The sea ice carbon pump in Antarctic waters


The sea ice carbon pump in Antarctic waters


Project Description


Dr Dorothee Bakker (University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences) – Contact me

Thomas Bell, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Robert Hall, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia


Project background

Sea ice provides an important, but poorly quantified, mechanism for transfer of carbon from the upper ocean to the deep ocean, the sea ice carbon pump. Brine drainage from sea ice formed in Antarctic coastal polynyas furthermore contributes to the creation of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), in which dense water carries dissolved carbon to depth. While the ocean takes up a quarter of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activity, paradoxically newly formed AABW contains little ‘anthropogenic’ carbon, probably because persistent sea ice cover hampers surface ocean CO2 uptake.

Project objectives

1)         Quantify the effects of sea ice formation and melt on ocean carbon

2)         Determine dissolved carbon uptake by AABW

3)         Gain a circumpolar perspective on how sea ice impacts the carbon cycle

Research methodology

The multidisciplinary, multiplatform PICCOLO (Processes Influencing Carbon Cycling: Observations of the Lower limb of the Antarctic Overturning, cruise will provide you with a unique field opportunity in an Antarctic coastal polynya. You will use PICCOLO’s measurements of direct CO2 air-sea fluxes and carbonate chemistry for quantification of the effects of sea ice formation and melt on ocean carbon. Then, you will combine these measurements with water mass analysis and determine carbon uptake by AABW. Finally, you will use SOCAT, GLODAP, biogeochemical Argo floats, including SOCCOM, and satellite products to gain a circumpolar perspective on how sea ice impacts ocean carbon uptake, transport and storage.


You will:

  • Participate in the PICCOLO research cruise, subject to sea survival training, BASMU medical and COVID vaccinations;
  • Gain expertise in carbonate chemistry measurements;
  • Develop skills in sensor calibration, data analysis and programming (Python or Matlab);
  • Work with shipboard, glider, float and satellite datasets;
  • Join the dynamic, multi-institution PICCOLO science team;
  • Attend PICCOLO workshops;
  • Present research at an international scientific conference and in peer-reviewed publications;

While determining the role of sea ice in the carbon cycle.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active team player with strong scientific interests, self-motivation and numerical skills. You will have a degree in physics, chemistry, natural sciences, mathematics, computing, environmental sciences, or similar numerical subject.


  • Brown, P. J., Jullion, L., Landschützer, P., Bakker, D. C. E., Naveira Garabato, A. C., Meredith, M. P., Torres-Valdés, S., Watson, A. J., Hoppema, M., Loose, B., Jones, E. M., Telszewski, M., Jones, S. D., Wanninkhof, R. (2015) Carbon dynamics of the Weddell Gyre, Southern Ocean. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 29: 288-306. doi:10.1002/2014GB005006.
  • Droste, E. S., Hoppema, M., González-Dávila, M., Santana-Casiano, J. M., Queste, B. Y., Dall’Olmo, G., Venables, H. J., Rohardt, G., Ossebaar, S., Schuller, D., Trace-Kleeberg, S., Bakker, D. C. E. (2022) The influence of tides on the marine carbonate chemistry of a coastal polynya in the south-eastern Weddell Sea. Ocean Science 18(5), 1293-1320, doi:10.5194/os-18-1293-2022.
  • Legge, O. J., Bakker, D. C. E., Meredith, M. P, Venables, H. J., Brown, P. J., Jones, E. M., Johnson, M. T. (2017) The seasonal cycle of carbonate system processes in Ryder Bay, West Antarctic Peninsula. Deep-Sea Research II 139: 167-180. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2016.11.006.
  • Rysgaard, S., Bendtsen, J., Delille, B., Dieckmann, G. S., Glud, R. N., Kennedy, H., Mortensen, J., Papadimitriou, S., Thomas, D. N., and Tison, J. L. (2011) Sea ice contribution to the air-sea CO2 exchange in the Arctic and Southern Oceans, Tellus, Series B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 63, 823–830, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0889.2011.00571.x.
  • Watts, J., Bell, T. G., Anderson, K., Butterworth, B. J., Miller, S., Else, B. and Shutler, J. (2022) Impact of sea ice on air-sea CO2 exchange – a critical review of polar eddy covariance studies. Progress in Oceanography: 102741. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2022.102741

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 19th May 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2023 so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates,
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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