Zooplankton migrations and carbon sinks in a changing climate


Zooplankton migrations and carbon sinks in a changing climate


Project Description


Prof Corinne Le Quéré (University of Easy Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences) – contact me

Dr Marie-Fanny Racault, School of Environmental Sciences

Dr Fabien Lombard, Laboratoire d’océanographie de Villefranche-sur-mer


Project background

Marine ecosystems play a key role in regulating the Earth’s climate. Marine ecosystems live largely at the ocean’s surface. Their activities generate a flux of carbon between the ocean surface and the deep ocean that is as large as the fossil CO2 emissions, and maintains atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the long-term about 200 ppm lower than it would be otherwise. Most organic material in the ocean ends up being grazed by zooplankton. The depth at which zooplankton excrete their faecal pellets is fundamental for regulating the return time of this carbon to the surface, where it can exchange again with the atmosphere (Boyd et al. 2019). Recent technological advances in imaging have revolutionised our understanding of the vertical structure of organic particles in the ocean, and enable the representation of more complex ecological processes in global carbon cycle models (Lombard et al 2019).


Research methodology

This PhD project aims to examine the role of zooplankton vertical migration for the oceanic carbon cycle, and explore how it may change in the future under a warming climate. The PhD candidate will introduce vertical migration in a model that currently represents five types of zooplankton (Wright etal 2021; Buitenhuis et al 2019; Le Quéré et al. 2016), and examine the effect of the daily and seasonal vertical migrations by different types of zooplankton. The work will be guided by information derived from images collected with zooscan and with Underwater Video Profiler (UVP) instruments (Lombard etal 2019). Model developments will use machine-learning techniques to parameterise and evaluate the new processes.


The PhD candidate will be part of a dynamic research group and will contribute to the development of a cutting-edge model of the ocean carbon cycle used for understanding the Earth System. There will be opportunities to interact with an international group of experts, attend Greenocean workshops, and present at internationally-leading conferences. The successful candidate will gain (1) knowledge in climate change, marine ecosystem, and ocean biogeochemical modelling (2) computer programming, model optimisation techniques, data processing, and statistical analysis, and have a chance to access further (3) training opportunities provided by ARIES.

Person specification

This project is particularly suited for candidates with first degrees in any sciences and an interest in marine ecosystems and climate change (including physics, computer sciences, mathematics, biology and earth and environmental sciences). Enthusiastic individuals with experience in computer-based analysis are encouraged to apply.

Applicants to this project must meet the School of Environmental Science’s [admissions requirements https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/university-information/governance/policies-and-regulations/general-regulations/requirements-for-postgraduate-research-degrees], and the [Faculty of Science’s English language requirements for postgraduate researchers https://www.uea.ac.uk/apply/our-admissions-policy/english-language-equivalencies].


  • Wright, R. M., Le Quéré, C., Buitenhuis, E., Pitois, S. & Gibbons, M. J., (2021). Role of jellyfish in the plankton ecosystem revealed using a global ocean biogeochemical model. Biogeosciences. 18, 4, 1291-1320
  • Buitenhuis, E.T., C. Le Quéré, N. Bednaršek, and R. Schiebel (2019). Large Contribution of Pteropods to Shallow CaCO3 Export. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 33, 458-468.
  • Le Quéré, C., E. T. Buitenhuis, R. Moriarty, S. Alvain, O. Aumont, L. Bopp, S. Chollet, C. Enright, D. J. Franklin, R. J. Geider, S. P. Harrison, A. Hirst, S. Larsen, L. Legendre, T. Platt, I. C. Prentice, R. B. Rivkin, S. Sathyendranath, N. Stephens, M. Vogt, S. Sailley, and S. M. Vallina (2016). Role of zooplankton dynamics for Southern Ocean biomass and global biogeochemical cycles. Biogeosciences, 13, 4111-4133.
  • Boyd, P., H. Claustre, M. Levy, D. A. Siegel, and T. Weber (2019). Multi-faceted particle pumps drive carbon sequestration in the ocean. Nature, 568, 327-335.
  • Lombard F, Boss E, Waite AM, Vogt M, Uitz J, Stemmann L, Sosik HM, Schulz J, Romagnan J-B, Picheral M, Pearlman J, Ohman MD, Niehoff B, Möller KO, Miloslavich P, Lara-Lpez A, Kudela R, Lopes RM, Kiko R, Karp-Boss L, Jaffe JS, Iversen MH, Irisson J-O, Fennel K, Hauss H, Guidi L, Gorsky G, Giering SLC, Gaube P, Gallager S, Dubelaar G, Cowen RK, Carlotti F, Briseño-Avena C, Berline L, Benoit-Bird K, Bax N, Batten S, Ayata SD, Artigas LF, Appeltans W (2019) Globally Consistent Quantitative Observations of Planktonic Ecosystems. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, 196.

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

Apply now