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Name of scholarship/program

Investigation of Antarctic climate of the past 200 years using the annual growth increments in the shell of the bivalve mollusc Yoldia eightsi

Important description
The scarcity of long instrumental series from the Southern Ocean is limiting our understanding of key feedbacks within the Antarctic system, including the timing of onset and subsequent evolution of the recent rapid warming in the West Antarctic Peninsula (Vaughan et al 2003). A pilot study based on the sclerochronology (Butler et al 2009) of the common Antarctic mollusc Yoldia eightsi (Peck et al 2000) has shown that it can constitute a viable annually-resolved shell-based proxy archive for Antarctic coastal waters. Links have been found between growth patterns in a Y. eightsi chronology and sea surface temperatures, phytoplankton bloom activity and fast-ice duration. With access to adequate shell material and research time it will be possible to construct annually-resolved chronologies spanning at least two hundred years and possibly even longer. It will then be possible to use the growth increment indices and the associated geochemical data to provide proxies for environmental changes that occurred well before the beginning of instrumental observations. In addition, radiocarbon analysis of absolutely-dated shell material could be used to calibrate the marine radiocarbon reservoir in the Southern Ocean, with consequent benefits for the dating accuracy of other marine proxies in the area and improved understanding of regional ocean circulation.

An endogenous growth signal found during the Yoldia eightsi pilot study suggests that additional biological information (e.g. spawning events, endogenous metabolic cycles) can be extracted from growth patterns in the mollusc’s shell. Further research into this effect, comparing Y. eightsi from different sites and other bivalve species from different latitudes might provide new insights into longevity and ontogenetic growth cycles in marine molluscs, thus helping to isolate environmental drivers from endogenous effects with greater precision.

Shell processing equipment and imaging software for the visualization and measurement of increments are available at SOS Bangor. Shells of Y. eightsi and other Antarctic bivalves will be sourced by BAS. Other (non-Antarctic) shells are curated at Bangor. Geochemical analyses will be carried out at Cardiff, subject to specific funding being applied for. The student will receive training in crossdating and crossmatching of growth increments, chronology construction and statistical calibration of the chronology with instrumental measurements. The student will benefit from collaboration with staff within the sclerochronology group and with analytical geochemists at British Antarctic Survey and Cardiff University. All PhD students at Bangor undertake a range of approved transferable skill modules during their first year and students’ presentational skills are developed through seminar programmes run by the School of Ocean Sciences and College of Natural Sciences.

Eligibility and other criteria
(UK Students Only)
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. The funding is only available to UK citizens or those who have been resident in the UK for a period of 3 years or more. Some projects, which are funded by charities or by the universities themselves may have more stringent restrictions.

Application deadline
* 01 February 2013

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