The uncertainty in the magnitude and direction of the current and future global CO2 sink critically depends on improving our understanding of the gas transfer of climate active gases across the air-water interface, both on land and in the ocean. Recent estimates suggest that inland waters are a net source of CO2, releasing up to ~2.1 Petagrams of carbon (Pg C) per year, while the global ocean is a net sink with an estimated ~5.2 Pg C per year. These estimates are not well constrained and fundamentally hampered by a lack of reliable measurements of pCO2 and gas transfer velocities (kw). Direct pCO2 measurements remain scarce so pCO2 is typically calculated from proxy variables, such as temperature, pH and total alkalinity. However, there is considerable uncertainty where there is a large contribution of organic acids and reduced buffering capacity in lower pH environments. The key to better understand and quantify these effects is kw. This variable cannot be measured directly and is typically parameterized using wind speed or river scaling laws. However, non-linear, highly divergent relations result as both variables are weak kw predictors. A targeted approach is therefore required to advance novel in-situ technologies to produce high temporally resolved data to estimate kw for a given space and time.

You will join the Lyell Centre, a research focussed centre of the British Geological Survey (BGS) and HWU in Edinburgh, Scotland. You will develop innovative sensor applications for in-situ CO2 measurements and couple this with sophisticated laboratory-based measurements of dissolved organic matter (DOM) concentration and composition from fresh and marine waters to identify the key drivers of fluctuations of air-water CO2 gas exchange. You must be competent in computer programming languages (C++, Matlab, R), familiar with Labview, have a hands-on approach with electronics, and a strong interest in the environment. 


This is a full scholarship which will cover full tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of £14,777.


This project is available to ALL students, whether home, EU or overseas. The successful candidate should have a strong interest in applied research and possess at minimum a masters and undergraduate degree in geography, earth sciences, computing or a similar field. Programming skills are an essential requirement of this project, whilst some experience of organic geochemistry is also desirable. Experience working in industry is an advantage but not a necessity.

How to apply

Please complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Geoscience and include the project reference, title and supervisor on your application. Please also provide a supporting statement, a CV, a copy of your degree certificates and relevant detailed transcripts and at least one academic or technical reference. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Please contact Prof Alan MacDonald ( or Dr Ryan Pereira ( for informal information.


The closing date for applications is 15 May 2018. Applicants must be available to start the PhD by September 2018.