Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2023.

The PhD will be based in the School of the Environment, Geography & Geoscience, and will be supervised by Dr Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero, Professor Craig Storey and Dr Tom Dunkley Jones. 

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 p.a. towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Working with samples retrieved in the subpolar realm
  • Developing micropalaeontological and geochemical skills
  • Generating multi-proxy data to reconstruct the climate of the past in collaboration with world-class researchers
  • Using Plio-Pleistocene warm periods as analogues for future climate change

The carbon chemistry of the global ocean has a fundamental impact on marine life, with the current influx of anthropogenic CO2 into the surface ocean causing a substantial perturbations in the system. The calcifying unicellular phytoplankton coccolithophore algae are a major component of global, open-ocean primary production, making the response of this group to changing ocean chemistry fundamental for future marine ecology and carbon cycling. This is especially the case in the high latitude surface oceans, where carbonate saturation states are lowest. 

The main aim of this project to study key past Plio-Pleistocene Southern Ocean warm intervals as future analogues for climate change. We propose to reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental conditions during the Pliocene, Pleistocene and the Holocene using the fossil remains of coccolithophores preserved in samples from International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 383 Sites U 1539, U1540 and U1541 in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean. We will be using coupled methodologies of detailed species abundance records and coccolith geochemistry, including: 

1. Micropalaeontological techniques, such as quantitative determination of coccolithophore assemblages down to species level using light microscope, assessment of coccolith preservation in Scanning Electron Microscope; morphometrics and coccolith mass determination by transmitted optical microscopy. 

2. Geochemical techniques, such as coccolith chemistry-based indicators of coccolithophore growth and marine productivity (Sr/Ca) and stable isotopes (δ18O, δ13C). 

3. Data analyses techniques including time series and spectral analyses of the large dataset that will be generated. This will also include combining and comparing with other relevant datasets generated by other international scientists (e.g., oxygen and carbon isotopes measured on foraminifera, alkenones, diatoms, XRF-core scanner measurements).

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You will need a degree in geology (palaeontology, earth science, geosciences, geography, biology, marine sciences or equivalent) and ideally, interest in palaeoclimates, microfossils and laboratory work.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact  Dr Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SEGG7990423 when applying.