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Durham University

Department of Geography

General News Headlines

Two Funded PhD Projects: Antarctic Sea Ice Evolution and Ecosystem Responses Since the Last Glacial Maximum

(16 December 2020)

We seek applicants for two funded PhD projects, which aim to reconstruct sea-ice histories from geochemical evidence of snow petrel diet.

The projects will focus on the eastern Weddell Sea, from the Last Glacial Maximum to present.

Both PhD students will apply a range of geochemical techniques (trace metals, stable isotope and biomarker analysis) to accumulated deposits of regurgitated stomach oils generated by snow petrels where they nest above the Antarctic ice sheet. These stomach oil deposits can be tens of thousands of years old, and preserve evidence of changing snow petrel diet and sea-ice conditions (e.g. Ainley et al., 2006; Berg et al., 2019).

This project will use stomach oil deposits which have previously been collected from Antarctica by members of the supervisory team. The student will join a wider team at Durham University and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the European Research Council (ERC). These larger projects include tracking modern snow petrels, sea ice modelling, examination of the evolutionary history of the snow petrels using DNA analysis, and ecological modelling of long-term changes in snow petrel diet and distributions (both projects led by Professor Erin McClymont at Durham University). One PhD student will be funded by the Leverhulme Trust and one by the ERC.

The studentships are tenable from October 2021, and cover UK/EU fees, a tax-free maintenance grant (set at the UK Research Council’s national rate: currently £15,285), and all analytical costs. No fieldwork is planned for this project. Funding is available to support attendance at national and international conferences. The student will have access to training support through Durham University and the host department, as well as bespoke training from the supervisory team in the Department of Geography and at BAS.

The studentship is open to UK/EU candidates who hold a First or 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). English language evidence may also be required if applicants are not native speakers of English.

Closing Date: Friday 29th January, 2021.

How to Apply

To apply, please send the following documents to with the reference 'Sea-Ice-PhD':

  • a current CV
  • a cover letter (2 pages A4 max) which describes your motivation for applying and your previous research experience
  • letters from two references (which can be sent directly to by referees)
  • transcripts of previous qualifications

Applications will be reviewed and shortlisted. Interviews will take place in late February / early March 2021.

Queries about the project should be directed to Professor Erin McClymont (


Ainley, D.G., Hobson, K.A., Crosta, X., Rau, G.H., Wassenaar, L.I. and Augustinus, P.C. (2006). Holocene variation in the Antarctic coastal food web: linking deltaD and delta13C in snow petrel diet and marine sediments, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 306, 31-40.

Berg, S., Melles, M., Hermichen, W.-D., McClymont, E.L., Bentley, M.J., Hodgson, D.A. and Kuhn, G. Evaluation of Mumiyo Deposits From East Antarctica as Archives for the Late Quaternary Environmental and Climatic History, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 20, 260-276, doi:10.1029/2018GC008054, 2019.