January 2016
Message 3

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[Met-jobs] Ph.D. Studentship in ocean biogeochemical modeling at the University of Oxford

From Samar Khatiwala <>
Date Mon, 4 Jan 2016 16:38:39 +0000

NERC-funded 4-year Ph.D. studentship in ocean biogeochemical modeling at the 
University of Oxford and National Oceanography Centre

Project title: Toward a Mechanistic Model of the Ocean Biological Carbon Pump

Supervisors: Prof. Samar Khatiwala (Department of Earth Sciences, University of 
Oxford) and Dr. Adrian Martin (NOC, Southampton)

Start date: October 2016. 

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 
organisms aggregate into large, rapidly sinking particles. This sinking organic 
matter is in turn fed on by bacteria and zooplankton, respiring CO2 that can 
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 
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 
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 
modeling-but also perform experiments to mechanistically explore the BCP’s 
response to climate change.

This project is funded through the NERC Large Grant Project COMICS (Controls 
over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior Carbon Storage: While 
student will be based at Oxford, s/he will actively collaborate with COMICS 
team members at the National Oceanography Centre, and other groups in the US, 
and France. The student will also be affiliated with Oxford's NERC-funded 
Environmental Science Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Environmental 
Research and 
will thus benefit from courses offered through the DTP.

Eligibility: 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. Applicants must be UK/EU residents and meet NERC/RCUK eligibility 

Application process: To apply follow the instructions at Informal inquiries may be 
directed to: Samar Khatiwala 
( or Adrian Martin (

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