College of Science Fully-funded PhD Scholarship 2020/21

Title: Constraining the timing and scale of past explosive volcanism and climate change using cryptotephra preserved in Mediterranean sedimentary archives.

Project Supervisors:

Supervisor 1: Dr Paul Albert (Department of Geography)
Supervisor 2: Prof. Siwan Davies (Department of Geography)

External Advisors:

Dr Biagio Giaccio (Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria, CNR, Italy)
Prof. Giovanni Zanchetta (Università di Pisa, Italy)

Closing date for applications: 8th August 2021

Start date: October 2021

Project description:

Volcanic hazard assessments are in part constrained by the past behaviour of eruptive centres, which is largely reconstructed from ash (tephra) fall records preserved near the volcano. These records are often fragmentary and incomplete in nature, meaning that hazard assessments can be erroneous. Gaps in these near-source records are more acute deeper in time, and consequently reconstructions are biased towards shorter-term records which do not reflect the full range and frequency of eruptive activity. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that even large magnitude eruptions are sometimes lost from the near-source volcanic records, due to burial and erosional processes, while statistical analysis of global eruption databases reveals that low- to mid-intensity eruptions are especially vulnerable to under-recording. Even low- to mid-intensity explosive eruptions are still highly disruptive, with major societal impacts.

This project will capitalise on the huge potential of long, undisturbed records of ash fall events preserved in Mediterranean palaeoclimate archives (e.g. lake and marine sedimentary successions), situated in distal areas, to fill the gaps in eruption records. Specifically, the student will exploit microscopic ash layers (cryptotephra) as a tool for resolving the low- to mid-intensity eruptions. Initially the focus will be on cryptotephra layers preserved in the Fucino Basin archive from Central Italy which spans approximately the last 2 Ma. The project aims to; (1) reconstruct a long, comprehensive ash fall record from the sediments spanning the last 250,000 years; (2) integrate the ash fall events in Fucino with near-source deposits and those recorded in other distal archives to constrain the timing, scale and ash dispersal patterns of past eruptions, particularly from the active Neapolitan volcanoes (Campi Flegrei, Ischia and Vesuvius), and thus contribute to improved ash fall hazard assessments; (3) use the cryptotephra layers traced across Mediterranean palaeoclimate archives as time-markers to assess the regional development of past climate changes.

This studentship will combine field and laboratory based volcanic investigations. Density separation techniques will be employed to extract cryptotephra, while the major (EMP) and trace element (LA-ICP-MS) glass chemistry will be used to determine their volcanic source, and to correlate them to ash layers preserved in other key regional sedimentary records. Reliably correlating ash fall layers between sedimentary successions will be essential for precisely constraining the fall footprint and scale of individual eruptions, whilst more accurately assessing eruption frequencies. The Fucino Basin, ca. 150 km north of the Neapolitan volcanoes is uniquely located for reconstructing eruptive frequencies and capturing ash plumes along a northerly trajectory. Only by integrating the Fucino ash fall record with others across the region is it possible to reliably assess eruption return intervals and inform more reliable hazard assessments.


Candidates must have a first, upper second class honours or a Master’s degree with Merit, in a relevant discipline.

For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests. We prefer candidates to have already met the English Language requirements at the point of application, although this is not a requirement.


This is a three year fully-funded College of Science scholarship, which covers UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,245.

The call is open to students who are eligible to apply for postgraduate research tuition fees at home rate. For EU students, please notice the PGR Transitional Bursary Scheme for EU Students 2021/22 Entry:

How to apply:

Candidates must complete and submit the following documentation by the stated deadline.

To apply for this studentship, please download the Postgraduate Research Scholarship Application Form and return it to the College of Science with the following:

• Academic References – all scholarship applications require two supporting references to be submitted. Please ensure that your chosen referees are aware of the funding deadline, as their references form a vital part of the evaluation process. Please either include these with your scholarship application or ask your referees to send them directly to

• Academic Transcripts and Degree Certificates – academic transcripts and degree certificates must be submitted along with the scholarship application by the funding deadline. We will be using these to verify your academic qualifications.

• A recent CV

• Candidates should use the ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ section of the application form to explain why the award they are applying for particularly matches their skills and experience and how they would choose to develop the project.

Please email the documents to and put “Constraining the timing and scale of past explosive volcanism and climate change using cryptotephra preserved in Mediterranean sedimentary archives” in the email subject header. Informal enquiries before the deadline for formal applications are welcome by emailing Dr Paul Albert (