PhD: Paleoclimate reconstruction of Aotearoa New Zealand over the Late Quaternary (~1 million years)


Lorna Strachan, University of Auckland, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Helen Bostock, University of Queensland, Australia
Katherine Holt, Massey University, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Adam McArthur, University of Leeds, United Kingdom


Martin Crundwell, GNS Science, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Bruce Hayward, GeoMarine, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Adam Woodhouse, , University of Texas at Austin, USA

Keywords: IODP, sediment core, paleoclimate, microfossil, pollen, foraminifera, SW Pacific, ocean currents, stratigraphy, age model As part of a new project funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden fund, we are looking to recruit a PhD candidate (fully funded over 3 years at the University of Auckland) to lead the analysis of Quaternary paleoclimate record from the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand and to become part of our international research team.

The wider project will look at the potential relationship between climate change (and hence sea level) to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. This PhD project will sample a ~500 m thick sediment record that spans ~1 Million years that was recovered from the Hikurangi Margin (offshore of the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand) at Hole U1520D in 2018, as part of International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 375.

This PhD project will develop a detailed paleoclimate record (using microfossils - both foraminifera and pollen, stable isotopes and other paleo-proxies) over multiple glacial-interglacial climate cycles over the last 1 million years. This time period is important as there was a significant climate transition, known as the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, with many global changes occurring during this time. The PhD candidate will work together with other researchers (including early, mid, and late career scientists) to contribute to a much larger research programme that brings together investigators from around the globe (NZ, Australia, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, US) with expertise in sedimentology, paleoseismology, volcanology, biostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy, and seismic interpretation.

The aim of the PhD is to determine how paleoclimate changed over the last 1 million years on the Hikurangi margin. Specific objectives will include:

  • Establishment of a comprehensive age model using stable isotopes from foraminifera (in combination with the biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy) for the upper 500 m of core U1520D.
  • Use foraminiferal stable isotopes to understand past changes in ocean circulation and sea level over the last 1 million years through multiple glacial-interglacial cycles.
  • Process and analyse the sediment core samples for pollen and particulate organic matter. Compare these to the shorter pollen records from the margin for the last 18 ka and use statistical analyses to determine past changes in terrestrial climate over the last 1 million years.
  • Compare the paleoclimatic proxy results to the sedimentological facies, geochemistry (XRF data) and volcanic tephra, to help provide paleiclimatic insights into the overarching Marsden project question of whether climate influences volcanic eruption and earthquake frequency.

The student will join the Coastal and Marine Geoscience Group at Auckland, a vibrant community of postgraduate students, postdocs, and academics interested in a wide variety of physical processes from the coast to the deep abyss. While based at the University of Auckland, and dependant on future COVID restrictions, the student will spend time at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) Research, located in Wellington, NZ, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ and University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and have regular opportunities to engage with the international advisory team.


Applicants should have a background in earth sciences, Geoscience, environmental change, or environmental science with an interest in paleontology and paleoclimate, and a willingness to learn new techniques. Individuals with an MSc are preferred. Although exceptional, experienced BSc Honours graduates will also be considered. Once the candidate has been accepted to the PhD they can start at any point within the year. The project is open to all candidates (NZ and International). There are currently some covid-related visa restrictions for international students, but pre-visa enrolments are possible.

CLOSING DATE - 24th September, 2021

To apply, please send a Cover letter and CV to Lorna Strachan

Further questions to Lorna Strachan

posted: 17 August 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.