Funded PhD: “Coral reef futures under climate change and ocean acidification, geography”

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the recently launched QUEX Institute.

Project Description

Coral reefs are biologically and societally critical ecosystems, which are perhaps uniquely sensitive to climate change (Perry et al. 2012). Tools to monitor and understand contemporary drivers of reef change are becoming increasingly sophisticated (e.g. eReefs, ReefMod), yet our ability to predict coral reef futures – fundamental to planning protection strategies – remain extremely limited. The challenge of linking contemporary reef monitoring and modelling to future climate projections arises from the spatial-scale and complexity disconnect between the information that state-of-the-art climate models provide (e.g., Kwiatkowski et al. 2013, 2014, 2015), and that required to model individual coral reefs (e.g. Kennedy et al., 2013; Mumby et al. 2014).

This project aims to:  

1) Take statistical downscaling techniques typically applied to terrestrial precipitation questions, and translate them to provide reef-scale climatic and biogeochemical data from the IPCC-focused CMIP5/6 (Climate Model Intercomparison Project) model projections.

2) Build a simple ocean carbon-chemistry (ocean acidification) model to account for the local scale (e.g. reef lagoon) chemical buffering/amplification of the open-ocean chemical conditions simulated by the IPCC-focused models.

3) Build a novel set of 21st Century climate-change driven coral reef projections, and identify potential hotspots/refugia.

This project would be undertaken in two parts, first at the University of Exeter with a focus on climate modelling and carbon chemistry, then at the University of Queensland with a on focus reef-scale modelling and pioneering new coral reef projections which build on existing carbonate budget data (ReefBudget). Frequent Australia/UK visits would be required throughout the project.

Academic Entry Requirements:  

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply:  

To apply, complete the online form ( You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcript and details of two academic referees. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified on 21 September 2017.

For general enquiries please contact

Funding Notes

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £3,000 are available over the 3 year programme

Further information.

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