AAPP PhD Projects and Scholarships

A number of PhD research projects related to the research program of the AAPP will be advertised below and on the University of Tasmania Graduate Research website. Applicants will be able to apply for Stipend Scholarships and fee waivers from the University of Tasmania or from other sources. If successful, applicants will also receive a top-up scholarship of $6,000 per annum for 3.5 years. This scholarship is funded from the Australian Government as part of the Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative program through the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP).

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD with the AAPP, please check this page frequently for opportunities or contact any of our researchers directly.

Investigating drivers of variability in the formation circulation of Antarctic Bottom Water

Project 4: Oceans

Antarctic Bottom Water – the densest and most voluminous water mass in the world – has a far-reaching influence on global climate. Formed in the southernmost limb of the global overturning circulation, it stores heat and carbon in the abyssal ocean for centuries and is the main source of oxygen to most of the deep ocean. The slowdown of Antarctic Bottom Water formation, manifesting as abyssal-ocean warming in recent decades, implies changes of global significance as less heat and carbon are sequestered in, and less oxygen is supplied to, the deep ocean. Yet, it remains one of the most difficult water masses to monitor due to winter sea ice cover and the abyssal depths at which it exists. The ACCESS-OM2-01 ocean-sea ice model is the only model known to accurately represent the formation and export of Antarctic Bottom Water.

This project investigates changes in properties, circulation, and mixing of Antarctic Bottom Water – filling the gap in understanding physical processes driving deep ocean variability – in unprecedented detail by comparing output from a state-of-the-art ocean-sea ice model to year-round, full-depth, in-situ Deep Argo float observations in the Australian-Antarctic Basin. This project will also determine the response of Antarctic Bottom Water formation and export to future climate scenarios using the ACCESS-OM2-01. Model runs mimicking expected future climate states, e.g. stronger and southern-shifted westerlies over the Southern Ocean to represent a strengthened Southern Annual Mode and increased surface freshwater fluxes on the shelf to represent increased glacial melt, will isolate specific drivers of variability in AABW formation. The ACCESS model also simulates ocean biogeochemistry, allowing for a parallel investigation into the impact of future climates on carbon uptake in the ocean.

Primary Supervisor

Annie Foppert

Atmospheric trace element supply to Southern Ocean: Linking dust and bushfire emissions to marine biogeochemistry

Project 5: Biogeochemistry

Oceans play a vital role in Earth’s climate through the control of atmospheric carbon dioxide. An important component of this system is the iron cycle, in which iron-rich aerosols are transported from the land via atmosphere to ocean. Iron is a key micronutrient for marine phytoplankton, the scarcity of which limits essential biogeochemical processes and ocean fertility. Important advances in our understanding of atmospheric trace element supply to the oceans have been made in recent years through an integrated oceanographic and atmospheric observational program around Australia. Yet there remain key unanswered questions regarding the solubility of trace elements in aerosols (and the processes controlling this), the role of different aerosol sources (mineral dust, anthropogenic emissions, bushfires), the potential toxicity of trace elements for marine plants, and how climate change may affect atmospheric supply.

This project will extend the research to new land-based stations and planned future voyages in the Southern Ocean, and the candidate will have the opportunity to participate in multiple field programs. Our observational strategy has strong collaborative activity under the auspices of the international GEOTRACES program (international study of global marine biogeochemical cycles of trace elements and their isotopes), and data derived from this project will be fed into atmospheric and biogeochemical models in collaboration with theoreticians. This research will provide the critical information on iron and other trace elements supplied from atmospheric aerosols for ocean productivity and marine ecosystem health, providing the science for predicting a key factor in the future impact of the oceans on climate.

The successful applicant will join an active team within IMAS/AAPP that are working on important aspects of marine trace element biogeochemistry. The student will be trained in state-of-the-art sampling and analytical procedures for micronutrients for use both at sea and on land, and develop interdisciplinary analysis and synthesis expertise.

Primary Supervisor

Andrew Bowie

The biogeochemistry of trace elements in the Southern Ocean: MISO-GEOTRACES section from Australia to Antarctica

Project 5: Biogeochemistry

The Southern Ocean influences climate, sea level, biogeochemical cycles and marine productivity on global scales. Observations suggest that rapid change is already underway in the Southern Ocean, but the measurements are sparse and hence the nature, causes and implications of Southern Ocean change are not yet understood. This project will contribute to a multi-disciplinary observational program measuring a comprehensive suite of physical and biogeochemical variables along a full depth repeat hydrographic section extending from western Australia to the Antarctic sea ice edge.

The candidate will join a research team on a 59-day voyage (‘MISO’ project) of the Marine National Facility’s Research Vessel ‘Investigator’ in early 2024 that will study the marine biogeochemistry of trace elements and their isotopes (TEIs) along the I9S section (~115oE), a signature field program of the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP). Following the fieldwork, the candidate will participate in laboratory analyses and experiments using state-of-the-art facilities and instrumentation to determine the distributions, physico-chemical forms and sufficiency of micronutrient trace elements in the Southern Ocean, focussing on elements that have been rarely studied in this region. This will be expanded to investigate trace metal/carbon and trace metal/nutrient (e.g., Cd/P, Zn/Si) relationships across different Southern Ocean water masses, how they vary seasonally and spatially, and may change under future environmental conditions. In the latter stages, this project will feed vital information on the prevalence and flux of trace elements into biogeochemical and ecosystem models of the region.

Our observational strategy has strong collaborative activity under the auspices of the international GEOTRACES program (international study of global marine biogeochemical cycles of trace elements and their isotopes). This research will provide the critical information on trace elements biogeochemistry for ocean productivity and marine ecosystem health, providing the science for predicting a key factor in the future impact of the oceans on climate.

Primary Supervisor

Andrew Bowie

Ice shelf deep learning

Project 3: Ice shelves

Deep learning with artificial neural networks has evolved rapidly and become a widely applied tool for the study of Earth surface processes. In glaciology, neural networks have been used to emulate physically advanced glacier models, speeding up the computational simulation by several orders of magnitude. This efficiency gain makes deep learning a promising new tool for assessment of ice shelves, which are the floating extension of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

This project will use machine learning to understand how ice shelves in Antarctica behave and interact with the ocean and climate. The student will simulate ice shelves using the Instructed Glacier Model which emulates the physics of ice shelves. Upon configuration and training, the emulator will be used to investigate ice shelves across Antarctica with the aim of identifying which ones are fragile and which ones are stable over the coming decades and century.

Specifically, the research will:

  1. Use a physics-informed emulator to simulate the flow of ice shelves in East Antarctica
  2. Explore the emulator model's ability to reproduce ice shelves as observed
  3. Assess ice shelf stability of East Antarctic ice shelves under different environmental forcing scenarios

With a modern approach and broad scope, the research will advance our understanding of ice shelves, which have disappeared almost entirely in Greenland (where climate is warmer) but still play a major role for the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Primary Supervisor

Poul Christoffersen

Southern Ocean aerosol and clouds

Project 1: Atmosphere

This project will focus on understanding the formation of aerosol and cloud over the Southern Ocean, and their role in the region's energy balance and precipitation. Most aerosol over the Southern Ocean are formed from breaking waves or emissions from marine microorganisms. Cloud droplets and ice crystals form around these aerosol particles. Most current generation climate models struggle to simulate aerosol and cloud properties accurately in the region. This has significant consequences for our understanding of current and future climate not just over the Southern Ocean, but globally as well. Because of this, the biological, chemical, and physical processes that govern aerosol and cloud formation over the Southern Ocean are of significant interest to the international community.

A variety of approaches are needed to tackle the problem. These approaches include 1) collecting and analysing surface observations of aerosols, clouds, precipitation and radiation collected from ships and land stations; 2) performing sensitivity tests and evaluation of regional and global climate model simulations; 3) analysing and evaluating remote sensing observations from satellite platforms of cloud properties; and 4) using machine learning with inputs from a variety of surface and satellite observations as well as climate models and reanalyses to better understand physical processes and make improved predictions. This project has the flexibility to focus on one or several of these approaches depending on the skills and interests of the candidate.

The outcome of this project will be an improved understanding of the drivers and processes that govern Southern Ocean aerosol and cloud formation and their role in climate, with opportunities to translate this knowledge into climate models improvements.

Primary Supervisor

Marc Mallet