From Marine Aerosol Emissions to Global Climate Change - Environmental Sciences - NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship Ref: 2805

About the award

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).  The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners:  British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.  The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.


Lead supervisor: Dr Paul Halloran
Co-Supervisor: Dr Jane Mulcahy
Co-Supervisor: Dr Tom Bell

Location: Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project description:

A key natural aerosol (particulate) precursor found over the ocean is Dimethyl Sulphide (DMS). DMS is produced by biology in the surface ocean. The natural background emissions of this gas determines how ‘dirty’ our preindustrial atmosphere is, which subsequently determines how sensitive our climate system is to aerosol particles or aerosol precursors emitted by human activity, from power production to agriculture (Carslaw et al., 2013). The state-of-the-art climate model the Met Office and UK scientific community are developing for the next IPCC assessment is showing that the levels of these preindustrial emissions can have a huge impact.

Image 1: (left) S. Ocean Aerosol, (middle) UK scientific research vessel, (right) global climate model output

Project Aims and Methods

This studentship will:
-       Make novel DMS measurements in the Southern Ocean, where the pristine environment provides the best window into our preindustrial atmosphere.
-       Use these and existing measurements, along with existing model results and established statistical techniques to estimate, with robust uncertainties, what preindustrial DMS emissions could have looked like.
-       Perform new climate model experiments to quantify how sensitive our climate system is to this DMS emission uncertainty.
-       Use this information to improve or explain the UK’s state-of-the-art climate simulations, and improve the next generation of climate projections.


We are looking for a numerically capable, but also practical student. The project will primarily involve data analysis and working with climate models, but will also contain laboratory and field elements (e.g. research cruise to the Southern Ocean). The student must be able to demonstrate the ability to work with computer code and large datasets, to communicate their science effectively, and to ask probing scientific questions.


Case Award Description

Full commitment from the Met Office to CASE support this project.

The Met Office Science Programme generally funds a visit of over 2 weeks as £835 per calendar month (this is pro-ratad for visits of less than that but visits of 2 weeks or less or reimbursed as actuals with relevant receipts submitted).  As an average, the Science Programme reimburses c. £1-3k for T&S per student over the period of their studentship.


Beyond the GW4 supplied training opportunities, and the ‘informal’ training by supervisors, the student will be encouraged to attend:
- The NCAS climate modelling summer school (on which the main supervisor has taught)
- Unified Model training workshops (put on by NCAS)
- Met Office College Python, IRIS and FORTRAN and oceanography courses.


Carslaw KS; Lee LA; Reddington CL; Pringle KJ; Rap A; Forster PM; Mann GW; Spracklen DV; Woodhouse MT; Regayre LA; Pierce JR (2013) Large contribution of natural aerosols to uncertainty in indirect forcing, NATURE doi: 10.1038/nature12674

Entry requirements:        

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.   Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Master’s degree.  Applicants with a minimum of Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the  project

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.


Application deadline:7th January 2018
Value:£14,553 per annum for 2017-18
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Recruitment

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”.

•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim transcript
        if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.

You will be asked to name 2 referees as part of the application process however we will not contact these people until the shortlisting stage. Your referees should not be from the prospective supervisory team.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 7 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter between 5 - 16 February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email  Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;

• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.