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.

French-Australian PhD projects


The Australia France Network of Doctoral Excellence (AUFRANDE) is a highly interdisciplinary doctoral program linking France and Australia. Four PhD projects are available, jointly hosted by Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA) and the University of Tasmania (through the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership). AUFRANDE offers dual PhD enrolment in both France and Australia.

Positions open with AAPP research supervisors:

  • DC-3 "Snow on Antarctic Sea Ice" [UGA and AAPP, UTAS]
  • DC-4 "Ice core climate and chemistry" [UGA and AAPP, UTAS]
  • DC-5 "Climatic extremes in Antarctica" [UGA and AAPP, UTAS]
  • DC-6 "The Mid-Pleistocene Climatic Transition" [UGA and AAPP, UTAS]

Benefits for recruited researchers include:

  • Dual PhD enrolment in France and Australia, with the chance to be awarded dual doctorates
  • Work on innovative projects of high environmental and societal value
  • Be recruited in France under a full-time employment contract for a minimum period of 36 months
  • Earn an above-national standard salary including social security coverage
  • Spend a 6 to 12 months residential with your research supervisor in Australia
  • Join a rich multidisciplinary network of researchers and supervisors
  • Work closely with industry leaders and gaining experience with the AUFRANDE’S pool of industry supporters

More information and applications via this link.

Due date: 11 April 2023

Geophysical exploration of the stability of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula

Project 3: Ice Shelves

Modelled projections of the contribution of the Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise over this century vary from a few centimetres to more than one metre, a huge uncertainty grounded in poor understanding of ice shelves, the ice-sheet’s floating extensions that constrain its flow from the interior to the ocean. Half of the Antarctic coastline is fringed by such shelves, and many are vulnerable to climate-driven retreat, with some already disintegrated such as Larsen B, Antarctic Peninsula. The latter’s final demise triggered a multi-fold acceleration of its former tributary glaciers that persists to the present day, clearly demonstrating the fundamental role that ice-shelf buttressing plays in regulating sea level rise. The processes driving and resisting ice-shelf retreat are still not well understood, however, including most importantly ice fracture and rift propagation that disrupt the normal assumptions of continuity inherent in ice sheet models and are highly dependent on the heterogeneous nature of ice shelves.

The project “Rift Propagation for Ice Sheet Models” (RIP-ICE), funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and led by the co-supervisors, will collect new field and satellite data to quantify heterogeneity and develop a fracture physics approach to simulate rift propagation through the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Larsen B’s southern neighbour increasingly affected by climate warming. This PhD project will use cutting-edge quantitative techniques to analyse and model both new ground-penetrating radar, seismic and electromagnetic geophysical data to be collected by RIP-ICE on the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the 2022/23 season, and comprehensive existing geophysical data sets collected in three previous field seasons. Mapping and quantifying the ice-shelf’s internal heterogeneity, including the effects of melting and refreezing that are now prolific throughout much of the year, this PhD project will therefore provide important boundary constraints for the new-generation ice-sheet model developed by RIP-ICE.

Primary Supervisor

Sarah Thompson

How do standing meanders brake the Antarctic circumpolar current?

Project 4: Oceans

Changes in the Southern Ocean are substantial and widespread (Bindoff, Cheung et al. 2019) and different to other regions (Meredith, et al 2019). In particular the winds have strengthened, water masses have changed, and oxygen has declined.  New dynamical understanding and observations have shown that there are several hotspots of high poleward heat transport from eddies towards Antarctica (Foppert et al, 2017). These hot spots of eddy driven poleward heat flux are associated with standing meanders tied to large bathymetric features (Thompson and Naviera-Garabato, 2014).  The observed increase in kinetic energy (and poleward heat flux) is in contrast to the fact that the transport of the ACC has remained almost constant (Hogg et al, 2014).

While standing meanders occur in the vicinity of large bathymetric features, the dynamics controlling the length, amplitude, and variability of these meanders remains largely unknown. The circulation associated with standing meanders plays an important role in determining the strength and transient response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and the ventilation of fluid in the abyssal ocean and poleward heat transport (Thompson and Naviera-Garabato, 2014). Given the crucial role played by standing meanders and related circulations it is now urgent that we understand how these meanders will respond to changing winds and surface buoyancy forcing, at weather and climate time scales.

The significance of this project relates to the role of standing meanders as a focus for changing poleward transports of heat and the how this heat transport could accelerate with changing climate, with consequences for the redistribution of heat within the polar gyres and the future melt of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.  The response time of meanders to changes in surface forcing has widely ranging estimates (eg Armour et al, 2017) and new estimates of response time is a key outcome of this project.

Primary Supervisor

Ed Doddridge

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