Understanding oxygen deficits with a community ecosystem model and isotopic tools (CLARK_PML17iNERC2)

Project Description

Background: Oxygen (O2) is essential for complex marine life, including commercially important species of fish and shell fish. O2 is also used as an assessment variable for Good Environmental Status (GES) with respect to eutrophication. Ongoing assessments have identified significant downward trends in the O2 concentration in the northern and southern North Sea and the English Channel. However, the assessments identified significant gaps in the data and monitoring practices, as well as a lack of understanding of how physical, biological and climatological processes control oxygen concentrations.

Methodology: This project aims at narrowing these gaps in understanding using a combination of i) UK shelf data; ii) model results from the NERC-Defra Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry (SSB) Programme; and iii) novel model simulations of oxygen isotopes.

In Phase 1 of the project, the student will validate the model runs using univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. They will then establish if historic and future model trends in oxygen concentration respond to management scenarios.

In Phase 2, the student will implement an oxygen isotope fractionation scheme in the model and compare results with new and archived O2 isotopologue data.

Person specification and training

The student will be primarily based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.  The project is suited to students with at least a 2(i) BSc in a science discipline, computing or maths; a Masters degree and programming experience are desirable. The student will graduate with advanced practical, analytical and numerical skills in ecosystem modelling, programming and data analysis. They also have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise aboard RV Cefas Endeavour and gain experience in the laboratory while analysing the collected field samples.

The project includes training and research funding.

For scientific enquiries please contact Dr James Clark (


i) OSPAR (2016). Summary Record, HASEC 16/11/1-E, Annex 2, HASEC 16/08/Info.3

(ii) Butenschön, M. et al (2015). Geosci. Model Dev., 9, 1293-1339

(iii) Ciavatta, S. et al (2016). J. Geo. Res.: Oceans, 2016, 121, 1824-1845

(iv) Topcu, H. and Brockmann, U. (2015). Mar. Poll. Bull., 99, 5-27

(v) Kaiser, J. (2011). Biogeosci., 8, 1793

Apply online
  • School:

    Environmental Sciences

  • Primary Supervisor/Contact:

    Dr James Clark (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

  • Co-Supervisors: Prof Jan Kaiser


  • Start date: October 2017
  • Programme: PhD
  • Mode of Study: Full Time

How to Apply

Fees & Funding

  • Funding Status: Directly Funded Project (UK Students Only)
    Further Details
  • Funding Conditions:

    This NERC Industrial Case studentship in partnership with Cefas is funded for 4 years.  An annual stipend of £14,296, plus £1000 per annum from the CASE partner will be available to the successful candidate who meets the UK Research Council eligibility criteria. These requirements are detailed in the RCUK eligibility guide which can be found at  In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award.  Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award.  

  • Fees: Fees Information (Opens in new window)

Entry Requirements

  • Acceptable First Degree:

    A science discipline, computing or mathematics.

  • Minimum Entry Standard: 2:1