PhD – Environmental and Ecological Drivers of the Phanerozoic Evolution of Skeletal Composition in Marine Invertebrates

PhD – Environmental and Ecological Drivers of the Phanerozoic Evolution of Skeletal Composition in Marine Invertebrates
University of Plymouth

Location: Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,296
Closes: 16th November 2016

Director of Studies: Dr Uwe Balthasar (, tel.: 01752 584782

2nd Supervisor: Prof Wolfgang Kiessling (,tel.: +49 9131/85-26959

3rd Supervisor Dr Christopher Smart (, tel.: 01752 584764

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on January 1st 2017.

Project Description

Recent experimental work has shown that aragonite and calcite co-precipitate under a broad range of ambient seawater conditions as a function of Mg:Ca and temperature (Balthasar & Cusack 2015: Geology). These results change the way in which we can assess the evolution of CaCO3 biomineralisation as they provide a novel way to predict the mineralogy of inorganic marine CaCO3 precipitates at a given Mg:Ca ratio and temperature, and to evaluate to which degree skeletal mineralogy is dictated by these abiotic boundary conditions.

This PhD project will use these recent advances in understanding the environmental influences on the inorganic CaCO3 polymorph system to assess the role of long-term oscillations in Phanerozoic seawater composition (aragonite seas and calcite seas) on the evolution of aragonite and calcite biomineralisation of marine invertebrates. To achieve this, the student will use the Paleobiology database ( to quantify the relative importance of skeletal polymorphs in different environmental and latitudinal zones as well as among different ecological and phylogenetic groups. The results will be compared with temperature-dependent models of aragonite-sea and calcite-sea conditions.


Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification.

The studentship is one of 12 being advertised within the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences with three candidates being selected for funding. The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,296 per annum. The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £11,040 per annum).

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Uwe Balthasar, However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

General information about applying for a research degree at Plymouth University is available at:…/the-graduate-…/applicants-and-enquirers

You can apply via the online application form which can be found at: and click ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Sharon Healy and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Science. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process please contact Sharon Healy (

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 16th November 2016. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on the 30th November. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 24th November should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

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