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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


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Professor Claudine Stirling, Professor Cliff Law, Dr Matt Druce, Professor Michael Ellwood (ANU)


The Department of Geology has an opportunity for a PhD project investigating iron inputs to the Ross Sea and its interactions with marine productivity and atmospheric CO2 in a warming world. This project is part of the “Antarctic Science Platform” funded by MBIE and involves collaboration between the University of Otago, NIWA and the Australian National University with off-campus exchange visits.

Primary production by phytoplankton in the Ross Sea is critical to maintaining the productive ecosystems and significant carbon sink that characterise this region of the Southern Ocean. Phytoplankton primary production in the Southern Ocean is controlled by the availability of light and the micronutrient iron, and consequently the distribution and sources of dissolved iron are an important determinant of regional productivity.

This PhD project will characterise the distribution of dissolved iron in coastal and open ocean surface waters of the Ross Sea and relate iron concentration and isotopic signature to other parameters to establish the regional sources and patterns of dissolved iron availability. This information will inform projections of future dissolved iron availability and its impact on productivity and carbon export.

The project uses clean-room geochemistry and ICPMS-based mass spectrometry to quantify the concentrations and isotopic signatures of iron and other trace metals in Ross Sea waters. These datasets will be incorporated into a coupled physical-hydrodynamic model, therefore the project involves collaboration with modelers. The project involves an investigation of already-collected Antarctic water samples, and potential participation in a follow-up Antarctic sampling campaign in 2023.


Applicants with a strong background in the geosciences, marine sciences, chemistry, or related discipline, at the BSc(Hons) or MSc level are encouraged to apply. Selection is contingent on receiving a competitive University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship (3-year stipend of NZ$30,696 per year tax free and includes a fee waiver).

How to apply

Please submit a cover letter, complete CV (including academic transcripts), and the names and contact information of at least two referees in a single PDF file to:



Professor Claudine Stirling

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