PhD Positions in Tectonics, Geodynamics and Sedimentology/Paleoclimate

at The University of Sydney, Australia

Applications are invited for three fully funded PhD positions in the EarthByte Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Australia. The EarthByte Group is internationally known for its research in geodata synthesis, assimilating the wealth of disparate geological and geophysical data into a four-dimensional Earth model, incorporating tectonics, geodynamics and surface processes.

PhD project 1: Deep-sea sediments and paleoclimate. Supervisor: Adriana Dutkiewicz Deep-sea sediments record changes in climate, paleogeography, surface environments and biogeochemical cycles through geological time. In this project ocean drilling data will be used in combination with paleobathymetric maps, paleoclimate models and machine learning tools to reconstruct the accumulation rates of key components of deep-sea sediments, with a focus on deep-sea carbonates, organic carbon and the global carbon cycle. The EarthByte Group is a leader in developing spatio-temporal data analysis tools. In this project a range of open-source tools including pyGPlates, pyBacktrack, and machine learning tools will be applied to understand how major changes in ocean basin configurations and paleoclimate are reflected in the history of deep sea sedimentation and carbon storage. This project is part of an ARC Future Fellowship and will involve the Sydney Informatics Hub, offering broad expertise in data science, python scripting and workflow development. This project is perfectly suited to Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 times because it relies on an enormous wealth of existing analytical data and it uses data analysis methods that can easily be applied in other fields, leading to broad employment opportunities.

PhD project 2: Deep-time reconstructions of Earth's surface environments and elevations. Supervisors: Maria Seton and Sabin Zahirovic Reconstructing the past shapes and sizes of the continents and ocean basins through geological time is important for understanding some of the most fundamental processes occurring on our planet, such as those related to global climate, seawater chemistry, the emergence and resilience of life. However, in order to reconstruct the elevations of the continents and bathymetry of the ocean basins, we must account for a variety of processes including continental stretching and seafloor spreading, mountain building, large-scale volcanism and sedimentation. In this project, you will use a combined plate tectonics and geodynamics approach, using pyGPlates and a coupled GPlates-CitcomS workflow, to model the past elevations of our planet through deep time. You will additionally assess uncertainties through end-member comparisons between alternative paleo-elevation and tectonic models. Finally, your models will form the basis for predicting ocean basin volumes and global sea-level fluctuations through time and how these relate to supercontinent cycles.

PhD project 3: Plate-plume interactions in the southwest Pacific. Supervisor: Maria Seton One of the world's most extensive but little explored intraplate volcanic fields, encompasses eastern Australia, Zealandia and Antarctica and includes three age- progressive trails offshore and the world's longest continental hotspot trail. These trails record the motion of the Australian plate over persistent sources of magma within the mantle, providing an excellent natural laboratory to explore the inter-relationships between plume activity and plate tectonic motions. Using advanced plate modelling workflows with an unprecedented dataset of volcanic rocks from three age-progressive seamount chains in the waters off eastern Australia, you will develop new detailed reconstructions of the numerous blocks and basins that were involved in the last stages of continental break-up between Australia-Antarctica-Zealandia and assess the interplay between continental rifts, mid-ocean ridges and plume activity. Depending on interest and skill-set, the project could also involve numerical modelling of plate-plume interactions.


International and Australian applicants with a first-class Honours degree, Masters by research and/or publications or equivalent are encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should send:

  • 1-2 page cover letter as an expression of interest, outlining their academic background, their skillset and their interest in their selected project/s, along with an attached CV and academic transcript
  • Contact details for two suggested referees

Please send these through to the appropriate supervisor for your selected project by Wednesday 19th May, 2021 (Australian time). If you have been shortlisted we will arrange for a phone or teleconference interview after which you may be invited to submit a formal application through the University of Sydney, which are due on 31st May, 2021.


Significant project funding has been committed to this project and scholarship funding is in the form of a 3-year scholarship with a minimum stipend of $28,092 AUD (tax-free) per year and includes student tuition fees and research-related expenses.

For more information, please contact Maria Seton (, Sabin Zahirovic ( or Adriana Dutkiewicz (

posted: 11 May 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.