PhD Project: Keeping tabs on ocean acidification: Using novel technologies to monitor carbonate chemistry from polar to tropical waters

University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Science

Program: Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Contacts: Dr S Loucaides , Dr A Nightingale , Dr Stathios Papadimitriou , Dr S Fowell

Deadline: Monday, January 04, 2021

About the Project

Project Rationale
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the ocean has become more acidic due to uptake of anthropogenic CO2, a process that is projected to continue under current scenarios. Understanding spatial and temporal variability in carbonate chemistry is essential in order to identify ocean acidification hotspots and begin to predict its effects on marine ecosystems. Traditional ship-based observations cannot offer the spatial or the temporal coverage required to understand global and local variability in the marine CO2 system. Autonomous technology, however, has the potential for large scale high resolution real-time observing (see for example the Argo project and could accelerate our understanding of how the ocean CO2 cycle is changing. The Ocean Technology and Engineering group at NOC is a world leader in developing ocean sensor technology. Novel sensors for in situ measurements of pH, Total Alkalinity (TA) and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) have reached technology readiness for integration and deployment on autonomous platforms enabling, for the first time, direct in situ characterization of the marine CO2 system. The purpose of this project is to optimize and validate these new technologies through new science applications, using the unprecedented resolution of synoptic observations to understand drivers of the marine CO2 system.


Working with engineers and scientists from the Ocean Technology and Engineering group at NOC, the successful PhD candidate will optimize novel sensor technology through laboratory tests, calibrations and technical trials in local waters to improve their performance. The candidate will lead the integration of sensors on a number of autonomous vehicles such as the Autosub Long Range and Waveglider, and participate in already planned and funded sea trials to the North and mid-latitude Atlantic and collecting scientific data on CO2 dynamics. The candidate will join new deployment opportunities as they become available to collect new data in ocean acidification hot spots such as the Arctic and S. Oceans and participate in capacity building campaigns to developing nations, enabling autonomous monitoring of coastal waters and generating new data from tropical reef environments. The ultimate aim of this project is to evaluate new technologies as tools for long term, high performance, autonomous ocean acidification observations and their potential for integration into a global ocean acidification observing system. The potential for using autonomous technology for capacity building applications (in countries were sophisticated laboratories are unavailable) will also be evaluated.


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted within the Ocean Technology and Engineering Group of the National Oceanography Centre. Specific training will include: the science and metrology of carbon dioxide and the dissolved carbonate system, autonomous systems and their application to carbon observing, instrumentation development, analytical chemistry and sensor engineering.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

More information.

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