Investigating the Impact of Explosive Volcanism on the Carbon Cycle and Life in the Deep Biosphere


Investigating the Impact of Explosive Volcanism on the Carbon Cycle and Life in the Deep Biosphere


Project Description


Dr Hayley Manners (School of  Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth) contact me

Dr Paul Cole (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth)

Professor Martin Palmer (School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton)

Dr Susann Henkel (Alfred Wegener Institute)

Dr Jack Longman (Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University Of Oldenburg)

Project Background

Preservation of organic carbon (OC) in marine sediments plays a major role in modulating Earth’s climate. Volcanic eruptions eject large amounts of products (tephra) into the atmosphere, much of which falls into the oceans, settles to the seafloor and undergoes rapid reaction with seawater [1, 2]. These reactions enhance OC preservation by up to 10%[1, 3], making their contribution to the marine carbon cycle significant. Nutrients supplied by volcanic ash have been linked with increased primary productivity in the oceans, influencing marine OC burial in the modern day and throughout periods of climatic upheaval such as the Cretaceous Period [4], demonstrating the importance of volcanic ash throughout Earth’s history. Tephra can also be an energy source for distinct microbiological communities [5], making the study of tephra also important in understanding how life thrives in extreme environments.


In this multidisciplinary project, you will investigate the role of explosive volcanism in modulating the marine carbon cycle using International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) samples from a range of global locations, including the Nankai Trough, Japan and northern Hikurangi margin, New Zealand. You will also explore tephra’s potential as a habitat for distinct microbial life in the marine realm. This will directly impact our understanding of the marine carbon cycle and life in extreme environments.


H1) Distinct types of OC are preserved within tephra.

H2) The elemental composition of the tephra relates to the type of OC preserved.

H3) Specific types of OC are related to distinct microbiological communities.


You will join five dynamic research groups; the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Centre for Research in Earth Sciences (Plymouth), the Geochemistry Group (Southampton), the Marine Geochemistry Group (Bremerhaven) and the Marine Isotope Geochemistry Group (Oldenburg). Multidisciplinary training will include organic, inorganic, microbiological and microscopic methods, as well as transferrable skills such as scientific communication skills. Analyses will be performed across all named institutions depending on supervisor expertise and all supervisors will be involved in data handling and discussion.

Person Specification

Applicants should have a degree in Chemistry, Environmental Science, Oceanography, or a related subject, and preferably research experience in environmental geochemistry/a related field.


  • 1. Longman, J., Palmer, M.R., Gernon, T.M., & Manners, H.R. (2019). The role of tephra in enhancing organic carbon preservation in marine sediments. Earth-Science Reviews 192, 480 – 490.
  • 2. Murray, N. A., McManus, J., Palmer, M. R., Haley, B., & Manners, H.R. (2018). Diagenesis in tephra-rich sediments from the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc: pore fluid constraints. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 228, 119-135.
  • 3. Lalonde, K., Mucci, A., Ouellet, A., & Gelinas, Y. (2012). Preservation of organic matter in sediments promoted by iron. Nature 483, 198-200.
  • 4. Lee, C-T.A., Jiang, H., Ronay, E., Minisini, D., Stiles, J. & Neal, M. (2018). Volcanic ash as a driver of enhanced organic carbon burial in the Cretaceous. Nature Scientific Reports 8, 4197.
  • 5. Inagaki, F., Suzuki, M., Takai, K., Oida, H., Sakamoto, T., Aoki, K., Nealson, K.H., Horikoshi, K. (2003). Microbial communities associated with geological horizons in coastal subseafloor sediments from the Sea of Okhotsk. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69 (12), 7224-7235.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. 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 in the subject area.
  • 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 significant relevant non-academic 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 click on the “Apply now” link below.

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