skip to content

Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead Supervisor: Luke Skinner, Earth Sciences


Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Understanding the distribution of temperature, and salinity, is crucial for our understanding of the modern ocean’s large scale overturning circulation, as well as its capacity to modulate the Earth’s energy budget and carbon cycle. It is perhaps surprising therefore that we know very little at all about the temperature distribution in the ocean during key climatic regimes of the past when the ocean circulation is widely thought to have been different, for example at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), or during Heinrich-events.
Project summary : 
This project seeks to reconstruct the evolution of ocean interior temperature change across the last glacial cycle, spanning the water column in the North Atlantic, Southern Ocean and Pacific. These data will provide invaluable new constraints on numerical model proposals for ocean circulation changes at these times, with important implications for related impacts on climate and biogeochemical cycling, including inter-hemispheric heat transport and physical stratification and carbon sequestration. The project will make use of coupled trace-element and stable isotope measurements in multiple benthic foraminifer species, combined with auxiiary proxies for deep ocean oxygenation and carbonate chemistry. The goal will be to develop a thermal history of the ocean interior spannning the last glacial cycle, and to link this history to that of the ocean circulation, the carbon cycle and global climate.
What will the student do?: 
The student will work with a set of sediment cores from around the world, to pick a suite of benthic foraminifer samples for subsequent cleaning and analysis by standard solution ICP-MS for the determination of e.g. Mg/Ca and Li/Ca ratios. The aim will be to work with a range of different benthic foraminifer species and proposed deep-water temperature calibrations in order to confront multiple geochemical perspectives. Additional auxiliary geochemical analyses will also be performed in order to shed light on oxygenation and carbonate chemistry changes that will have occurred in parallel with evolving deep ocean temperature. In addition to this geochemical work, the student will be involved in exploring numerical model predictions for glacial-interglacial and stadial-interstadial water profile temperature changes for comparison with the emerging data.
Skinner, L.C. and Elderfield, H. (2007) Rapid fluctuations in the deep North Atlantic heat budget during the last glaciation. Paleoceanography 22, PA1205.
H. Elderfield, P. Ferretti, M. Greaves, S. Crowhurst, I. N. McCave, D. Hodell, A. M. Piotrowski. Evolution of Ocean Temperature and Ice Volume Through the Mid-Pleistocene Climate Transition.
Science 337, 704 (2012); DOI: 10.1126/science.1221294
Weldeab, S., Arce, A. and Kasten, S. (2016) Mg/Ca- CO2− –temperature calibration for Globobulimina spp.: A sensitive paleothermometer for deep-sea temperature reconstruction. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 438, 95-102.
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Earth Sciences page.