Southern Ocean natural iron fertilization

Quantifying the biological pump in Southern Ocean regions of natural iron fertilization

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Phytoplankton growth is the cornerstone of the oceans’ biological carbon pump – an important mechanism for transporting carbon into the deep ocean. In the Southern Ocean, this pump is weakened by low levels of dissolved iron – an essential nutrient for photosynthesis. However, there are several regions that experience natural iron fertilization, where large scale phytoplankton blooms are frequently observed. These include (1) island wakes such as downstream in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current from the Kerguelen plateau, Crozet Island and South Georgia Island; (2) the seasonal ice zone and (3) places impacted by hydrothermal vents (Ardyna et al., Nature Communications, 2019). Biogeochemical (BGC) Argo floats can now be used to look in detail at the fate of biogenic material produced in the euphotic zone. For example, Moreau et al. (Nature Communications, 2020) partitioned the fate of ice-edge blooms into export and grazing, and Lacour et al. (GBC, 2019) developed techniques to calculate export due to mixed layer depth changes and gravitational sinking. This project will apply and adapt these methods to calculate the characteristics of the biological pump in Southern Ocean regions of natural iron fertilization.

Key research questions (thesis chapters) include:

  1. How and why does surface productivity vary between naturally iron fertilized regions?
  2. Is there variability across regions in the nature of the particles formed and the depths to which they are exported?
  3. How well do biogeochemical models capture these processes? If they perform poorly, why?
  4. What are the implications for artificial ocean iron fertilization?

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Peter Strutton


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • 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.


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

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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:

  • Hons/MSc degree in physics, mathematics, oceanography or a related discipline
  • Expertise with a coding language such as matlab, python or fortran
  • Passion for climate science
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, demonstrated by the production of a thesis or published manuscript and seminars or an interview

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience at sea
  • An understanding of issues around carbon dioxide removal strategies

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Peter Strutton to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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