PhD position: In autonomous sensing of human impacts on seawater biogeochemistry


The Department of Ocean Systems (OCS) is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a background in chemistry, engineering, oceanography and/or environmental sciences to develop and deploy autonomous chemical sensors and thus investigate the ocean’s response to human activities, CO2 emissions and climate change (principal investigator dr. Matthew Humphreys).


VACANCY ID:         2021 – 16

CLOSING DATE:    14-Apr-2021


Researchers in the Department of Ocean System Research (OCS) study open-ocean processes from a variety of disciplines including physical and chemical oceanography, marine geology, palaeoceanography and deep-sea ecology. We investigate the past and present ocean in order to assess its future role in the Earth system. We collect data during oceanographic research cruises and conduct experiments both at sea and in the laboratory at our home base on Texel. The department carries out work in diverse environments all around the globe, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and from the Caribbean to the North Sea.

The global ocean absorbs about a quarter of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. Once out of the atmosphere this CO2 can no longer influence the climate. However, extra dissolved CO2 shifts the balance of chemical equilibria in seawater, driving a decrease in pH known as ocean acidification, which may affect the viability of many marine organisms. Monitoring the contemporary oceanic CO2 sink, and understanding what drives the patterns of CO2 uptake and pH change through time and space, are therefore essential if we are to project the fate of ongoing CO2 emissions and understand their impacts both on marine ecosystems and biogeochemistry as well as Earth’s future climate.

A key challenge in studying the ocean’s response to anthropogenic pressures is being able to sustain observations over long enough timescales to quantify variability and at high enough resolution to capture all the important processes. This challenge often cannot be met with traditional research cruises due to time and cost constraints. Therefore, there is a rapidly expanding body of research into how new biogeochemical sensor technology can be deployed on autonomous sensing platforms to fill this capability gap. The new data are revolutionising our understanding of the drivers and impacts of ocean CO2 uptake, and are of particular importance in continental shelf seas. Being influenced by a complex array of interacting physical, biological and chemical processes, conditions in these shallow seas – which are of great ecological and economic importance – are highly variable in both space and time. They are also highly affected by human activities both local (infrastructure and aquaculture) and global (climate change and ocean acidification).

NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (via, 10 March 2021. More information.

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