Dr Mingxi Yang (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Dr Simon Ussher (University of Plymouth)
Dr Tomás Sherwen (NCAS Research Scientist and GEOS-Chem model expert), University of York
Sulfur plays a key role in the marine atmosphere, and has a major influence on atmospheric particles and climate. Sulfur emissions result from natural seawater processes and anthropogenic activities. The marine atmosphere is undergoing a period of profound change. A series of regulations aimed at improving air quality have reduced anthropogenic sulfur emissions, which impact the composition and acidity of atmospheric particles (aerosols). Aerosol acidity is fundamental in atmospheric chemistry and is relevant to air quality, ecosystems, and climate.
Terrestrial anthropogenic sulfur emissions have steadily declined since the 1980s. In contrast, a global mandate in 2020 led to an abrupt seven-fold drop in emissions from international shipping. Natural/anthropogenic contributions to the marine sulfur burden and impacts on aerosol acidity are poorly understood because there has been no post-2020 assessment of the global implications of sulfur emission changes.
Constrain natural and anthropogenic sulfur emissions, improve understanding of atmospheric sulfur cycling post-2020, and assess the impacts upon the marine atmosphere.
Research methodology: The student will analyse marine sulfur gas and aerosol samples, and measure natural/anthropogenic contributions using isotope ratios. Samples will be collected at the southwest UK (Penlee Point), the Azores (ACE-ENA), and Bermuda (Tudor Hill) field sites, then data compared and evaluated against the GEOS-Chem model to improve understanding of marine aerosol, acidity and the impacts on biogeochemical cycles.
The student will gain field experience (observatory site visits) and specialist analytical lab experience (PML Air-Sea Exchange group: novel method development to trap sulfur gases for fluorescence detection; and UoP: analysing aerosol samples with Ion Chromatography and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry). They will visit the BGS Isotope facility, attend the NCAS summer school, gain data interpretation skills (Python), and learn valuable academic, industrial and consultancy career skills (e.g. transferable writing and presentation skills, good laboratory practice, quality assurance and safety procedures).
Suited for someone passionate about environmental research and field work, with an aptitude for operating scientific instrumentation and degree-level qualifications in Environmental, Chemical, Marine or Atmospheric Sciences. Those with other numerate degrees (e.g. Physics, Engineering) are also encouraged to apply.