Atmospheric carbon detectives: Unveiling secrets of the Earth’s carbon cycle with CO2 polyisotopologue analysis

(FORSTER_UENV24ARIES)

Atmospheric carbon detectives: Unveiling secrets of the Earth’s carbon cycle with CO2 polyisotopologue analysis

(FORSTER_UENV24ARIES)

Project Description

Supervisors

Dr Grant Forster, University of East Anglia – Contact me 

Professor Jan Kaiser, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences

Dr Penelope Pickers, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences

Dr Alina Marca, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences

Scientific background

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the most significant contributor to anthropogenic climate change. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to avoid dangerous climate change by reducing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Independent top-down constraints on emissions require accurate measurements of CO2 concentrations and fluxes, as well as verifiable attribution to natural and anthropogenic sources, using tools such as the isotopic fingerprint of CO2. Recent technological developments now allow the analysis of ever rarer isotopic CO2 species, called polyisotopologues, which offer novel insights into the origin and fate of atmospheric CO2.

This studentship builds on the ongoing UKRI NERC POLYGRAM project (POLYisotopologues of GReenhouse gases: Analysis and Modelling; https://polygram.ac.uk).

Research Methodology

You will work with data from the Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory (WAO), on the Norfolk coast, and generate new data to extend the geographical range of CO2 polyisotopologues for better understanding key carbon cycle processes. Specifically, the objectives of this PhD research are to:

  • analyse and interpret seasonal and interannual variability of triple oxygen (16O, 17O, 18O) and stable carbon (12C, 13C) isotopes in CO2 at WAO
  • quantify oxygen isotope variations in CO2 at Alice Holt Forest Research Station in Hampshire to investigate ecosystem-scale carbon cycle processes
  • evaluate isotope gradients in CO2 at remote locations around the globe and from shipboard latitudinal transects across the Atlantic Ocean, as a measure of global primary productivity variations

Training

You will join a research team at UEA, but also work with our UK collaborators and visit the University of Groningen (Netherlands). You will develop:

  • proficiency in CO2 and H2O isotopologues measurements using state-of-the-art instrumentation in the field and in the laboratory
  • understanding of advanced statistical analysis of time-series data, including modelling techniques
  • networking skills (e.g., via the National Centre for Atmospheric Science summer school)
  • presentation techniques and scientific writing skills (including conferences and peer-reviewed publications)

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic team player with strong scientific interests, self-motivation, and numerical skills. You will have at least a BSc degree in environmental sciences, physics, chemistry, natural sciences, engineering or equivalent, and a strong interest in the carbon cycle and climate change.

References

  • 1 Koren, G., Schneider, L., van der Velde, I. R., van Schaik, E., Gromov, S. S., Adnew, G. A., Mrozek Martino, D. J., Hofmann, M. E. G., Liang, M.-C., Mahata, S., Bergamaschi, P., van der Laan-Luijkx, I. T., Krol, M. C., Röckmann, T. and Peters, W. (2019) Global 3-D simulations of the triple oxygen isotope signature Δ17Ο in atmospheric CO2. Journal of Geophysical Research 124: 8808-8836 10.1029/2019JD030387
  • 2 Steur, P. M., Scheeren, H. A., Nelson, D. D., McManus, J. B. and Meijer, H. A. J. (2021) Simultaneous measurement of δ13C, δ18O and δ17O of atmospheric CO2 – Performance assessment of a dual-laser absorption spectrometer. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 14: 4279-4304 10.5194/amt-14-4279-2021Steur, P. M., Scheeren, H. A., Nelson, D. D., McManus, J. B. and Meijer, H. A. J. (2021) Simultaneous measurement of δ13C, δ18O and δ17O of atmospheric CO2 – Performance assessment of a dual-laser absorption spectrometer. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 14: 4279-4304 10.5194/amt-14-4279-2021
  • 3 Hare, V. J., Dyroff, C., Nelson, D. D. and Yarian, D. A. (2022) High-precision triple oxygen isotope analysis of carbon dioxide by tunable infrared laser absorption spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry 94: 16023-16032 10.1021/acs.analchem.2c03005
  • 4 Adcock, K. E., Pickers, P. A., Manning, A. C., Forster, G. L., Fleming, L. S., Barningham, T., Wilson, P. A., Kozlova, E. A., Hewitt, M., Etchells, A. J. and Macdonald, A. J. (2023) 12 years of continuous atmospheric O2, CO2 and APO data from Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory in the United Kingdom. Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss. 2023: 1-47 10.5194/essd-2023-129
  • 5 Thomas, M., Laube, J. C., Kaiser, J., Allin, S., Martinerie, P., Mulvaney, R., Ridley, A., Röckmann, T., Sturges, W. T. and Witrant, E. (2021) Stratospheric carbon isotope fractionation and tropospheric histories of CFC-11, CFC-12, and CFC-113 isotopologues. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 21: 6857-6873 10.5194/acp-21-6857-2021

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2024. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 10th January 2024.
  • 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. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK. We expect to award between 4 and 6 studentships to international candidates in 2024.
  • 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.
  • ARIES funding is subject to UKRI terms and conditions. Postgraduate Researchers are expected to live within reasonable distance of their host organisation for the duration of their studentship. See https://www.ukri.org/publications/terms-and-conditions-for-training-funding/ for more information

Applications open

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