ARC Funded PhD Opportunities in Past Climate Change

Sprigg Geobiology Centre and Department of Earth Sciences, University of Adelaide have two opportunities available for PhD students.

Currently, there are two ARC Discovery projects related to climate change and lake sediments, which requires at least two PhD candidates. The projects will be working alongside Dr. Jonathan Tyler, Associate Prof. John Tibby and Dr. Cameron Barr, amongst others.

Successful candidates must be able to secure a domestic or international scholarship to support tuition and living expenses, however, all research expenses will be provided, including support for research travel and analytical costs.

The PhD candidate(s) will receive high level training in isotope ratio mass spectrometry, analysis and interpretation of lake sediments, palaeoecological techniques (especially diatom analysis) and the numerical analysis of palaeoclimate data.

The University of Adelaide is host to a vibrant and diverse community of researchers investigating Quaternary environmental change, including expertise in lake sediments, isotope geochemistry, geochronology, Quaternary palaeontology, ancient DNA and climate/ecosystem modelling. The PhD candidates will have access to an array of cutting edge laboratory facilities, including stable isotope, TIMS and GC-MS facilities in the Department of Earth Sciences, and SEM, ICP-MS and LA-ICP-MS facilities at Adelaide Microscopy.

Overall, Adelaide is a fantastic place for PhD students to live: it’s sunny and affordable, with access to a range of cultural and outdoor activities, including the annual Adelaide Festival and Fringe, the spectacular coastline of South Australia and a world renowned wine and food culture.

Interested candidates are encouraged to email Jonathan Tyler with any questions.

Project 1: East Asian Monsoon variability through the last 140,000 years

This project will reconstruct variability in the East Asian Monsoon using the globally significant, annually laminated sediments of Lake Suigetsu, Japan (Bronk Ramsey et al., 2012; Nakagawa et al., 2012). Working in collaboration with scientists in Japan (Profs. Nakagawa Takeshi and Yokoyama Yusuke) and the UK (Dr. Richard Staff and Prof. Melanie Leng), the PhD candidate will undertake oxygen isotope analysis of biogenic (diatom) silica, siderite and cellulose to develop high resolution records of climate and hydrological change. In particular, the project will utilise a newly installed Nu Perspective isotope ratio mass spectrometer which, unique to Australia, is configured for high throughput isotope analysis of oxygen isotopes in silicate materials. The exact details of the PhD project are open for discussion, however it is envisaged that the candidate would conduct a comparative study of decadal-scale hydrological variability during the current and penultimate interglacials (i.e. the Holocene and Marine Isotope Stage 5e), including integration of lake sediment data with a lake isotope proxy system model. These data will provide new insights into the magnitude and drivers of inter-decadal to centennial hydroclimate variability in Japan, with relevance for contemporary and future management.

Project 2: Regional constraints on multi-decadal droughts in south-eastern Australia

This project aims to assess the regional expression of major multi-decadal droughts across south-eastern Australia during the last 2000 years. The PhD candidate will develop new, high resolution hydroclimate records using a combination of stable isotope and palaeoecological techniques applied to lake sediments in south-eastern South Australia and western Victoria (e.g. Barr et al., 2014; Tibby et al., 2018). High quality lake sediment age-depth models will be developed in close collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). It is envisaged that the PhD candidate would apply for an AINSE (Australian Institute for Nuclear Science and Energy) Residential Student Scholarship to support this collaboration. Quantitative estimates of hydrological change will be derived through combination of lake sediment data with a newly developed isotope hydrological mass balance model, with the research outcomes contributing both to our understanding of drought risk in south-eastern Australia, as well as the effects of climate change on lake ecosystems into the future.


Barr, C. et al., 2014. Climatic variability in southeastern Australia over the last 1500 years inferred from the high resolution diatom records of two crater lakes. Quat. Sci. Rev., 95: 115-131.

Bronk Ramsey, C. et al., 2012. A complete terrestrial radiocarbon record for 11.2 to 52.8 kyr B.P. Science (New York, N.Y.), 338(6105): 370-4. DOI:10.1126/science.1226660

Nakagawa, T. et al., 2012. SG06, a fully continuous and varved sediment core from Lake Suigetsu, Japan: stratigraphy and potential for improving the radiocarbon calibration model and understanding of late Quaternary climate changes. Quat. Sci. Rev., 36: 164-176.

Tibby, J., Tyler, J., Barr, C., 2018. Post little ice age drying of eastern Australia conflates understanding of early settlement impacts. Quat. Sci. Rev., 202: 45-52.



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