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PhD Studentship in Marine Science at Newcastle University

PhD Studentship in Marine Science - Assessing Ecosystem Resilience with Stable-isotope Data

Reference Code: MA020

Closing Date: 1st April 2014


Name of the Supervisors
Professor Nicholas PoluninSchool of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University  

Professor Simon Jennings, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), University of East Anglia

Dr Aileen MillSchool of Biology, Newcastle University   

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) industrial CASE award.

Duration of the Award
Four years commencing October 2014.

Project Description
For candidates interested in Marine Science. Marine community and food web models are used to predict energy fluxes, relationships among species and effects of fishing on ecosystem structure and dynamics, such as trophic cascades. These models are sensitive to assumptions about prey size and species selectivity, shifts between benthic and pelagic pathways and changes in the coupling of these. Predators feeding across both benthic and pelagic pathways may be more resilient to perturbation. Stable isotopes can be used to establish the source of carbon in a species’ diet (δ13C) and trophic position (δ15N), therefore quantifying the level of benthic-pelagic coupling for a range of species and complementing diet analysis. Combined stable isotope and diet analyses will allow:

  1. use of hierarchical modelling to link coupling to environmental variables such as temperature, depth, mixed layer depth, seasonality and primary production;
  2. assessment of coupling dynamics with body size of predators and prey using novel Bayesian mixing models which enable improved estimates of dietary proportions to be made using variable trophic enrichment factors derived from the literature;
  3. new applications of community and food web models to predict whether changes in coupling identified in (1) and (2) lead to systematic changes in community structure and its response to exploitation in different environments.

Value of the Award and Eligibility
This award is available to candidates who meet the NERC's eligibility criteria in section B (PDF Doc, 203 KB). A full award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £13,726(2013/14).

Indicative value (over four years): student stipend £54,904, tuition fees £15,600, consumables (‘RTSG’) £11,000, contribution by CEFAS (Lowestoft) to stipend and travel and subsistence costs of visits there.

Person Specification
Candidates will have a minimum of/or expect to achieve a first-class or upper-second-class degree in a relevant subject or international equivalent. An MSc/MRes will be an advantage.

How to Apply
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application form selecting ‘PhD Marine Science & Technology – Marine Science’ as the programme of study. Please insert the code MA020 in the studentship/partnership reference field. You must also upload a CV, degree transcripts, contact details for two academic referees, a personal statement and covering letter to your application and include reasons why you are the suitable candidate for this studentship.

Further Information
For further information, please contact:
Professor N Polunin
E-mail: nick.polunin@ncl.ac.uk 
Telephone: +44 (0) 0191 208 6675
Website: www.ncl.ac.uk/marine/research/science/ecology/