Understanding the ice-ocean interaction in Wilkes Land, Antarctica

Degree type


Closing date

24 September 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

In the past decade, the main mass loss in the East Antarctica was dominated by the Wilkes Land, which was attributable to the increases in ocean-induced basal melt. The two largest areas at risk of rapid retreat in the Wilkes Land are the Aurora and Wilkes marine subglacial basins, which together hold 6-8 m of potential global sea-level rise in regions grounded below sea level. Increases in ice‐ocean heat exchange have the potential to induce substantial ice shelf mass loss through the ice shelf thinning and consequently lead to the rapid changes in grounded-ice flux (Gudmundsson et al., 2019). However, this effect has not been quantified in the context of current ice mass loss in Wilkes Land. Lack of data and limitations in modelling has made it challenging to quantify the importance of ocean-induced changes in ice shelf thickness as a driver for ongoing mass loss. This PhD will focus on modelling the ice ocean interaction of the Wilkes Land system with a coupled ice sheet ocean model in an attempt to better understand the correlation between potential ocean thermal forcing and observed ice loss and retreat and find the evidence for ocean-induced melt being a driver for the ongoing mass loss. The candidate will choose one of the subglacial basins or the whole Wilkes Land system as the research region and construct a coupled ice sheet ocean model for it. Analysis of the model output will also be used to predict the behaviour of glaciers on Wilkes Land and estimate its potential contribution to sea level rise.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Chen Zhao


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years;
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000; and
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours (first class or equivalent)
  • Demonstrably strong quantitative skills
  • Experience with programming languages and analysis software such as python and Matlab
  • Experience of numerical modelling

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience using Elmer/Ice or ROMS
  • A good level of written and oral science communication skills

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Chen Zhao, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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