Masters opportunity: Multiple stressors in the Arctic Ocean, University of Exeter

Application deadline: 27 November 2019

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences is inviting applications for a Master of Science by Research (MScbyRes) studentship to commence in January 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees £4350 for 1 year plus fieldwork and laboratory costs. The student would be based in Biosciences in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Location: Department of Biosciences, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter

Project Description: The Arctic is one of the most rapidly changing regions on the Planet. Climate change, ocean acidification and microplastics are some of the major issues that face this changing ocean. Kongsfjord in Svalbard is a fjord system that is influenced by both Arctic and Atlantic water and is therefore at the forefront of Arctic change. Atlantic water potentially brings microplastics up from the European and American continents, while Arctic water, and glacial and freshwater inputs can influence the carbonate chemistry and hence the rate of ocean acidification. It is imperative that we observe and monitor these changes in order to establish what impacts they are having, and to put in place mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Arctic Live is an exciting three year collaboration between scientists and school educators. Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and University of Exeter (UoE), jointly with the NERC Arctic Office, AXA XL and Encounter Edu, deliver innovative interactive classroom events to schools globally, with lessons based directly on UoE/PML science on microplastic pollution and ocean acidification. To-date these lessons have reached >46,100 children in 30 different countries. The expedition consists of a two week field campaign in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard every May (2018, 2019 and 2020). The Master of Science by Research student would be expected to participate in the May 2020 field campaign, contributing both to the science but also the outreach activities.

Project Aims and Methods

The project aims to:
1. Understand sources and sinks of microplastics in Kongsfjord by analysing particle characteristics across different water bodies within the fjord system.
2. Assess settlement success in calcifying species in areas of different seawater carbonate chemistry.
3. Assess the potential for long-term biological-chemical monitoring and biological indicators for the Arctic region.
Field samples will be collected from Kongsfjord during the 2020 fieldwork campaign at the UK NERC Arctic research station in Ny Ålesund, Svalbard. Samples are also available from the previous two years. The students time will be split between UoE, were they will analyse microplastic particles in seawater and zooplankton samples using a range of spectral (e.g. µFTIR) and newly developed pyrolosis-GCMS techniques; and PML, were they will analyse the zooplankton and benthic samples, primarily using microscope identification techniques as well as conducting carbon analysis.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees £4350 for 1 year plus fieldwork and laboratory costs. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee.

The student will receive training in ocean acidification techniques, including carbonate chemistry analysis, microscopy, and CHN analysis. They will receive training in state-of-art microplastic analysis techniques. They will undergo Sea Survival training, small vessel oceanographic sampling, and Arctic field sampling.

Entry requirements
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a biological or oceanography related subject. This position will suit someone with field work experience and an interest in invertebrate ecology and biodiversity. The candidate should also be interested in outreach and communication.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.

Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.
The closing date for applications is midnight on 27 November 2019.

Open Day: PML are hosting a PhD Open Day on Monday 25th November. Although not a PhD, this MScbyRes project will be pitched at this event, and Dr Findlay will be available to meet interested applicants. Please register for this event by email:, Suzanne Hawkins.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150. Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor

More information.

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