PhD Studentship, speleothem geochemistry - Newcastle, UK

A PhD Studentship in speleothem geochemistry is available at Northumbria University, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Project title: Climate of the past interglacials in Central Europe (Ref: OP202011).

Research Themes: Climate & Climate Change; Earth System Processes; Anthropocene; Environmental Informatics.

Lead Supervisor: Dr. Vasile Ersek.

The position would start in September 2020.


Past interglacials are poorly constrained in mid latitude terrestrial records, especially in central and eastern Europe. The new climate reconstruction developed as part of this project will be used to understand the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to different forcings, and will contribute to a better understanding of the future climate evolution in a warmer world.


Speleothems such as stalagmites and flowstones are terrestrial environmental archives that can be dated precisely and accurately using uranium series techniques, and can be analysed at very high temporal resolution.

This project aims to produce a composite multi-proxy record of environmental change during the last several Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles in Central Europe (including the western Black Sea shore) by studying cave speleothems in this region.

Past interglacials can be used as analogues of climate conditions similar or warmer than today’s that were not affected by anthropogenic activities. However, recent compilations of data available for the past interglacial periods have highlighted the lack of well-dated and high-resolution terrestrial climate records, and the difficulty in assessing intra-interglacial climate variability. Similarly, it is difficult to establish the precise timing of interglacial inception and termination in the terrestrial realm.


You will work to produce new records of Pleistocene interglacial climate changes in Central Europe, contribute to a greater understanding of the response of the climate system to external forcing under different boundary conditions, give insights into internal climate variability on sub-millennial timescales, and assess the presence of leads/lags in the climate system.

These new records can be used to test the ability of coupled general circulation models to simulate the climate in a range of conditions similar or warmer than today’s, and therefore improve our ability to simulate climate variability in the next centuries and millennia.

The project requires the use of a combination of stable isotopes, trace elements, and U-Th dating together with high-resolution speleothem micromilling. By interacting with climate modellers you can produce valuable data-model comparisons and investigate the mechanistic links between climate forcing and terrestrial responses.

Training in state-of-the-art geochemical analyses, time series analyses, fieldwork skills, and working with large data sets will be provided.


The project is suitable for a student with a background in geoscience, climatology or chemistry and will involve fieldwork in Romania.

Some experience in geochemistry is desirable, but training can be provided.


Applications close 31 January 2020.

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Further information

Informal questions about the job can be emailed to Vasile Ersek: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.