Funded PhD research studentship!

Come do a PhD with me!

Funded PhD research studentship – Accelerating sea temperature growth and intensified poleward heat transfer: global and regional risk implications

Apply now. PhD opportunity beginning on 1 January 2019


Project description

The studentship will research how the development and propagation of warm sea surface temperature anomalies from tropical seas towards the poles contributes to rapidly rising global temperature and consequent risks to society and the insurance industry. As a new initiative in 2018, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences is funding research as part of XL Catlin’s Ocean Risk Scholarships to examine and quantify risks to ecosystems, businesses and people from the changes taking place in the ocean. This joint project between the Marine Biological Association (MBA, including the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey) and the University of Plymouth is one of three selected this year.

The Earth is taking in more energy as heat than is reflected back into space with ~93 per cent taken up by the ocean; a rapidly increasing uptake with large consequences for the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere. Extremes of heat and other climate events appear more common. Extreme weather is one of three top risks in the Global Risks Report 2018 of the World Economic Forum. Downstream effects from increases in ocean heat have substantial implications for the insurance market and improved understanding of processes is needed to manage these risks.

The successful student will:

  • Update Reid and Beaugrand (2012) doi:10.1017/S0025315412000549 for the whole ocean, including its western boundary current ‘heat motorways and response to the 2014/16 El Niño, as an introduction to the manipulation and statistical analysis of large gridded datasets.
  • Examine non-linear step-like changes over time in regional and global temperatures and explore mechanisms behind temperature shifts, their environmental interactions, synchrony and scale of effects around the globe. Possible links to an increased incidence of extreme events and natural disasters will be researched using e.g. the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database.
  • Be introduced to and make use of the Argo database that enables a 3D view of the changing status of upper ocean temperature, salinity and water circulation. Apply the results to investigate risks associated with the accelerated growth in ocean heat content from ~1990.

Links to risk and the insurance industry

The speed, severity, regional expression of rising temperature and non-linear nature of some events is important for the insurance industry. Statistical analysis and interpretation of the global and regional temperature change in this PhD project will aid planning for future ocean risk through improved understanding of processes. XL Catlin will act as a risk supervisor providing opportunities for the student to work with industry professionals on the translation of regional atmospheric and terrestrial effects of ocean warming to a risk scale relevant to the insurance industry. 

Training, research facilities and working environment

Hosted jointly by the MBA and the University of Plymouth the student will be primarily based at the superbly located and friendly MBA Laboratory. Both institutions have excellent computing and other facilities. Training in the use of a high-level programming language such as Matlab and compatible database programs will be provided and are essential for the success of the research. A wide range of standard and innovative statistical techniques and data processing tools will be available. Networking with other graduates in the MBA and University will be encouraged. Opportunities to help with lecturing, practicals and assessment and to gain experience in science-policy issues and analysis techniques will be available with training in risk analysis techniques and the science-policy interface.

Selection criteria

Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification. A high degree of computer literacy is required preferably with experience of Matlab programming and working with Matlab and/or R statistical packages.


The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,553 per annum. The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees. Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £10,350 per annum).

Further information

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Philip (Chris) Reid at McQuatters-Gollop, Gregory Beaugrand at or Eric Gobberville at However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

General information about applying for a research degree at the University is available at:

Please apply via the online application form.

Please mark it FAO Aimee McNeillie, clearly stating that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV and two academic references.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact Aimee McNeillie.

The closing date for applications is 12 noon, Friday 19 October 2018. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in the week beginning 12 November 2018. Support will be provided for travel within the UK. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer by 30 November 2018 should consider their application has been unsuccessful.


Desbruyères D. et al. 2017. Journal of Climate, 30, 1985-1997. Reid, P. C. 2016. In Explaining ocean warming:causes, scale, effects and consequences, pp. 17-45. Ed. by D. Laffoley, and J. M. Baxter. IUCN. Reid, P. C. and Beaugrand, G. 2012. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 92: 1435-1450. Wijffels, S. et al. 2016. Nature Climate Change, 6: 116-118

About Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

Marine biologist, guitarist, cat lover, red wine drinker. I like plankton.
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