Diurnal BOOGIE: An investigation into the day-night connectivity of organic matter transport and fate between terrestrial, marine, and atmospheric biomes

Reference no.: EGIS2020-RP1
Closing date: 30 April 2021
Supervisors: Dr Ryan Pereira (r.pereira@hw.ac.uk)


We are seeking applicants for a 3-year PhD studentship funded by Heriot Watt and the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No [949495]), starting 1 September 2021.

Oceans are a global reservoir of greenhouse gases, estimated to account for 20-40% of the post-industrial sink for anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2). However, quantifying the exchange of gases such as CO2, methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) between the ocean and atmosphere is a major challenge. Understanding how the ocean's organic skin layer modulates this exchange is critical to estimate the intrinsic oceanic sinks and sources of these key greenhouse gases both now and in the future. Organic substances in the skin layer, known as surfactants, span across traditional operational definitions and are derived from multiple sources undergoing biotic and abiotic transformations along the land-ocean continuum.

This PhD project will investigate the key processes that drive the dynamic composition of organic matter in the ocean skin layer that affects the air-sea exchange of climate active gases. The PhD student will be trained in cutting-edge techniques to analyse and identify dissolved organic matter, using liquid chromatography, UV-Vis absorbance and fluorescence spectrophotometry, isotope ratio mass spectrometry, NDIR gas sensor platforms, and AC voltammetry. This novel dataset will be explored using statistical and process-based modelling approaches in collaboration with Exeter University. This project encompasses a large amount of international travel with an extensive field work programme in the Cape Verde Islands, and the Atlantic Ocean where the candidate will participate in the Atlantic Meridional Transect programme. The successful candidate will also be expected to travel to other UK and European laboratories to complete relevant analyses for the completion of their thesis.

The student will join a vibrant research group working on a variety of aspects of carbon and water cycle interaction. The student will be based at the Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh and receive further training from project partners including Exeter University, NERC Environmental isotope laboratories, and TROPOS, Germany. These exciting collaborations will provide the student with excellent training and highly valuable experiences. The combination of skills and facilities will prove a very strong asset for their training and enhance the student's ability for critical thinking and their future career prospects. For more information on our activities please visit our website: https://carbonwaterdynamics.wordpress.com/ and www.lyellcentre.ac.uk.


The scholarship is open to UK and overseas applicants. To be eligible, applicants should have a first-class or a 2.1 honours degree plus a Masters (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants must be highly motivated with an environmental science/biogeochemistry related qualification. Applicants with an interest in advanced organic/isotope geochemistry and computer programming are particularly encouraged. Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.


The scholarship will cover tuition fees (home and international) and provide an annual stipend of 15,609 for the 36-month duration of the studentship, as well as research support and travel costs.

How to apply

To apply you must complete our online application form and select PhD programme Environment and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as 'required' are complete.

You must complete the section marked project proposal and upload a supporting statement documenting your reasons for applying to this particular PhD project, and why you are an ideal candidate for the position. You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Please contact Dr Ryan Pereira (r.pereira@hw.ac.uk) for informal information.


The closing date for applications is 30 April 2021 with interviews anticipated in mid-May 2021. Applicants should be available to start September 2021.

posted: 22 March 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.