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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead Supervisor: Marie Edmonds, Earth Sciences

Co-Supervisor: Sasha Turchyn, Earth Sciences; Emma Liu, UCL and Alessandro Aiuppa

Brief summary: 
Using carbon isotopes to understand the principal natural carbon pathway from the interior of our planet - volcanoes.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Volcanic degassing is the principal mechanism by which carbon is transferred from the interior of our planet to the atmosphere and hydrosphere, with burial of sediments and subduction being the removal mechanisms, allowing our planet to maintain an equitable and habitable surface environment. Over geological time, the steady state long-term carbon cycle has been perturbed by large and prolonged eruptions, periods of enhanced subduction, or carbon burial, which have impacted climate. In the present day, arc and continental rift volcanoes outgas the largest fluxes of carbon. In subduction zones, carbon is devolatilised from the subducting slab, incorporated from the mantle wedge, and assimilated from the overlying crust, so it is a significant challenge to unravel the different sources of carbon in order to understand how carbon is cycled through the system. Measurements of both CO2 flux and carbon isotopic composition of volcanic gases may help tackle this problem, as the carbon isotopic composition of these different sources are distinct. Volcanic gas flux and composition are also affected by local factors such as magma supply, plumbing system and eruptive activity.
Project summary : 
This project aims to quantify both the carbon budget and the impact of the plumbing system, fractional degassing and eruptive activity on volcanic gas composition at targeted arc volcanoes using gas flux and composition measurements. The project will explore the use of carbon isotopic composition as both a probe of the carbon cycle but also as a volcano monitoring tool.
What will the student do?: 
The student will carry out fieldwork and measurements of volcanic gases at arc volcanoes (localities to be decided based on eruptive activity and logistical access). The student will make measurements of volcanic gas flux (SO2 flux) and composition (C/S ratios, C isotopic composition), from the ground and from unoccupied aerial vehicles, in order to characterise the time-dependent nature of gas emissions from active volcanoes.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Mason E, Edmonds M, Turchyn AV. Remobilization of crustal carbon may dominate volcanic arc emissions. Science. 2017 Jul 21;357(6348):290-4.
Plank T, Manning CE. Subducting carbon. Nature. 2019 Oct;574(7778):343-52.
Fischer TP, Aiuppa A. AGU Centennial Grand Challenge: Volcanoes and deep carbon global CO2 emissions from subaerial volcanism—Recent progress and future challenges. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. 2020 Mar;21(3):e2019GC008690.
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Earth Sciences page.
Prof Marie Edmonds
Dr Alexandra (Sasha) Turchyn
Department of Earth Sciences Graduate Administrator