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Funded PhD Opportunity

Fluctuations in North Atlantic Ocean circulation since the beginning of the last glacial cycle

Subject: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology


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.

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.


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

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

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

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Experience of presentation of research findings


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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I would highly recommend Ulster University as you get so much support.  Coleraine is a beautiful town and the people are so friendly. It was a really positive experience.

Carin Cornwall - PhD Environmental Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 18 February 2019

Interview Date
w/c 18 March 2019


Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
Our coastal and riverside campus focussing on science and health

Contact supervisor

Dr Sara Benetti

Other supervisors

  • Dr Ruth Plets
  • Dr Rory Flood (Queen's University Belfast) and Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou (University of Brighton)


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