The stability of Larsen C Ice Shelf

Geophysical exploration of the stability of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Modelled projections of the contribution of the Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise over this century vary from a few centimetres to more than one metre, a huge uncertainty grounded in poor understanding of ice shelves, the ice-sheet’s floating extensions that constrain its flow from the interior to the ocean. Half of the Antarctic coastline is fringed by such shelves, and many are vulnerable to climate-driven retreat, with some already disintegrated such as Larsen B, Antarctic Peninsula. The latter’s final demise triggered a multi-fold acceleration of its former tributary glaciers that persists to the present day, clearly demonstrating the fundamental role that ice-shelf buttressing plays in regulating sea level rise. The processes driving and resisting ice-shelf retreat are still not well understood, however, including most importantly ice fracture and rift propagation that disrupt the normal assumptions of continuity inherent in ice sheet models and are highly dependent on the heterogeneous nature of ice shelves.

The project “Rift Propagation for Ice Sheet Models” (RIP-ICE), funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and led by the co-supervisors, will collect new field and satellite data to quantify heterogeneity and develop a fracture physics approach to simulate rift propagation through the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Larsen B’s southern neighbour increasingly affected by climate warming. This PhD project will use cutting-edge quantitative techniques to analyse and model both new ground-penetrating radar, seismic and electromagnetic geophysical data to be collected by RIP-ICE on the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the 2022/23 season, and comprehensive existing geophysical data sets collected in three previous field seasons. Mapping and quantifying the ice-shelf’s internal heterogeneity, including the effects of melting and refreezing that are now prolific throughout much of the year, this PhD project will therefore provide important boundary constraints for the new-generation ice-sheet model developed by RIP-ICE.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Sarah Thompson


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, applicants will also receive a top-up scholarship of $6,000 per annum for 3.5 years. This scholarship is funded from the Australian Government as part of the Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative program through the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP).

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:

  • Bachelors degree (with Honours) or Masters degree in a Mathematical or Physical Science discipline
  • Demonstrated experience in individual research (e.g. Honours thesis, Masters dissertation)
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in working with geophysical data sets
  • An understanding of glaciology and ice dynamics
  • Experience using a high-level scripting language for data analysis / visualisation (e.g. Python, MATLAB, NCL)

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 Sarah Thompson 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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