May 2015
Message 24

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[Met-jobs] PhD studentship at Oxford in ocean biogeochemical modeling

From Samar Khatiwala <>
Date Sat, 9 May 2015 04:56:14 -0400

The Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford and the National 
Oceanography Center have a 4-year Ph.D. studentship in 
ocean biogeochemical modeling funded through the NERC Large Grant Project 
COMICS (Controls over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior 
Carbon Storage). The student will be based at Oxford. This is an exciting 
opportunity for someone with a good first degree in the natural 
sciences, maths or engineering to work on a cutting edge problem at the 
intersection of marine biogeochemistry, mathematical modeling 
and computer science. The studentship start date is October 2015. A brief 
description is given below and further details are available 

The deadline for applications is 10 June, 2015 and interviews will be held at 
the end of June.

Project title: Toward a mechanistic model of the ocean biological carbon pump

Supervisor: Prof. Samar Khatiwala (
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Adrian Martin (

Photosynthesis by phytoplankton at the surface of the ocean absorb CO2 from the 
atmosphere to produce organic matter. At the end 
of their life cycle these marine organisms aggregate into large, rapidly 
sinking particles. This sinking organic matter is in turn fed on 
by bacteria and zooplankton, respiring CO2 that can stay dissolved in the deep 
ocean for thousands of years. This set of processes, 
collectively known as the "biological carbon pump" (BCP), is a major pathway by 
which carbon is transported from the atmosphere 
to the deep sea. Understanding the complex processes that control the 
efficiency of the BCP and hence the relative partitioning of 
carbon between the ocean and atmosphere and, ultimately, climate, is thus one 
of the leading problems in oceanography and climate 
science. Current models of the BCP embedded within global climate models do not 
however have a mechanistic representation of the 
BCP. They are thus largely incapable of responding to environmental changes and 
cannot be used to investigate how the BCP will 
evolve in the future or how it may have operated in the past. 

The primary objective of this project is to obtain a mechanistic understanding 
of the BCP and it's response to environmental conditions. 
To achieve this objective, a global model that represents the process through 
which marine particles stick together or break apart will 
be developed. Starting with the growth of phytoplankton at the surface the 
model will use a Lagragian, stochastic approach to explicitly 
simulate the main processes of coagulation and disaggregation affecting the 
sinking of organic particles through the ocean. This model 
of particles and biogeochemistry will interact with ocean circulation as 
simulated by models such as UKESM. To feasibly carry out this 
computation we will exploit programmable GPUs to achieve computational speedup 
of the model and scale it up to run in 3-d. The 
student will not only lead the development of the model-acquiring training and 
skills in marine biogeochemistry, oceanography and 
high performance computing and numerical modeling-but also perform experiments 
to mechanistically explore the BCP’s response to 
climate change. The student will actively collaborate with COMICS team members 
at the National Oceanography Centre, and other 
groups in the US, Germany and France.

The successful applicant, whose first degree might be in physics, chemistry, 
biology, mathematics or engineering, will have strong 
computing skills and an interest in modeling the ocean carbon cycle.

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