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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities
 

Lead Supervisor: Nicky White, Earth Sciences

Co-Supervisor: Neil Davies, Earth Sciences

Brief summary: 
Landscape, palaeoclimate and volcanism are sculpted and controlled in profound ways by mantle dynamics. It is now time to explore how this newly developed understanding can be applied to Carboniferous times when enormous biological and climatological upheavals took place on Earth.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
There is increasing evidence that mantle convective processes cause profound changes to the Earth's surface on timescales as short as one million years and on length scales of hundreds of kilometres. This evidence includes transient buried landscapes, patterns of basaltic volcanism and ancient oceanic circulation. It has long been recognized that mid-Carboniferous times is another time of dramatic upheaval in terms of landscape development, glaciation, volcanism, and fluctuations in faunal diversity. This exceptional period of time is now ripe for analysis wearing modern 'mantle glasses'. As well as applying techniques and tools that have been developed to understand influences of modern mantle dynamics, there is the opportunity to use Carboniferous observations to help interpret our Cenozoic world.
Project summary : 
The principal aim of this project is to develop a modern mantle-based framework of understanding of the upheavals that occurred during the Carboniferous Period. This framework will rely upon three interlocking sets of observations. First, the global stratigraphic record of what is known as the Mid-Carboniferous Eustatic Event will be analyzed using records principally from North America and Europe. Stratigraphic-derived subsidence data will be backstripped and analyzed. Secondly, buried transient landscapes will be identified, mapped and interpreted with the aid of our understanding of Cenozoic counterparts. Thirdly, the geochemistry of basaltic volcanism will be used to determine the depth, degree and temperature of melting. The approach will culminate in developing a new understanding of the interaction between mantle dynamics, volcanism, deposition and glaciation.
What will the student do?: 
The student will play an active role in assembling and interpreting stratigraphic, geomorphic and volcanic observations on a global basis. The approach will be firmly rooted in methodologies used to analyze modern and Cenozoic dynamic topography pioneered at Cambridge. Stratigraphic measurements will be assembled for the Carboniferous Period using appropriate plate reconstructions and analyzed using existing backsttripping software packages. The geomorphology of buried landscapes will be tackled with the aid of state-of-the art drainage software. Finally, the geochemistry of basaltic volcanism will be analyzed by measuring major, trace and rare earth element concentrations. The student will play a leading role in developing a quantitative understanding of the Carboniferous Earth.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
McNab, F. & White, N., 2021. Geodynamic significance of a buried transient Carboniferous landscape. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America. https://doi.org/10.1130/B36002.1
Saunders, W.B. & Ramsbottom, W.H.C., 1986. The mid-Carboniferous eustatic event. Geology, 14, 208-212.
Ball, P.W., White, N.J., Maclennan, J. & Stephenson, S.N., 2021. Global influence of mantle temperature and plate thickness on intraplate volcanism. Nature Communications, 12 (1), 1-13.
Applying
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Earth Sciences page.
Professor Nicky White
Department of Earth Sciences Graduate Administrator
Dr Neil Davies