire
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Atmospheric oxygen is fundamental to life as we know it, but its concentration has changed dramatically over Earth’s 4.5 billion year history. An amazing qualitative story has emerged, in which Earth’s atmosphere was devoid of free oxygen for the first 2 billion years of planetary history, with two significant increases in concentration at ~2.4 and ~0.55 billion years ago. Both oxygenation events were accompanied by extreme climatic effects – the “snowball earth” episodes – and paved the way for massive reorganization of biogeochemical cycles such as the Cambrian radiation of macroscopic life. Despite these profound influences on the Earth system, we currently lack fundamental quantitative constraints on Earth’s atmospheric evolution.

In 2016, St Andrews plans to start three related PhD projects spanning a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, offered via Mark’s recent 5 year ~£1.3M European Research Council award entitled “Constraining the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere using novel isotopes and modelling” All projects require a 1st class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree or masters. Additional information detailing the projects is available at http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/earthsci/study/oxygen

This numerically based project will build the first one-dimensional photochemical model capable of accurately predicting triple oxygen isotopes signatures delivered to the geologic record under varying O2 and CO2 concentrations. The model will be validated against field samples collected in Chile, and will ultimately be used to interpret data generated by a fellow PhD student which can constrain the evolution of atmospheric chemistry during Snowball Earth events, the Cambrian Explosion, the Permian Triassic mass-extinction, and Quaternary.

Suitable Backgrounds for this project include Maths, Physics, Geochemistry or other degree with strong applied numerical skills. Prior programming experience is desired, but is not a requirement for the position.

Funding Notes

Full Funding (tuition + stipend) is only guaranteed for UK/EU students, although exceptional candidates worldwide are encouraged to apply, and any offer would be made at full funding.


More information (and links to references) are available via the above link to http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/earthsci/study/oxygen

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