PhD position: Atmospheric rivers role in extreme temperatures and precipitation and potential effect on microbial biodiversity on the Antarctic Peninsula – Deadline 31 May 2023

The Antarctic Peninsula (AP) region is one of the fastest warming regions in the Southern Hemisphere, exhibiting an emerging polar warming amplification, and also showing a tendency towards higher amplitude and longer periods of extreme warm events. These events have strong impacts on surface melt and have been linked to AP ice shelf destabilization and disintegration. Warm weather episodes in Antarctica are caused by heat (and moisture) transported to the Antarctic continent via transient weather systems, which form over the Southern Ocean at lower latitudes. Some of them are associated with extremely long corridors of anomalously high moisture transport known as ‘atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers affecting the AP and Weddell Sea can originate as far as the tropical/subtropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Atmospheric rivers have been shown to trigger both intense snowfall as well as major surface melt events and rainfall especially in the AP and its ice shelves. Increasing frequency of such events can have multiple local to global impacts, including further acceleration of the AP ice mass loss and changes in sensitive marine and terrestrial ecosystems. This PhD topic will focus on understanding atmospheric rivers as an important climate driver linking air masses originating from tropical/subtropical latitudes and influencing both Antarctic climate and polar microbial biodiversity. Antarctic microbial biodiversity is highly sensitive to the input of new biodiversity from the aerial environment. Much of the microbial life in the remote environment of Antarctica is transported by air masses containing microorganisms and their presence in the atmospheric water phase (clouds, fog, precipitation) strongly influences atmospheric physio-chemical processes. Sources of microorganisms into the atmosphere include sea surface bubble bursting and land (soil, vegetation) aerosolization by the wind, as well as secondary sources. The transport and residence time of the biogenic aerosol from their source emission depend on the meteorological conditions and their role as cloud condensation and cloud ice nuclei. One of the goals of this PhD proposal will be to analyse AP&Weddell Sea precipitation linking its microphysical characteristics and moisture sources&pathways with its chemical and biological composition. A specific focus will be on the atmospheric river long-range transport, identifying outstanding biological tracers and aerosol-cloud-precipitation processes. The project will be a contribution to SCAR scientific research programs AntClimNow. Collected data will contribute to the SCAR Antarctic Biodiversity Portal. The AP and Weddell Sea are vulnerable coastal and ocean regions of the Atlantic and this interdisciplinary project will make a key contribution to the goals of the Atlantic&Arctic Lighthouse of the EU Mission to Restore our Oceans and Waters by 2030.

Analysis will use precipitation samples collected during past Antarctic campaigns and future ones, where the student will be encouraged to participate (PROPOLAR opens yearly calls for fieldwork proposals). CIIMAR has necessary laboratory capacity for analyzing samples for biological and chemical composition. The work will be in collaboration with the project SURFEIT (Surface Fluxes in Antarctica) – British Antarctic Survey (BAS) International research programme and Southern Ocean Clouds project.

Profile of applicants

Preferred background is in Earth and Environmental sciences and/or Biogeosciences, with interest in interdisciplinary topics and studying interactions between biological, chemical and physical processes. Student is expected to have both desire and shown ability to learn new techniques as expected for PhD goals and participate in fieldwork in the Polar regions. Mobility as required for the program including 3-12 months internship at the European Polar Board and British Antarctic Survey.


Irina Gorodetskaya, CIIMAR (main supervisor),
Catarina Magalhães, CIIMAR (co-supervisor)
Markus Frey BAS , (co-supervisor)

Host institutions

CIIMAR – Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto in collaboration with British Antarctic Survey

Doctoral programme

Climate change and sustainable Development Policies, LINK.


Scholarships are annual, renewable to a maximum of 4 years.


Applications and all supporting documents must be submitted online using the Application Form available on each scholarship page. Applications submitted by other means will not be accepted.

Application Process

Please note that you will need the items listed below. To ease the submission process, we suggest you gather them before you start your application:

  • Copy of your Identification Document (ID card, passport);
  • Certificate degree and grades transcript.
  • Your Curriculum Vitae and saved as PDF;
  • A Motivation Letter;
  • 2 Recommendation letters.

Notification of results

Evaluation results will be communicated to the email address provided by the candidates in the application form.


May 31 , 2023 |  23:59 Lisbon Time

Before applying, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you carefully read the Public Notice of the Call for detailed information on the application, evaluation and selection process.

Notice of the Call ( english version)

For  further information about this opportunity, click here.

Have any news or opportunity in ocean sciences to share? Send it to