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Applications are now open for PhD studentships starting in October 2018. 

Please read the recruitment introduction for more information about eligibility, how to apply, and possibilities for further funding.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2018.

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MANNING_UENV18EE - Investigating climate change via the atmosphere: Using multi-species greenhouse gas measurements to shed light on Earth System land, ocean and atmospheric processes

Project description

Selected other project supervisors:
Dr Grant Forster (UEA)
Dr Penelope Pickers (UEA)

Is the UK on track to meet its fossil fuel emissions reduction commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement? What is the impact of El Niño variability on the North Atlantic Ocean sink for absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2)? What are the consequences of climate change on agricultural and forest greenhouse gas emissions? Why is atmospheric methane (CH4; second most important greenhouse gas) increasing globally, and is the ‘2°C warming target’ under threat because of these methane increases? What are the predicted changes in UK nitrous oxide emissions (N2O; third most important greenhouse gas), as agricultural and fertiliser practices change?

These are just some of the important, policy-relevant climate change questions that you will have the opportunity to investigate, in what is truly a multi-disciplinary PhD opportunity. Your work will primarily involve addressing questions, such as the above, via data analysis of long-term atmospheric greenhouse gas time series, primarily from UEA’s ‘Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory’, but also from other monitoring stations in the UK, Europe and globally. The objectives of this studentship are deliberately varied, and too many for any single student – you get to choose! But at the same time, you will receive comprehensive supervision to guide your choices, and ensure your chosen goals are exciting, policy-relevant, and feasible.

The studentship also includes fieldwork, operating state-of-the-art greenhouse gas measurement equipment at Weybourne, and on a commercial freighter ship that travels between the UK and South America. This will provide you with training in practical transferable skills. You will join an international community of atmospheric measurement scientists and will have opportunities to attend European and international meetings, particularly under the EU’s ‘International Carbon Observation System – ICOS’. In addition, you will have formal data analysis training opportunities through UK and European summer schools, workshops and collaborations, such as, learning how to use atmospheric transport models to quantify different sources of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

You will have a numerical skills or maths-based background. Environmental sciences and carbon cycle knowledge is desirable, but not required – we have excellent modules that you can sit in to broaden such knowledge. Attention to detail (specifically relating to the practical aspects of the project) and excellent writing skills are also required.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by EnvEast on 12/13 February 2018.

Selected candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. Ordinarily, EnvEast studentships are for 3.5 years, although longer awards may be made to applicants from quantitative disciplines who have limited experience in the environmental sciences, to allow them to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover tuition fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

This PhD studentship is expected to begin in September/October 2018. Both full-time and part-time study are possible (those planning to study part-time may wish to discuss this with the supervisor before applying).


  1. Barningham, S. T., Detection and attribution of carbon cycle processes from atmospheric O2 and CO2 measurements at Halley Research Station, Antarctica and Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, U.K., Ph.D. thesis, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K., available at:, 2017.
  2. Forster, G. L., W. T. Sturges, Z. L. Fleming, B. J. Bandy, and S. Emeis, A year of H2 measurements at Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, UK, Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 64, doi:10.3402/tellusb.v64i0.17771, 2012.
  3. Fleming, Z. L., P. S. Monks, and A. J. Manning, Review: Untangling the influence of air-mass history in interpreting observed atmospheric composition, Atmospheric Research, 104, 1-39, doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2011.09.009, 2012.
  4. Keeling, R. F., and A. C. Manning, 5.15 - Studies of Recent Changes in Atmospheric O2 Content, in Treatise on Geochemistry (Second Edition), edited by Holland, H. D., and K. K. Turekian, pp. 385-404; doi: 310.1016/B1978-1010-1008-095975-095977.000420-095974, doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-095975-7.00420-4, Elsevier, Oxford,, 2014.
  5. Pickers, P. A., New applications of continuous atmospheric O2 measurements: Meridional transects across the Atlantic Ocean, and improved quantification of fossil fuel-derived CO2, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K., available at:, 2016.