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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisors: Fausto Ferraccioli (British Antarctic Survey) and Nicky White (Earth Sciences

Importance of the area of research:

Despite the importance of Antarctica in the global supercontinental cycle, efforts to comprehend the geodynamic processes that shaped the evolution of the Antarctic continent remain mostly regional in scope. Our understanding of the impact of dynamic topography is also in an infancy stage compared other continents, in spite of its likely influence on the evolution of major topographic and tectonic features, such as the Transantarctic Mountains, the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains and the large intraplate subglacial basins that characterise East and West Antarctica.

Here we propose to analyse the latest generation continental-scale gravity and magnetic anomaly data compilations together with satellite gravity gradient, satellite magnetic and seismological datasets. By exploiting advances in 3D modelling, the project will help constrain crustal and lithospheric architecture at much larger scale than previously attempted and provide novel insights into the spatial and temporal variability in dynamic topography effects on the Antarctic plate.

Project summary:

This project aims to transform our knowledge of Antarctica by providing novel geophysical interpretations of crustal and lithospheric architecture and modelling the space-time evolution of dynamic topography.

The project will enable us to better establish the role of Antarctica in the evolution of the supercontinental cycle, will help constrain paleotopography and boundary conditions for the overlying ice sheets, and will derive comprehensive new assessments of the effects of dynamic topography on the Antarctic continent.

What the student will do:

The student will help analyse and model recent Antarctic geophysical data compilations. These include the latest international gravity data compilation that covers 73% of Antarctica (Scheinert et al., 2016). The student will also be involved in analysing the latest ADMAP 2.0 magnetic data compilation that includes 3,5 Ml line km of aeromagnetic data. These compilations will be augmented by new datasets collected over the South Pole and Princess Elizabeth Land. Satellite gravity gradient and Swarm magnetic data will further assist in large scale lithospheric modelling. The potential field data interpretation will include the development of new 2D and 3D models of crustal and lithospheric architecture, complemented by seismological constraints where available (An et al., 2015). The student will also utilise global seismological and mantle flow models and analyse subglacial topography to help reconstruct the evolution and impact of dynamic topography.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Ferraccioli, F., Finn, C.A., Jordan, T.A., Bell, R.E., Anderson, L.M., Damaske, D. 2011. East Antarctic rifting triggers uplift of the Gamburtsev Mountains. Nature, 479, 388-392.

Scheinert, M., Ferraccioli, F., and 13 others 2016. New Antarctic gravity anomaly grid for enhanced geodetic and geophysical studies. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 600-610, doi:10.1002/2015GL067439.

An, M., D. A. Wiens, Y. Zhao, M. Feng, A. A. Nyblade, M. Kanao, Y. Li, A. Maggi, nd J.-J. Lvque 2015. S-velocity model and inferred Moho topography beneath the Antarctic Plate from Rayleigh waves, J. Geophys. Res., 120 (2014JB011332), 359–383, doi: 10.1002/2014JB011332.

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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