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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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PEDENTCHOUK_UENV18EE - Life and Environment During Rapid Climatic Warming 56 million Years Ago: A Geological Analogue for the Future

Project description

Selected other project supervisors:
Dr Mark Chapman

Rationale and Significance
This Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) occurred ~ 56 million years ago and is considered to be one of the closest analogues for investigating possible effects of anthropogenically released carbon on the Earth system. Currently, there is a paucity of studies integrating geochemical and biological data to explore the link between climate perturbations and ecological changes during the PETM. Clarifying this link would allow for a better understanding of the role of increasing temperatures on terrestrial and marine biota during future climate change.

Research methodology
This project will rely on an established collaboration between the primary supervisor and Russian scientists from Geological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia.

The student will:

  1. Review published geological and palaeontological research on PETM from southern Russia and develop their own research questions and hypothesis,
  2. Generate new micropalaeontological data (using a transmitted-light petrological type microscope) and investigate the extinction patterns within benthic and planktonic foraminiferal assemblages,
  3. Acquire new carbon and oxygen stable isotope data (on an isotope ratio mass spectrometer) on individual shells representing different species of foraminifera. Outcrop sediment samples will be available at UEA before the beginning of the project. However, there will be an opportunity for additional fieldwork in Russia according to the needs of the project.

The student will take advantage of the excellent micropalaeontological, geological, and geochemical expertise available in the School of Environmental Sciences and will have access to several isotope ratio mass spectrometers at UEA.  They will work closely with the supervisors and support staff to generate new foraminiferal species abundance and stable isotope data. There will be an opportunity to interact with international scientists in the laboratory and the field. The project will provide key academic and practical skills for employment in academia or industry.

Person specification
To succeed in this project, the student should have a background in Earth Sciences, ideally with knowledge of soft rock geochemistry and/or stable isotopes. Some knowledge of micropalaeontology as applied to palaeoceanography will be beneficial. Acceptable degree subjects are Geology, Earth Science, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Chemistry.

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. Chapman, M. (2010) Seasonal production patterns of planktonic foraminifera in the NE Atlantic Ocean: Implications for paleotemperature and hydrological reconstructions. Paleoceanography 25, PA1101, doi: 10.1029/2008PA001708.
  2. Frieling, J. et al. (2017) Extreme warmth and heat-stressed plankton in the tropics during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Sci. Adv. 3:e1600891.
  3. McInerney, F.A. & Wing, S.L., (2011) The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet Sci. 39, 489-516.
  4. Pagani M., Pedentchouk N., Huber M., et al. (2006) Arctic hydrology during global warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum. Nature 442, 671–675.
  5. Shcherbinina, E., Gavrilov, Y., et al., 2016. Environmental dynamics during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) in the northern Peri-Tethys revealed by high-resolution micropalaeontological and geochemical studies of a Caucasian key section. Palaeogeogr. Palaeocl. 456, 60-81.