Project code



School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

This is a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in October or February.

The project is supervised by Prof Rob Strachan and Prof Craig Storey.

The late Neoproterozoic era is marked globally by extensional tectonics, following the break-up of Rodinia and formation of new oceans. Global compilations of crustal growth ages suggest little growth of continental crust during this period.

Recent research suggests that continuous subduction and development of magmatic arcs may only result in net continental growth in a retreating subduction setting (such as eastern Australia in Cambrian-Devonian times), rather than advancing settings (such as the modern Andean margin).

These suggestions are intriguing and may relate to larger-scale tectonic processes. The formation of supercontinents may also bias the preservation potential of magmatic arc rocks.

The work will include:

  • testing crustal growth models during periods of supercontinent dispersal, such as the late Neoproterozoic
  • carrying out fieldwork and getting training in in-situ Laser Ablation ICP-MS techniques
  • development of transferable skills for a career in analytical geochemistry and the oil/mineral extraction industries

The Channel Islands and northwest France contain abundant magmatic rocks formed in an arc setting ~620–570 Ma. Basement gneisses, dated at ~2.1 Ga, occur sporadically and Nd model ages of the arc rocks are ~1 Ga. This suggests that the arc was built onto either a continental margin or a microcontinental fragment.

It's not known how much juvenile crust was formed, and the tectonic setting which allowed preservation of this crust during a major period of rifting and drifting is also unclear. One approach is to track the U-Pb age and Hf isotopes within zircons from magmatic rocks spanning the development and growth of the arc and eroded remnants of the arc (overlying younger sediments).

This approach potentially allows the timing of major crustal reworking to be distinguished from juvenile magmatism and, therefore, an isotopic record of the tectonic development of the arc. We can then relate the tectonic setting, along with geological data, to the growth of continental crust in this important period and investigate whether the preservation potential is related to a unique tectonic setting (e.g. a retreating subduction zone) or simply a minor aberration in the overall history of global growth of continental crust.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

  • A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Make an enquiry

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

To start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Prof Rob Strachan ( and Prof Craig Storey ( quoting both the project code and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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.