PhD PROJECTS

ACEAS Student Projects and Scholarships

From the second half of 2021, a number of PhD research projects related to the research programs of the Centre will be advertised here and on Australian university partner web sites for proposed commencement in January 2022 and beyond.  Applicants will be able to apply for Stipend Scholarships and fee waivers from the participating Australian Universities or from other sources, as well as Top-up Scholarships from ACEAS.

It is anticipated that many PhD graduates will have careers in industry and government, as well as in research and academia.  And, so, ACEAS is committed to training PhD students in their specialist area of research as well as in Antarctic science broadly plus Antarctic policy, governance, and law. The research of ACEAS will have particular focus on end-user engagement and early career researchers will be trained in communicating with those groups and the public through the media (including social media).

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD with ACEAS, please check this page regularly to look for advertised opportunities or contact a relevant supervisor directly.

Coupled Earth Systems and Instability: Understanding and Communicating Risk in Prediction

Program 1 I UTas

The newly established Scientific Research Program of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, INSTANT, reflects the urgent need to understand INStabilities and Thresholds in ANTarctic science, related to the interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere and solid Earth beneath.  Centred in mathematical geophysics, this project will examine generalised coupled systems, of relevance to complex models of Earth’s climate.  A particular focus of the project will be how the understanding of non-linearity in separate system components evolves when such systems are coupled. Mathematical approaches to be considered include optimization over hyperparameters, making use of information content metrics, and empirical dynamic modelling.

The project will firstly develop a computational framework that enables the exploration of the impacts of threshold crossing and instabilities in model systems, similar to those employed for ice-ocean and Earth-ice interaction studies. Secondly, the framework will be applied to synthetic, and simplified real-world, examples of interacting components of Earth systems.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Anya Reading

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

GPS measurement of deformation of East Antarctica

Program 1 and 3 I UTas

This project will focus on the analysis of GPS data with state-of-the-art techniques in order to better understand the deformation of Antarctica. It will make use of a new set of GPS sites in East Antarctica deployed. It will apply novel techniques to remove time series noise and compare these to numerical models developed from existing codes and from outputs provided by third parties. These results will be important for understanding present-day ice-sheet contribution to sea-level rise and in gaining fundamental understanding into the interior of the Earth. The project will provide students with advanced skills in numerical analysis, interpretation and presentation.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Matt King

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

Deep Earth Controls on Glacial Isostatic Adjustment in East Antarctica: Probing Remote Worlds using Seismic Signals

Program 1 I UTas

The 3D structure and rheology of the asthenosphere and lithosphere (deep Earth) beneath Antarctica provides an important control on patterns of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA), which in turn constrains observational estimates of loss of ice from major ice sheets that is a significant contributor to sea level rise.  This project will make use of stochastic approaches to test the sensitivity of the seismic response to variable deep Earth rheology, these have been used with success applied to seismic data from the Mars Insight mission.

The research will develop a new methodology for the use of seismic data from isolated stations to constrain the material properties of the deep Earth beneath the station.  The newly developed technique will be applied to previously collected data in the Casey-Mawson region of East Antarctica, and other regions of Antarctica of key interest for GIA.  Output models of rheological properties will be produced in dialogue with interdisciplinary researchers, and the findings will be communicated in terms of the impact of interactions between the solid Earth and ice sheets on predictions of sea level rise.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Anya Reading

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

Remotely-sensing the Southern Ocean distribution of calcifying phytoplankton and their role in regional ecology and biogeochemistry

Program 1 I UTas

This PhD project will investigate the relevance of calcifying phytoplankton on contemporary and future carbon cycling in the Great Calcite Belt of the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean. It will utilize satellite and BioGeoChemical-Argo (BGC-Argo) profiling float data to map regional imprints of calcifying phytoplankton on nutrient and carbon stoichiometry as well as alkalinity as a key variable to determine the CO2 uptake capacity of the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean. It will further use laboratory incubations to assess the influence of calcifying phytoplankton on retention (as opposed to deep sequestration) of carbon and alkalinity in the surface. Goal is to generate a mechanistic understanding of retention-versus-export processes and link this with in BGC-Argo and satellite observations on a regional scale. The project will also generate flow cytometric and/or microscopic datasets of phytoplankton communities from the sub-antarctic during ship voyages to ground-truth characterizations of the phytoplankton community derived from BGC-Argo and satellite data.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Lennart Bach

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

Glacial Isostatic Adjustment in the Denman Glacier region, East Antarctica

Program 1 and 3 I UTas

The Earth continues to deform following past changes in glacial loading and unloading, notably since the Last Glacial Maximum. The Denman Glacier region shows surprisingly low rates of present-day uplift and this is yet to be explained by models of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), the ongoing response of the solid Earth to ice-ocean loading changes. This gap in knowledge affects estimates of present-day ice mass change (and hence sea-level change) as GIA is an essential correction to satellite datasets of ice-sheet change.

This project will focus on modelling the deformation of the Denman Glacier region based on new ice history and relative sea-level data, new GPS bedrock velocities, and numerical models of glacial isostatic adjustment and sea-level processes.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Matt King

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

PhD Project - Reconstructing the input of bioavailable iron to Antarctic waters

Program 3 I UTas

The input and dissolution of continental material to high nutrient surface waters of the Southern Ocean plays an important role in biogeochemical cycling of carbon because it alleviates iron limitation and stimulates phytoplankton growth. Close to Antarctica, dissolved iron sources include melting sea ice, icebergs calved from glaciers, and upwelled deep waters. The Antarctic Ice Sheet is experiencing rapid changes in response to anthropogenic climate warming. Melting ice shelves and glacier retreat will increase the input of freshwater and dissolved continental material to the surface ocean, but the biological response to these changes (and therefore impact on the global carbon cycle) is unknown. However, we can study the biological and chemical response to past changes in ice sheet retreat recorded in ocean sediments to improve our understanding of how the system might change in the future. The focus of this PhD project is to quantify the dissolved iron flux along the continental margin of East Antarctica in modern and past climate states.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Taryn Noble

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

Climate variability in satellite observations of Antarctic Ice Sheet change

Program 1 and 3 I UTas

This project focuses on the reasons why the mass of the Antarctic Ice Sheet changes and hence why Antarctica’s contribution to sea level varies over time. The project will make use of two different satellite datasets: 1) revolutionary estimates of ice sheet mass change from the GRACE and GRACE-Follow On missions; and 2) incredibly fine detailed estimates of ice sheet elevation change from a range of satellite altimetry missions.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Matt King

Applications close Monday 7 March 2022

Long-term changes of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean

Program 1 and 3 I Curtin University

The proposed PhD project which is supported by a PhD stipend from Curtin University will use multi-decadal records of satellite observations in search of decadal signals and their connection with Southern Ocean dynamics and large-scale climate drivers (like El Nino/La Nina). Such analyses are necessary to ultimately understand long-term changes in the ecosystem of this key yet remote ocean.

>20-year records of satellite-derived physical parameters (sea-surface temperature, wind speed and sea-surface height) and biological parameters (phytoplankton chlorophyll concentration) are available at the scale of the entire Southern Ocean. These parameters plus outputs of ocean models will be analysed in search of temporal signals and relationships, using statistical and/or machine learning techniques. This information will be used to assess the impact of various scenarios of change in the physical environment on future changes of phytoplankton.

Supervisor: Prof. David Antoine

Co-supervisors: Prof. Pete Strutton (University of Tasmania) and A/Prof. Alex Sen Gupta (University of New South Wales)