Potential PhD projects

Currently available PhD project topics

These projects do not currently have funding associated with them. View our PhD funding pages for information on funding a PhD. 

1. Coupling of late Pliocene Indian monsoon variability and global climate: new data from IODP Expedition 353

Supervisors: Dr Kate LittlerDr Ian Bailey

The Indian monsoon is one of the most powerful meteorological phenomena on the planet, affecting the lives of over a billion people. However, its behaviour in the near future under the influence of anthropogenic climate change is uncertain, particularly in terms of the intensity and amount of seasonal precipitation. The Pliocene (2.58–5.33 Ma) is the most recent period in Earth’s history with similar elevated global temperatures and CO2 levels to those predicted for the coming century, and may serve as a useful analogue for future climate and monsoon behaviour. The late Pliocene (~3.3–2.5 Ma) was a time of great global change, witnessing the descent into Northern Hemisphere glaciation concurrent with a significant drop in CO2. Understanding the response of the monsoon system during this time of changing boundary conditions will further enhance our mechanistic understanding.

This project will utilise new deep-sea sediments recovered during IODP Expedition 353 (Dec 2014–Jan 2015). As this region has never been scientifically drilled before, these high-resolution cores represent an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the past behaviour of the Indian Monsoon through the application of sophisticated multi-proxy techniques. We will generate coupled Mg/Ca and d18O records to reconstruct temperature and d18O seawater (salinity) changes of surface and thermocline-dwelling planktic foraminifera, at high (2kyr) resolution, allowing us to track the changing response of the Indian monsoon to orbital forcing.

Contact Dr Kate Littler for more information.

2. Numerical and chemical modelling of ascent and emplacement of carbonate-rich magmas

Supervisors: Dr Kathryn MooreProf Frances Wall

Approximately one third of all carbonatites are host rocks for economic deposits of a wide-range of commodities including critical materials such as the REE and phosphate rock. However, the exact nature of the formation of carbonatite and the relationships between carbonatite and associated igneous rocks remain the subject of extensive debate. There is little known about the mechanisms for ascent and emplacement of magmas, and what causes carbonate-rich magmas to pond. This project aims to illuminate the physical behaviour of a wide range of carbonate-rich magmas in the crust, with implications for the magmatic evolution of carbonate-rich parental magmas to produce economic concentrations of critical metals.

Contact Dr Kathryn Moore for more information.

3. Ecological Modelling of Heap Bioleaching Systems

Supervisors: Dr Chris Bryan

Heap bioleaching accounts for up to 25 % of global copper production. However, very little is known about the microbial community dynamics which drive this process. This project will study microbial growth, transport and succession in simulated heap leaching environments to determine the importance of biodiversity, community responses to changes in local physicochemical conditions and ultimately develop an ecological model for these systems.

Contact Dr Chris Bryan for more information.

4. Developing exploration tools to discriminate porphyry copper ‘fertile’ from ‘barren’ magmatic systems

Supervisors: Dr Ben Williamson (University of Exeter) and Dr Robin Armstrong (Natural History Museum)

Porphyry copper deposits provide around 75%, 50% and 20% of world copper, molybdenum and gold, respectively, and are therefore vital to the global economy. They show a strong association with calc-alkaline magmatism in subduction zone settings, however large deposits are rare and most occurring near-surface have already been discovered. In this project you will compare the mineral and whole-rock chemical compositions and textures of porphyry copper ‘fertile’ and ‘barren’ calc-alkaline rocks from selected magmatic provinces world-wide to develop new regional exploration indicators.

Contact Dr Ben Williamson for more information.