Fluctuations in North Atlantic Ocean circulation since the Last Glacial Maximum

Apply and key information  



Knowledge of past deep-ocean current speeds has the potential to inform our understanding of changes in the climate system on glacial-interglacial timescales as these may be used to help constrain changes in deep-ocean circulation rates and pathway. The Rockall Trough, a deep water basin offshore Ireland and UK, is known to be the pathway for the exchange of water masses in the North Atlantic (New & Smythe-Wright, 2001), but limited data exists to date on the changes in ocean circulation over time in this part of the Atlantic Ocean. Previous works on deep-water sedimentation in the region have recognised the presence of thick sediment bodies related to the flow of deep-ocean currents, including the Feni Drift and contouritic deposits on the eastern side of the Rockall Trough (Stoker, 1998). Proxies obtained from deep-water sediment cores, such as the mean size and percentage of sortable silt, can be used to assess the variations in the speed of bottom currents (Mao et al., 2018; Spooner et al., 2018).

This project will utilise a series of sediment cores from the continental slope and deep Rockall Trough, for which a chronostratigraphy is already established, to investigate fluctuations in current vigour using grain size measurements with a focus on the sortable silt fraction.

Objectives of the Research:

*Carry out high-resolution grain size analyses on a selection of sediment cores from the Rockall Trough.

*Analyse variations in grain size data, with a focus on sortable silt.

*Reconstruct fluctuations in ocean currents over time.

Methods to be used:

The MRes candidate will work on marine sediment cores currently stored at Ulster University and will use data already available such as X-radiograph, radiocarbon dates, multi-sensor core logger data to identify suitable intervals for more refined and high-resultion analyses. The project will then focus on grain size analyses to be carried out using a Malvern Mastersizer and the statistical analysis of such results.

Skills required of applicant:

The project is suitable for a self-motivated applicant with Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Environmental Science or Marine Science background, with capacity to learn new analytical techniques and basic statistical analysis.

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

Experience working with sediments and/or sediment cores.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

Recommended reading

Mao L., Piper D.J.W., Saint-Ange F., & Andrews J.T. (2018). Labrador Current fluctuation during the last glacial cycle. Marine Geology, 395: 234-246.

New A.L. & Smythe-Wright D. (2001). Aspects of the circulation in the Rockall Trough. Continental Shelf Research 21: 777–810

Spooner P. T., Thornalle, D. J. R., & Ellis, P. (2018). Grain size constraints on glacial circulation in the Southwest Atlantic. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 33,21–30. https://doi. org/10.1002/2017PA003232

Stoker M.S. (1998). Sediment-drift development on the continental margin off NW Britain. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 1998; v. 129; p. 229-254 doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.1998.129.01.15

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 3 June 2022

Preferred student start date
Mid September 2022


Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Professor Sara Benetti