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Environment PhD and Pollen Assistant Posts Available

Posted on 6 December 2013

Two new posts are advertised at the Environment Department: A PhD in Coastal Change and a Pollen Assistant.

A fully-funded NERC PhD studentship is offered in open competition as part of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE)


Climatically driven coastal changes: learning from the past to manage the future

Supervisor: Dr Katherine Selby (Environment Department, University of York).

Co-supervisor: Prof Mark Bateman (Sheffield Geography)

Case Partner: Dr Brian Irving (Solway Coast AONB)

Globally understanding and predicting how low-lying coasts will respond to future changes in sea-level1,2 and storminess3,4 is a major challenge. However, coastlines have undergone climatically-driven changes in the past. This project will, therefore, establish a high-resolution dataset of past sea-level and coastal changes along key estuarine coastlines, that will inform future management of these areas within NW Europe.

Two areas have been identified as ideal open-air laboratories; the Cumbrian and Solway coastlines. Both are low-lying, underlain by unconsolidated sediments and experiencing extensive erosion and thus, characteristic of many areas where sea-level rise and increased storminess constitute a problem for coastal management in NW Europe. Both regions have extensive estuarine sediments, saltmarshes and dunefields which contain high-resolution archives of previous sea-level and coastal changes.

This research will:-

  • extensively survey, core and sample estuarine, marsh and dune deposits at each fieldsite.
  • apply microfossil (diatom, foraminifera), sediment and geochemical analyses, combined with chronological techniques (optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon) to establish coastline transgression/regression rates.
  • empirically model the responses of different coastal landforms to these rates and  contribute to refining UKCP092 predictions.
  • inform the development of Shoreline Management Plans for the study areas and further afield.

This research is innovative and timely as recent technological advancements now allow detailed temporal and spatial records of past coastal reconfigurations, both vertically and horizontally, to be modelled. To date, no research has taken such an holistic approach to investigate coastlines.  As a result this research has high-impact potential, wide-spread global applicability and high relevance to coastal management. The project will involve a CASE PARTNER; Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

1. Lowe, J.A., Howard, T.P., Pardaens, A., Tinker, J., Holt, J., Wakelin, S., Milne, G., Leake, J., Wolf, J., Horsburgh, K., Reeder, T., Jenkins, G., Ridley, J., Dye, S., and Bradley, S. 2009. UK Climate Projections science report: Marine and coastal projections. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK.

2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment (2007) Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change.

3. Richards, L.A.R. and Phipps, P.J. (2007) Managing the impact of climate change on vulnerable areas: a case study from the Western Isles, UK. In Mathie, E., McInnes, R., Fairbank, H. and Jakeways, J. Landslides and Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions. Proceedings of the International Conference on Landslides and Climate Changes, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, UK, 21-24 May 2007.

4. Stephens, G. 2012. Atmospheric science: Storminess in a warming world.  Nature Climate Change 1, 252-253.

The Studentship will be tenable for three and a half years in the first instance. In addition the CASE partner will provide additional funding and support. Candidates must be an UK/EU resident to hold an NERC studentship, and EU students who have not been resident in the UK for the last three years before the start of their studentship are only eligible for a fees-only award.

To discuss your suitability for this project and further information please email: (01904324784)

Further details on the application procedure are outlined at and the deadline for receipt of applications is Monday 20 January 2014.

Pollen Assistant

Three positions are available to assist Dr Katherine Selby with modern pollen data collection and recording.

At present, situated on the Physics and Electronics Building, is a pollen trap which operates from March to September. The daily pollen is trapped, collected and counted. The data is then sent to the Meteorological Office who use it on the weather forecasts in summer.

Three students are required to assist with this recording and data collection. Training will be given by Dr Katherine Selby. Attributes of the students will include the ability to work conscientiously and meticulously, to work independently and to be prepared to undertake microscope work. The students appointed will need to cover the period March to September between them, by remaining in York and from May to the end of August one of the team will need to be available daily (not Saturday and Sunday) from 8.45 – 10.00. A strong sense of commitment is therefore needed and justifiably the data could be used in the third year dissertations. Any experience of laboratory or microscope work will be considered an advantage.

The position will be paid at the following rate £11.50 per sample and the deadline for applications is January 24 2010. Applications should consist of a covering letter stating why you are suitable for the post and a brief CV. Hard copies should be sent to Dr Katherine Selby, Environment Department. Selected candidates will be invited to an informal interview.

Please contact Dr Katherine Selby with any queries,