Research opportunities in the School of Ocean Sciences

Specialisations

The School specialises in the areas listed below. Visit the School research pages and School academic staff pages for further details.

Candidates seeking entry onto PhD and other research degrees are encouraged to present research proposals related to these areas of specialism.

Alternatively, candidates may undertake a research degree in a topic specified by the School. Visit the ‘Research Projects’ section for details of these topics.

  • Catchment and Coastel Processes
  • Earth System Science and Climate Change
  • Marine Ecosystems: Conservation and Resource Management
  • Marine Environment and Evolutionary Biology
  • Ocean Physics

Research Project Opportunities

Please note the research project opportunities detailed here are NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Candidates wishing to research any of the projects listed in this section should apply as follows:

  • International candidates requiring a pre-sessional English course will be enrolled on a Combined English / Study Skills and Research Course at the University before starting the PhD degree. The research proposal will be developed and written when enrolled on this course.
  • UK nationals or European and International candidates who have already reached the level of English required for entry should present a relevant research proposal when applying for admission.

Alternatively candidates may present a research proposal related to the research expertise & specialisms within the School. Please refer to the 'Apply' section for further details.

A 1,000 year seawater temperature reconstruction for the South Icelandic Shelf using stable isotopes from mollusc shells

Supervisor: Dr Paul Butler

T: +44 (0) 1248 382853 / E: p.g.butler@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Prof. James Scourse

T: +44 (0) 1248 382876 / E: j.scourse@bangor.ac.uk

Researchers at School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, have recently completed a seawater temperature reconstruction for the North Icelandic Shelf based on stable oxygen isotopes from the shell of the long-lived bivalve mollusc Arctica islandica. The shell material used for the analyses has been precisely dated because annual banding patterns in the shell can be cross dated using statistical techniques derived from tree-ring research. (This means that it is possible to assign precise calendar dates to fossil shells if their lifetimes overlap with those of live collected shells with a known date of death.

The site of the A. islandica population on the North Icelandic Shelf is oceanographically complex because two distinct water masses (Arctic Water and Atlantic Water) combine there, and the relative strength of these two water masses has been shown to have changed over the past 1,000 years (Wanamaker et al 2012, Nature Communications). The interaction of the two water masses (which have their own distinct isotopic signatures and distinct temperature characteristics) complicates the interpretation of the stable oxygen isotope record in the shells. To clarify the interpretation, we propose an equivalent isotope-based reconstruction for the South Icelandic Shelf, where Atlantic Water predominates. The studentship will involve (a) the construction of a 1,000 year chronology using annual growth increments in A. Islandica shells from the South Icelandic Shelf; (b) milling of samples from the shells for stable isotope analysis; (c) conversion of the stable oxygen isotope data to seawater temperatures using standard equations.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Anthropogenic impacts on coastal ecosystems: the synergistic effects of multiple stressors

Supervisor: Dr Stuart Jenkins

T: +44 (0) 1248 382896 / E: s.jenkins@bangor.ac.uk

Increasing pressure on coastal ecosystems from a range of anthropogenic impacts has led to increasing concern about changes at the individual, population and community levels, leading to significant negative changes in the functioning of ecosystems. Much research has addressed the role of particular stressors on community and ecosystem change. However there is increasing realisation that focusing observational and experimental work on single stressors may underestimate impacts; multiple stressors which affect coastal ecosystems may interact in non-intuitive ways. This project will use the intertidal rocky shore habitat as a model system to understand the interactive nature of multiple stressors on community structure and ecosystem functioning using a field experimental approach.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Biology and population dynamics of commercially exploited fishes

Supervisor: Prof. Chris Richardson

T: +44 (0) 1248 382855 / E: c.a.richardson@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Ian McCarthy

T: +44 (0) 1248 382862 / E: i.mccarthy@bangor.ac.uk

Marine capture fisheries play a crucial role in providing a high quality protein source to an increasing global population. The demand for seafood is increasing but the FAO has recognised that the room for expansion in capture fisheries is limited and that science-based species-specific management plans are required in order to ensure that fisheries can continue to be exploited sustainably in the long-term. Underpinning the development of any fisheries management model is a comprehensive understanding of the population dynamics and biology of the target species to derive measures of age/size structure, growth, mortality and maturity. Such information is still lacking for many exploited species in the fisheries of developing nations. This could be provided for one or more target species through a programme of PhD research. An example of such an approach was the work conducted in the School on Argyrops spinfer (Journal of Applied Ichthyology 25(2009):559-564; Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria 41(2011):55-62) in Omani coastal waters.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Climatic buffering by structural habitat formed by macro algae

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Davies

T: +44 (0) 1248 382842 / E: andrew.j.davies@bangor.ac.uk

Macro algae form extensive canopies in intertidal zones around the world. The structure that large species form are responsible for changing a variety of conditions such as reducing dessication for understory species, reducing drag and increasing sediment deposition. In this project, we will assess how macro algae can buffer surrounding areas from the effect of climatic extremes. For example, it is common to observe stands of macro algae freezing in winter, but the extent to which they buffer temperature in the sediments and understories in unknown. This project will marry together electronic engineering for the design of high resolution temperature sensors that can be deployed for long periods within macroalgal stands, taxonomy and ecology.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Context dependent effects of soft-sediment ecosystem engineers on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

Supervisor: Dr Jan Hiddink

T: +44 (0) 1248 382864 / E: j.hiddink@bangor.ac.uk

Globally, bottom trawling is the main source of disturbance to the seabed. Bottom trawls kill a large fraction of the benthic invertebrates that live on the seabed. Benthic invertebrates in turn are very important for the biogeochemistry of the seabed, as they affect the cycling of nutrients. Particularly important are ecosystem engineers in marine sediments, such as lugworms and mud shrimps, which mix the sediment (= bioturbation) and pump water through the sediment (= bio-irrigation). Both enhance the penetration of oxygen into the seabed. This can result in enhanced levels of biodiversity and is therefore an example of facilitation, and can change the nutrient fluxes at the seabed. However, bioturbation can also have negative effects on other species living in the seabed as it disturbs and potentially buries them.

We are currently lacking an understanding of the importance of the effect bioengineers on biodiversity and biogeochemistry under different environmental conditions, relative to the natural and temporal variation. The effect of bioturbation and bio-irrigation on the biogeochemistry of the sediment is likely to depend on the ambient environmental conditions. In areas of high tidal currents over coarse, non-cohesive, sediments, sediments are likely to be oxygenated to a depth of several centimetres regardless of the presence of bioengineers, while oxygenation in areas of low tidal currents over muddy, cohesive, sediments is likely to depend on the presence of bioengineers. The aim of this project is to quantify the importance of soft-sediment ecosystem engineers on the biodiversity and biogeochemistry in muddy and sandy sediments.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Coral Reef Resilience and Marine Protected Areas

Supervisor: Dr John Turner

T: +44 (0) 1248 382881 / E: j.turner@bangor.ac.uk

The resilience of corals reefs to major perturbations such as global climate change events is affected by localised anthropogenic impact. Therefore, established and enforced Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) may help confer greater resilience on coral reefs. Studies investigating overall measures of reef health, including benthic biodiversity, reproduction, fish biomass in established MPAs around the world help in our understanding of resistance and recovery, provided that threats outside of the MPA are also assessed and regulated where necessary. Research focuses on making appropriate assessments to support management.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Determining the age of decapod crustaceans

Supervisor: Prof. Chris Richardson

T: +44 (0) 1248 382855 / E: c.a.richardson@bangor.ac.uk

T: +44 (0) 1248 382864/ E: j.hiddink@bangor.ac.uk

Decapod crustaceans (crabs, lobsters and shrimps) are commercially important throughout the world. Stock assessment of crustaceans can be difficult since any growth rings deposited in their calcified exoskeleton are lost periodically during moulting. Demographic information has traditionally relied upon the analysis of length frequency distributions and the identification of distinct size classes of individuals within the populations. Recent work has reported the detection of growth bands in calcified regions of the eyestalk and gastric mill in shrimps, crabs, and lobsters.

This project will investigate the periodicity of growth lines in the eyestalk and gastric mill of larval, juvenile and adult shore crabs Carcinus maenas and lobsters Homarus gammarus. Using various growth stages of these crustaceans held under different experimental laboratory conditions the role of temperature, moulting and food on growth line formation in the eyestalk and gastric mill will be determined. This PhD would suit a student interested in studying the demography of crustacean populations, larval rearing and experimental techniques.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Does fishing impact upon the provision of ecosystem services?

Supervisors: Prof. Michel Kaiser and Dr Jan Hiddink

T: +44 (0) 1248 383751/ E: michel.kaiser@bangor.ac.uk

Demersal fishing activities have a number of wider ecosystem level impacts on marine ecosystems. Direct contact with the seabed leads to changes in biomass, production and habitat structure. Thus it is likely that the provision of ecosystem services is also changed. Understanding how these changes impact upon fish production would inform better management such that it should be possible to trade off the changes incurred in ecosystem services with production and harvest of fish.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Ecological responses to global warming - the role of phenotypic plasticity in marine benthic invertebrates

Supervisor: Dr Luis Gimenez

T: +44 (0) 1248 382904 / E: l.gimenez@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Stuart Jenkins

T: +44 (0) 1248 382896 / E: s.jenkins@bangor.ac.uk

The objective of this project is to understand how temperatures interact with resource supply to determine patterns of body size. Body size is a central life history trait, as it affects survival and fecundity of individuals and ultimately population persistence. Body size is negatively correlated with temperature in a number of marine organisms and many marine organisms experience important amounts of resource limitation at least in some critical part of their lives. In principle, food limitation should increase mismatches between metabolic demands and energy supply and so exacerbate the effect of high temperatures on body size. However, in organisms with complex life cycles, the nature of resource limitation can vary through ontogeny due to variations in physiology and habitat use. For instance in sessile organisms such as intertidal barnacles, food availability may limit growth during both larval and juvenile/adult lives, but space becomes a key resource during the benthic life. Thus, such organisms are good models to evaluate ontogenetic changes in the influence of resource supply and temperature on body size. This project therefore evaluates changes in body size occurring through adaptive plastic mechanisms or as the consequence of physiological constraints. This project has relevance in the context of climate change as it explore physiological and developmental mechanisms leading to changes in body size distribution of organisms as a consequence of warming.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Factors which influence seasonally stratified Shelf Sea surface mixed layer depth.

Supervisor: Dr Tom Rippeth

T: +44 (0) 1248 382293/ E: t.p.rippeth@bangor.ac.uk

The surface of the ocean acts as a critical interface linking the atmosphere and the ocean, with sea surface values of temperature and pCO2 therefore key determinates of the direction and magnitude of heat and carbon fluxes between the atmosphere and the ocean. A key parameter which helps determine the sea surface temperature and pCO2 is the depth of the surface mixed layer of the shelf seas. This parameter is poorly predicted using the current generation of numerical models.

The aim of this project is to improve the predictive capacity of shelf sea numerical models by improving the parameterisation of the vertical mixing processes determining the surface mixed layer depth.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

From glacial deposits to giant sediment waves: reconstructing sedimentary processes in the Irish Sea Basin after the retreat of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet.

Supervisor: Dr Katrien Van Landeghem

T: +44 (0) 1248 388161 / E: k.v.landeghem@bangor.ac.uk

The Irish Sea was occupied by ice during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 24 ka BP), leaving behind glacial sediments that have since been reworked by currents in the marine environment. The resulting complexity of the seabed is well preserved, with glacially carved trenches, ice-moulded drumlin fields, sand banks and unusually large sediment waves (reaching world-record-breaking heights of 36 m).

The PhD candidate will thus integrate marine geophysical (seismic and multibeam echosounder) and sediment granulometry with palaeo-hydrodynamic model outputs (generated by external third parties) to reconstruct the morphological and sedimentological history of the Irish Sea. The Irish Sea's glacial legacy has various sedimentological and hydrodynamical components, and the aim is to understand the role of these various components in the subsequent evolution of the post-glacial seafloor.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Growth performance of aquatic animals under culture

Supervisor: Dr Ian McCarthy

T: +44 (0) 1248 382862 / E: i.mccarthy@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Prof. Lewis Le Vay

T: +44 (0) 1248 388115 / E: l.levay@bangor.ac.uk

The demand for seafood as a high quality protein source is increasing with a growing global population. Seafood currently provides 3 billion people with 20% of their animal protein intake and per capita food fish intake is increasing. However, this demand cannot be met by increased capture fisheries production which has at around 90 million tonnes. It is clear that any future demand for seafood protein will be met through increased aquaculture production. Aquaculture production has risen in the last 3 decades (1980-2010) by almost 12 times, at an average annual rate of 8.8 per cent and currently stands at 64 million tonnes (2011) and is projected to overtake capture fisheries as the major source of food fish and a major contributor to food security. The School of Ocean Sciences has a long history of research into invertebrate and finfish aquaculture - both marine and freshwater, tropical and temperate, intensive and extensive production systems - and has expertise covering a wide range of research areas such as new species, developing/optimising culture techniques, diet development, feeding behaviour, growth performance, energetics, protein turnover, environmental impacts of aquaculture etc.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

How do waves interact with cohesive sea beds?

Supervisor: Dr Jaco Baas

T: +44 (0) 1248 382894 / E: j.baas@bangor.ac.uk

In the autumn of 2013, the international research project COHWAV investigated how waves interact with sea beds that contain mixtures of cohesive, “sticky” clay and cohesionless sand. Such beds are very common in nature, but surprisingly poorly studied and of fundamental importance for system-scale sediment transport modelling in the marine environment. This project was done on a near-field scale in a large wave facility at the University of Hull (“The Deep”). These laboratory experiments provided datasets that relate the properties of regular and irregular waves to the development of wave ripples on pure sand beds and on mixed sand- mud beds, using a state-of-art suite of instrumentation (e.g. acoustic bed profilers, ultrasonic velocity profilers, optical backscatter probes, and laser in-situ scattering and transmissometers). This PhD research project will have full access to the laboratory dataset with the aim to develop parameterisations that improve predictions of wave ripple growth and equilibrium size, as well as suspended sediment concentrations above these mixed-sediment bedforms. The PhD student will work within an international research group, in which scientists from universities in France (Caen/Rouen), the Netherlands (Utrecht) and the UK (Bangor, Hull, NOC Liverpool, Southampton) combine their expertise to increase the understanding of wave-substrate interaction in general and wave-generated bedforms in particular. The student will have the opportunity to lead similar experiments, but on a smaller scale, in the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University. These experiments could be extended by investigating flow-bed interaction in combined waves and tidal currents.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Hydrocarbon Reservoirs in Deep-Marine Sediments

Supervisor: Dr Jaco Baas

T: +44 (0) 1248 382894 / E: j.baas@bangor.ac.uk

Since the expansion of hydrocarbon exploration into the deep ocean (e.g. Gulf of Mexico, offshore West Africa, offshore Brazil) there has been an increased interest in the processes that transport sediment from terrestrial environments onto the continental margin, and in the architecture of large submarine fans in which this sediment is stored. Classical, simplistic models for the formation of turbidites and debris flow deposits have now been superseded by more realistic models that account for temporal and spatial variations in sediment gravity flow behaviour and for variations in the properties of sediment within these flows and within the underlying substrates (e.g. mixtures of cohesionless sand and cohesive mud). This is of fundamental importance in hydrocarbon reservoir analysis, because these models provide valuable information on the distribution of sand-prone and mud-prone lithofacies within deep-marine sedimentary sequences. In turn, this allows oil companies to make better predictions of the location of reservoir sands, source rocks, and baffles and barriers against the migration of hydrocarbons in sedimentary rocks.

This project combines laboratory studies and geological field studies to explore the dynamics and depositional products of sediment gravity flows that contain mixtures of cohesionless sand and cohesive clay. This is a research area that has seen rapid development and has prompted the interest of many oil companies, for example the companies that sponsor the work of the Turbidite Research Group (TRG Leeds), of which Dr Baas is an associate. Conceptual models of hybrid event beds (Haughton et al., 2009, Mar. Petrol. Geol.), transitional flow deposits (Baas et al. 2011, Sedimentology), and intrabed turbidites (Baas et al. 2014, Geology) will be tested in laboratory channels and in geological outcrops of deep-water basin sequences. This work builds upon several PhD and MSc projects in the past that have led to successful job applications in the hydrocarbon industry.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Individual variation in behavioural or physiological performance

Supervisor: Dr Ian McCarthy

T: +44 (0) 1248 382862 / E: i.mccarthy@bangor.ac.uk

Natural Selection operates on individuals but Science usually studies average responses. Although the value of understanding individual differences in performance was highlighted nearly 30 years ago by Bennett (1987), the common scientific approach has been to regard individual variation as 'noise' around some measurement of central tendency (e.g. mean, median) for the measured trait which is viewed as the more reliable / representative response. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that this average value does not actually exist within the group of individuals under study. In recent years the value of understanding the causes and consequence of inter-individual variation (IIV) in behavioural and physiological performance has been more widely recognised within the biological science community and is a growing area of research (e.g. Bell et al. 2009; Biro & Stamps, 2010; Réale et al., 2010; Careau & Garland, 2012). Consistent individual differences (CIDs) in physiology and behaviour drive individual fitness (i.e. survival and reproductive output) under variable environmental conditions and hence provide the framework through which natural selection can operate. Underlying this concept is the assumption that in order for selection to be able to operate, individuals will display repeatable levels of performance in fitness-related traits, i.e. they will maintain the same levels of performance and/or the same relative performance ranking over time compared to other individuals. This can result in selective mortality with surviving individuals exhibiting differential levels of performance in the pace of life continuum for that species in terms of growth, lifetime reproductive output and offspring quality.

The study of individual variation has been a central focus of my research activities since my PhD (1989-1992). This research has focussed on (1) describing individual variability in behavioural and physiological performance, e.g. differences in personality (aggression, feeding motivation), feeding behaviour, locomotor performance, metabolic rate and protein turnover, (2) quantifying repeatability/consistency of individual performance and (3) determining the ecological and life-history consequences of such variation. The aim of this project would be to develop a programme of research to investigate both intra-individual variation (i.e. repeatability/consistency of individual performance) and inter-individual variation (i.e. quantifying phenotypic variability within the population) for selected behavioural or physiological traits and to determine the life-history and fitness-related consequences of this observed variation.

References: Bennett (1987) New Directions in Ecological Physiology pp 147-169; Bell et al. (2009) Anim. Behav. 77, 771-783; Biro & Stamps (2010) Trends Ecol. Evol. 25, 653-659; Réale et al. (2010) Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 365, 4051-4063; Careau & Garland (2012) Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 85, 543-571.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Late Holocene sea-levels and high magnitude storm events in NW Wales

Supervisors: Prof. James Scourse, Dr Dei Huws, Prof. Geoff Duller (IGES, Aberystwyth University). External Supervisor: Dr Charles Bristow (Birkbeck College, London). Case Partner: Countryside Council for Wales (Dr Rod Jones)

T: +44 (0) 1248 382876 / E: j.scourse@bangor.ac.uk

T: +44 (0) 1248 382523 / E: d.g.huws@bangor.ac.uk

Different generations of geophysical models of the response of the Earth's surface to isostatic loading and unloading by ice and water predict rather different responses in terms of relative sea-level change for the late Holocene in NW Wales. The models by Lambeck (1995,1996, unpublished) predict that relative sea-levels in the region have been below Ordnance Datum (OD) throughout the entire deglaciation and Holocene, whereas those by Peltier (e.g. 1994) predict a late Holocene highstand of up to + 2.5 m OD around 4000 cal years BP, falling to the present. These differences result from the ice load and mantle rheology terms used in the different models. Calibration of these models with observational geological data is therefore necessary in order to improve model descriptions of both ice loading and mantle rheology. Significant advances have been made in the last three years in producing a refined relative sea-level curve for NW Wales deriving from radiocarbon dating of multiple sea-level index points preserved in thick sequences of interbedded peats and estuarine sediments cored in the NE Menai Strait (Roberts et al., in press). Sea-level index points have been corrected for temporal changes in tidal amplitude through palaeotidal modelling output (Uehara et al., 2006). However, no reliable sea-level index points exist for the period between 4000 cal. years BP and the present, precisely the interval within which the Peltier model predicts a highstand; additional sea-level data are therefore required for this period. Pilot study data exist relating to coastal morphosedimentary sequences in western Anglesey and the mainland adjacent to the SW entrance to the Menai Strait (Morfa Dinlle) which can be interpreted either in terms of a late Holocene highstand or high magnitude storm events, or both. Pocket beaches and coastal embayments at Llandwyn Island and elsewhere on the west Anglesey coast are characterised by moribund vegetated boulder clay cliffs and vegetated backshore testifying to either a highstand or extreme storm events in the recent Holocene. Similarly, at Morfa Dinlle a sequence of gravel beach ridges above OD might relate to a highstand, storm events, or both (Jones, 1999).

The aim of this CASE Studentship will be to test the alternative hypotheses 1. that there was a Holocene sea-level highstand in NW Wales (Peltier hypothesis) or 2. that the features can be explained in terms of erosion and deposition associated with extreme storm events without any highstand (Lambeck hypothesis). The data generated will also furnish evidence on the frequency of high magnitude storm events in NW Wales in the last few hundreds to thousands of years. The initial research phase will involve geomorphological mapping of the critical localities and survey by Leica 1200 GPS to define detailed elevations. This will be followed by geophysical survey to characterize sub-surface reflectors using ground penetrating radar (GPR). Sediment samples suitable for luminescence dating will be taken from open faces and in situ background radiation measured. The luminescence dates will constrain the chronology of the morphostratigraphic units. Given the time-consuming nature of luminescence dating, and the number of samples to be dated, we intend that in year 2 the student will undertake a significant component of the work in Aberystwyth; as such, this project falls within the Bangor –Aber Partnership and in particular the CCCR and C3W initiatives. Any materials suitable for radiocarbon dating will be measured via application to the NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Optimal exploitation of multiple marine renewable energy resources

Supervisor: Dr Simon Neill

T: +44 (0) 1248 383938 / E: s.p.neill@bangor.ac.uk

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and aid sustainable development, there is an urgent need to support our electricity generating capacity through the development of low carbon technologies, particularly those generated from renewable sources. The ocean represents a vast and largely untapped energy resource, which could be exploited as a form of low carbon electricity generation. However, marine renewable energy is intermittent, from the semi-diurnal and lunar nature of tidal currents, through to the seasonal and inter-annual nature of wave energy. Therefore, if marine energy is to provide firm power generation to the electricity network, it will be necessary to optimise its development by prioritising sites which are complementary in phase with one-another over a variety of timescales. In this project, you will develop a state-of-the-art coupled high resolution wave-tide model of the northwest European shelf seas – a world-leading marine energy resource – and apply swarm optimisation algorithms to the model outputs to generate optimal roadmaps of marine renewable energy for the UK and Europe beyond 2020. You will examine the sensitivity of the optimised roadmaps to different levels of marine energy and grid infrastructure investment, and determine how the roadmaps will vary for different scenarios of sea-level rise and future changes in weather patterns. By prioritising sites for marine renewable energy investment, results from this project will inform policy on how best to ensure cost-effective investment in the electricity grid, particularly as many of the key wave and tidal energy sites are remote from major demand in the southeast, and hence subject to significant transmission losses and potential blackouts.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Plankton phenology in response to inter-year variations in the timing of seasonal cycles of primary production

Supervisor: Dr Luis Gimenez

T: +44 (0) 1248 382904 / E: l.gimenez@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Stephanie Wilson

T: +44 (0) 1248 388141 / E: stephanie.wilson@bangor.ac.uk

In marine temperate systems primary production cycles seasonally and are usually characterised by a main peak in spring. Recruitment of many organisms depends on key life history stages matching these peaks of production. However, the timing, breadth and magnitude of these peaks may change from year to year leading to variations in the level of match/mismatch between organisms and its food. This project will examine the interrelationships between seasonal patterns of distribution of zooplankton (e.g. copepods, larval stages of benthic crustaceans), primary producers (e.g. diatoms) physical conditions of the water column and weather conditions. This work will be based on five years of weekly samples collected by the School of Ocean Sciences, at the Menai Straits as well as in subsequent collections done during the project.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Simulating tsunami generation, propagation and inundation using Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH)

Supervisor: Dr Simon Neill

T: +44 (0) 1248 383938 / E: s.p.neill@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Reza Hashemi

T: +44 (0) 1248 383872 / E: r.hashemi@bangor.ac.uk

A recent study from a Japanese government-appointed team of scientists has estimated that 90 towns and cities in Japan must now consider how to withstand a tsunami impact higher than 10 m, and 23 of these have been advised to prepare for a tsunami which exceeds 20 m (Cyranoski, 2012). However, in terms of balancing risk against cost, it is important to know how water elevations will vary within these populated areas. Models of tsunami propagation and inundation are based on shallow-water equations formulated on Eulerian grids, with simplifications used to estimate overland flow. Such grid-based methods cannot simulate the complexity of multiple free-surfaces and the highly non-linear fluid dynamics of tsunamis which propagate far inland. For example, models of tsunami inundation cannot simulate two-phase fluid/sediment interaction, and such grid-based methods have difficulties in dealing with moving boundaries and sharp changes in topography (e.g. river channels and structures). With recent advances in high performance computing, one of the most exciting opportunities in the research field of fluid mechanics is the computationally expensive Lagrangian numerical method of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH). SPH was originally developed in the field of astrophysics, but its natural ability to capture large deformations and moving boundaries has led to its subsequent application to a wide range of fluid phenomena. In this project, SPH will be used to simulate tsunami generation, propagation and inundation, including coastal impact, overland bore propagation, two-phase fluid/sediment flow, and subsequent land drainage. This novel and exciting application of SPH to such a globally significant aspect of fluid dynamics has implications for risk reduction in tsunami hotspots.

Cyranoski (2012) Tsunami simulations scare Japan. Nature 484, 296-297.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The future of vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems in a changing climate

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Davies

T: +44 (0) 1248 382842 / E: andrew.j.davies@bangor.ac.uk

Very little is known about organisms that are found in the deep sea. What is becoming clear is that they are under threat from climate change and anthropogenic impact, leading to calls for improved management of deep-sea habitats using tools such as networks of marine protected areas. However, at present, it is not possible to adopt such tools with any degree of confidence, because fundamental information on the distribution of many deep-sea organisms is lacking. Using state-of-the-art approaches, this studentship will develop comprehensive deep-sea climatology's that will be used to model suitable habitat for deep-sea ecosystem engineers. The proposed project represents an important step towards establishing the geographic distributions of these important organisms, predicting the influence of climate change on their distribution and determining how human impact extends over their habitat. This information will enhance our knowledge and facilitate effective international conservation and management of the deep sea.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The Impact of seasonal Arctic Sea ice loss on air-sea fluxes of heat and momentum

Supervisor: Dr Tom Rippeth

T: +44 (0) 1248 382293/ E: t.p.rippeth@bangor.ac.uk

This PhD project proposes to address the question of how sea-ice and its absence affects the transfer of heat and momentum between the atmosphere and Arctic Ocean, with a particular emphasis on the dynamics of the Arctic Ocean polar mixed-layer. This question will be addressed using a combination of field observations and simple one-dimensional numerical modelling. The field observations were taken along the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean and comprise hydrographic and microstructure turbulence data collected by the Bangor group and collaborators in recent years. The modelling component will utilise the General Ocean Turbulence Model (GOTM) turbulence closure model to simulate the vertical mixing and turbulent dissipation generated by boundary shear stresses under both ice and open water.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Tide-ocean circulation feedback in a warming climate

Supervisor: Dr Mattias Green

T: +44 (0) 1248 388161 / E: m.green@bangor.ac.uk

The climate controlling meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is sustained, if not controlled, by a continuous input of mechanical energy from wind (via eddies and direct upwelling) and tides (via abyssal internal waves). Since the generation of internal waves are dependent on both the tidal amplitudes and the vertical stratification there is a potential for future climate change to subtly modify the strength of the MOC by changing the tides, with potential feedback effects on the stratification itself.

Here we want to evaluate this potential feedback by the use of an existing climate model (OSUVic) and an established tidal model (OTIS) with an internal wave drag parameterisation to estimate the changes in abyssal mixing due to the changes in stratification in combination with future sea-level rise (SLR). Further experiments will look at extreme situations, e.g., impacts of halving or doubling the tidal amplitudes and extreme SLR and global warming, to obtain a probable range of future effects.

 

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Understanding the transport of sand and mud in rivers and seas

Supervisor: Dr Jaco Baas

T: +44 (0) 1248 382894 / E: j.baas@bangor.ac.uk

Fine-grained cohesive sediment (clay, mud) is common in the natural environment, but it has not received as much attention as coarser-grained cohesionless sediment (sand, gravel). In fact, mixtures of sand and mud make up the vast majority of all sediment on Earth, but reliable models describing their dynamic behaviour in terms of erosion, transport and deposition are very rare. Such models are needed urgently to better predict the environmental impact of, for example, river floods, coastal floods, coastal erosion, siltation of harbours and navigation channels, and marine renewable energy schemes. The research project COHBED, in which 6 UK universities collaborate, has collected a large dataset on mixed cohesive sediment based on a unique combination of novel laboratory and field techniques. COHBED focuses on the development of sedimentary bedforms (dunes and ripples) in mixtures of sand and mud, but it also studies the biological processes that influence the movement of these sediments.

This PhD research project centres on the analysis of readily available, high-quality laboratory and field data, but there are also opportunities to collect new laboratory and field data. The student will benefit from the wide range of physical sedimentological and biological expertise within COHBED, including measurement techniques (e.g. Multibeam echo sounding, acoustic velocity profiling, acoustic suspended sediment concentration and size profiling, flock characterisation, and physical and biological sediment geotechnics). This project is well suited for students with a multidisciplinary interest that includes geophysics, sedimentology, microbiology and hydraulic engineering.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Zooplankton faecal pellet characteristics and contribution to elemental fluxes on the shelf seas

Supervisor: Dr Stephanie Wilson

T: +44 (0) 1248 388141 / E: stephanie.wilson@bangor.ac.uk

This project is part of the larger CArbon/Nutrient DYnamics and FLuxes Of the Shelf System (CANDYFLOSS) program. CANDYFLOSS will ask the question: How do shelf seas contribute to the global removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and the storage of carbon and nutrients in the ocean interior? The continental shelf regions of the ocean are highly productive and with only 5% of the global ocean area, support up to 20% of the world's primary production. This region therefore plays an important role in the global carbon cycle. Zooplankton also play an important role in the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the pelagic environment by feeding on phytoplankton and aggregates and packaging them into faecal pellets which can be recycled in the water column by bacteria and other plankton or exported to depth. Zooplankton themselves are also sources of nutrition for higher trophic levels such as fish, whales, and seabirds.

The aim of this project is to look at the role zooplankton play in the global carbon cycle on the continental shelf. The role of the student will be to participate in approximately 4 research cruises in the Celtic Sea during 2014 to observe and record zooplankton faecal pellets within sediment trap samples from a marine snow catcher device as well as collect live zooplankton for incubation and enumeration experiments. The student will then quantify the potential POC flux of the major zooplankton species and calculate the contribution zooplankton make to POC flux in this region using both microscopy and image analysing techniques.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Entry requirements

For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.

Ask the IEC for assistance...

If you want advice or a general chat about what’s available contact the International Education Centre on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Fees & Scholarships

Please take a look at our Fees & Scholarships pages for details.

How to apply

Step 1 – Select your research topic

You have three options with regards the selection of your research topic;

Option 1

Prepare your Research Proposal, based on the research expertise at the School.

Option 2

Select a research project from the Directory for PhD opportunities (Also available as a PDF document). Enter the name of the project and the name of the supervisor on the application form. The ‘Research Project’ route is delivered in two parts:

  • Part 1: A Combined English / Study Skills and Research Proposal course. This is when you will write a research proposal based on the selected research project. Duration is up to 1 year, dependent on the English language level.
  • Part 2: The PhD programme.

Option 3

Occasionally, the University advertises PhD Studentships. Studentships are funded / sponsored PhD placements which cover tuition fees and sometimes living costs, usually for a period of 3 years. They are offered for specific research projects. Studentships are advertised on the University website and Academic Schools’ websites and there is normally a deadline for submitting applications. The terms and conditions of Studentships vary and may become available at different times of the year.

If you are applying for a Studentship, enter the name of the studentship on the application form

Step 2 – Prepare your documentation

You will need to gather the following documentation to present with your application:

  • Bachelor degree certificate and transcript
  • Masters degree certificate and transcript (if undertaken)
  • English language test certificate (if undertaken)
  • Academic reference / support letter
  • Confirmation of funding / sponsorship (if applicable)
  • Passport
  • Research Proposal (if you are NOT selecting a project from the Directory of PhD opportunities or applying for a Studentship). Click here for guidance about how to write a good research proposal.

Step 3 – Apply Online

International students have two options when applying;

Apply online

Option 1 – Apply online yourself

Option 2 – Apply online with the help of a recruitment agent

  • If you would like help in completing and managing your application you may seek help from one of our authorised representatives or agents. To see a list of our representatives for your country please visit the Country pages.

Application advice

Applications for research degrees differ substantially from applications for taught courses such as Masters degrees. Although the application form is the same, the way in which you approach your application can make all the difference.

Applying for a self-funded or externally-funded Research Degree

As with all of our courses, you can apply to fund yourself through a PhD/MPhil at Bangor, or you may already have sourced external funding (e.g. from your employer or government), and we warmly welcome all expressions of interest in so doing. However, rather than simply filling in an application form, there are a few steps that you can take in order that your application stands a greater chance of being successful.

All PhD/MPhil students require supervision from at least one academic member of staff at the University, and if you are considering a PhD/MPhil, you will already have a good idea of the specific area or theme that you want to research. In order to ascertain that we hold sufficient expertise in your chosen topic to provide supervision, you should first look at our staff pages. This will provide you with a breakdown of each staff member’s area of academic focus.

Once you have found a member of staff whose research interests broadly accord with your own, you should contact them directly with a concise research ‘brief’ that outlines your proposal and ask whether s/he would consider supervising your project. If the academic expresses his/her interest, you may then further discuss your ideas and develop a full PhD/MPhil research proposal.

At this stage, you should formally apply online for the PhD/MPhil programme. You should fill the form out thoroughly, including academic references, your research proposal and the name of the academic member of staff under whose supervision you intend the research to be conducted.

Your research proposal

A good research proposal is essential if you are applying for a PhD or MPhil. The proposal should include:

  1. Overview – give a brief abstract of the subject area you wish to research and include information on the key theoretical, policy or empirical debates that will be addressed.
  2. Planning – you need to demonstrate that you are aware of the research timescales and have a plan in place to conduct your work. You need to demonstrate that the research is manageable in the given time period.
  3. Literature references – you need to show that your planned area of research has not been studied before. Provide references to key articles and texts relevant to your area of study.
  4. Methodology – you need to show that you are aware of the methodological tools available and have identified which ones would be suitable for your research.

When do I Apply?

You can apply at any time of the year.

It is possible to start a PhD degree at any point in the year at most academic Schools, subject to agreement with the supervisor.

We advise that you submit your application in enough time to:

  • organise funding
  • undertake an English course
  • obtain documents such as transcripts and references required for meeting the conditions of the offer
  • apply for a visa
  • make accommodation arrangements

Further information

Admission related queries

If you need any assitance in completing your application, contact the International Admissions Team on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Green Energy, Weather Forecasts & Climate Change: Ocean Modelling is the Answer

Partner: State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, China

Principal Investigator: Prof. Tom Rippeth, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University; email: t.p.rippeth@bangor.ac.uk

Modelling the turbulence in the oceans can tell us many things about our environment, and how we may use these findings to better support our management of the environment, such as where to site off-shore marine renewable energy plants.

The interaction of the oceans with other earth systems not only affects our weather, but the global cycling of Carbon, as the oceans act as a major sink for atmospheric Carbon. Rising temperatures and changes in the weather as a consequence of increasing atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are well documented, but did you know that approximately one third of the CO2 is absorbed by the oceans? Whilst this is good news in that the air temperatures have not risen as rapidly as they could have, it does mean that seawater has become more acidic.

Ocean turbulence modelling at Bangor University accurately predicts the movement of heat, nutrients and pollutants in shelf seas (i.e. marginal seas adjacent to land), and it is critical that we understand how these factors affect the climate (for example the role of tides in driving ocean mixing in the polar oceans).

Photo 1: Inquisitive Polar Bears Take a Closer Look at the Bangor Research Expedition

Our research has resulted in improved models for ocean mixing in the marine environment, and the data generated has made a significant contribution to the General Ocean Turbulence Model (GOTM), which is regarded as the ‘gold standard’ in turbulence modelling, and is used by the UK Met Office for their short-range ocean and climate forecasting, and daily costal sea and ecosystem forecasting. Direct impacts on the development of policy, European law enforcement and the growth of off-shore renewable energy (environmental impact assessments) have been seen; in addition to uses for search and rescue activities, ice forecasts and the biodiversity of shelf seas. Furthermore, the role of mixing in determining the strength of the ocean Carbon Dioxide sink has also been determined.

Photo 2: Bangor University Researchers Fly the Welsh Flag During a Research Expedition

This research has attracted significant funding: £6M over six years, principally from RCUK grants, including the current NERC-supported CaNDyFloSS consortium.

In addition to this, Bangor University staff have authored a number books on ocean physics, which are standard texts for degree courses around the world.

Collaboration with Xiamen University
The State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, China collaborates with Bangor University and partners on the PycnMix project: turbulent mixing in the pycnocline layer of seasonally stratified shelf seas. This project exploits state-of-the-art modelling techniques in order to better understand the processes responsible for mixing across the biogeochemical interface (known as the pycnocline layer), drawing nutrients up from the deeper layer of the ocean, and accounting for as much as 50% of the annual Carbon fixation in stratifying shelf seas. Given that they account for 15–30% of the total oceanic primary production, and are a significant sink for atmospheric CO2, continental shelf seas only occupy a tiny 7% of the global ocean area.
It is expected that the results of the project will lead to significant advancement in the modelling of the annual cycle of stratification in shelf seas. This will lead to greater understanding of the role that the pycnocline layer plays in Carbon cycling.

Photo 3: Prof. Tom Rippeth in Arctic Ocean

Prof. Tom Rippeth said, “The collaboration with Xiamen University has resulted in the largest data base of ocean turbulence measurements in the world, and allows us to contrast the processes driving turbulence and mixing in the northwest European shelf seas (i.e. Irish Sea, North Sea etc) with those in the South and East China Sea systems”.

Li Jingnan, an Ocean Physics PhD student supervised by Prof. Tom Rippeth in Bangor University said, “The topic I am studying is how the wind influences the amount of carbon dioxide that continental shelf seas absorb from the atmosphere, especially in summer. Study in Bangor University is a great challenge to me. It forces me to study in a language environment I’m not familiar with. This brings lots of troubles while you are absorbing new knowledge and when you trying to explain your own thoughts to others. But it also gives me a strong push to let me jump out of my comfort zone. The biggest reason I like the School of Ocean Science is because I get lots of support here for my studies. Historically the school is a world-leader in the study of the Physical Oceanography in shelf seas, there are a lot of shelf sea oceanic experts concentrated in Bangor and I can get clear answers or advice for almost every question I ask. Besides, it’s also quite interesting to observe the different methods people use and different thoughts people have in ocean science study in different countries.”

More information about ocean physics research at Bangor University.