University of Exeter funding: Trace-element Geochemistry

GeoNetZero Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT): Trace-element Geochemistry for Regional Mapping and Lithium Prospectivity in Ireland Ref: 3880

About the award


The CDT led by Herriot Watt, represents an exciting partnership between the Universities of Aberdeen, Birmingham, Dundee, Durham, Exeter, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Royal Holloway and Strathclyde, the British Geological Survey, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Ministry of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Its bespoke residential training program is funded by 9 industry sponsors: BP, Cairn Energy, Chrysaor, CNOOC, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and Verus Petroleum.

The CDT's research focus is on tackling the challenge of sustainable resource management and the crucial role the subsurface will play in the low-carbon energy transition towards a net zero carbon economy, covering the full spectrum of topics from carbon storage and geothermal energy to sustainable oil and gas resource management. The CDT projects will be of interest to those with a background primarily in the geosciences.

The CDT's academic partners have 17 fully-funded positions PhD available to commence in September 2020.  Studentships are for 4 years, provide funding for tuition fees and stipend at the national UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) level and a generous £5k per annum Research Training & Support Grant (RTSG) allowance.

Location: Camborne School of Mines and the Environment & Sustainability Institute, Penryn, Cornwall.

Primary Supervisor:  Dr. Kathryn Moore, Senior Lecturer in Critical and Green Technology Metals,

Project Description:

Lithium (Li) is strategic for the green energy transition, particularly for production of batteries for the low carbon transport fleet. Li-pegmatites of the Leinster granite of SE Ireland have excited interest as a potential (spodumene) resource for more than 4 decades and there is active exploration for lithium across Ireland. Tellus is an open-access, cross-border geological and geophysical data set that has revealed multiple positive Li anomalies in Northern Ireland. E.g., the Newry Complex in Northern Ireland has Li anomalies and similar age and style to the very prospective Leinster granite, and there are enigmatic Li anomalies in and around the Midland Valley Terrane1. The Tellus data set now extends to Counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway and includes the geochemical data for soils and streams overlying multiple granitoids, such that there is potential to investigate the occurrence of Lithium in a wider context. This includes the potential for regional production of raw materials critical to the green energy transition.



Left: The distribution of Lithium in the Tellus Project S-horizon (deep) soil samples over parts of Northern Ireland (samples with lower concentrations are omitted for clarity) (Lusty, 2016).

We intend to modify a methodology for interrogating critical metal potential using Tellus data2, in order to investigate and understand the source of Li anomalies in the Tellus dataset. We will extend this dataset using sampling of rock and stream-water, since Lithium-pegmatities in Ireland3 are associated with lithium in natural waters4.







Project Objectives

The successful PhD candidate will:

  1. Interrogate the occurrence of lithium in both the Tellus NI data and the more recently released cross-border Tellus data.
  2. Enhance the Tellus data set with further analysis of water chemistry in targeted stream sections where appropriate (and using catchment analysis).
  3. Use the established methodology to place lithium anomalies in the Tellus data set in the context of their source rocks to target bedrock sampling sites.
  4. Identify the mineralogical hosts for lithium and their lithological and textural contexts.
  5. Constrain the magmatic and magmatic-hydrothermal petrogenesis of lithium-enriched lithologies using petrographic, electron microbeam, and spectrometry techniques in the targeted areas.
  6. Discuss the results in terms of the evolution of igneous complexes, with special reference to the different tectonic contexts of granitoid emplacement in Ireland.

Training in utilisation of the Tellus and G-Base data will be based at BGS and rock and mineral analysis will be based at the University. The student will maintain a dialogue with the exploration sector in order to determine whether the results of the research can be used to create immediate impact. Additional outcomes from the project will be an enhanced Tellus dataset, multiple journal publications and identification of opportunities for further research.

Studentships are fully funded for 4 years and cover tuition fees and stipend at the UK Research & Innovation recommended levels for each year of study.  For the 2020/21 academic year, this is £4,327 for fees and £15,009 for stipend.

The studentship period is 4 years in order to accommodate the CDT’s bespoke 20-week residential training programme, attendance on which is a condition of acceptance of a funded CDT studentship.

Funding of tuition fees is at the UK level which currently also applies to EU students but this may change in respect of the later years of study depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations and the stance adopted by each participating CDT university.  EU and International students are therefore advised to contact the hosting university to check whether additional funding is available to cover the potential difference in fee levels charged to Home and International students before submitting an application.

Visit the GeoNETZero CDT website for information about the partnership or contact the CDT manager, Lorna Morrow, on

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable see /

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
  • Cover letter (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)
  • Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number 3880.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on 31st March 2020.  Interviews are likely to be held between 29 and 30 April 2020.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email

Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.

Please quote reference 3880 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.



Application deadline:31st March 2020
Value:4-year studentship: Tuition fees (UK/EU) and an annual stipend at the national UKRI level
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Admissions Office