Unveiling the Abyssal Southern Ocean

Investigating drivers of variability in the formation circulation of Antarctic Bottom Water

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Antarctic Bottom Water – the densest and most voluminous water mass in the world – has a far-reaching influence on global climate. Formed in the southernmost limb of the global overturning circulation, it stores heat and carbon in the abyssal ocean for centuries and is the main source of oxygen to most of the deep ocean. The slowdown of Antarctic Bottom Water formation, manifesting as abyssal-ocean warming in recent decades, implies changes of global significance as less heat and carbon are sequestered in, and less oxygen is supplied to, the deep ocean. Yet, it remains one of the most difficult water masses to monitor due to winter sea ice cover and the abyssal depths at which it exists. The ACCESS-OM2-01 ocean-sea ice model is the only model known to accurately represent the formation and export of Antarctic Bottom Water.

This project investigates changes in properties, circulation, and mixing of Antarctic Bottom Water – filling the gap in understanding physical processes driving deep ocean variability – in unprecedented detail by comparing output from a state-of-the-art ocean-sea ice model to year-round, full-depth, in-situ Deep Argo float observations in the Australian-Antarctic Basin. This project will also determine the response of Antarctic Bottom Water formation and export to future climate scenarios using the ACCESS-OM2-01. Model runs mimicking expected future climate states, e.g. stronger and southern-shifted westerlies over the Southern Ocean to represent a strengthened Southern Annual Mode and increased surface freshwater fluxes on the shelf to represent increased glacial melt, will isolate specific drivers of variability in AABW formation. The ACCESS model also simulates ocean biogeochemistry, allowing for a parallel investigation into the impact of future climates on carbon uptake in the ocean.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Annie Foppert


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.

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).

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.

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:

  • Strong background in Mathematics and Physics. Matlab or Python coding experience.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Knowledge of the ocean and climate system, experience with numerical models, and ease with computing-based work.

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 Annie Foppert 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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