Zooplankton and ocean productivity

How do zooplankton shape the response of ocean productivity in a changing climate?

Degree type


Closing date

1 July 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International


$31,500pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

The growth of phytoplankton in ~30% of the global ocean is limited by the availability of the trace element iron. The Southern Ocean is the largest and most climatically important iron-limited region as it is responsible for ~40% of total carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean. The ocean's biological carbon pump is one mechanism that draws carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. Within the biological carbon pump, marine zooplankton are key conduits for the transfer of carbon from the surface to deep ocean, and recycle iron as they graze on phytoplankton and convert the iron and carbon into excretion and fast sinking faecal pellets.

Whilst there is a growing understanding on the significance of zooplankton in sustaining phytoplankton production and exporting carbon, little is known about what drives the variability being observed.

The candidate will join a multidisciplinary research team working on a recently funded ARC Discovery Project studying the role of zooplankton in shaping the response of ocean productivity in a changing climate. The student will determine the magnitude and drivers of Fe content in zooplankton, based on samples and data from at least two oceanographic voyages. The student will also help contribute to other aims of the project in assessing how ocean warming and food variability affect zooplankton Fe content, and quantifying how zooplankton-mediated Fe recycling affects ocean productivity and carbon export under present and future Southern Ocean climate change scenarios.

This project will yield new quantitative measurements of Fe content in zooplankton that will feed into global ocean models used to understand oceanic productivity. Ultimately, this study will deliver a new conceptual view of how contemporary patterns of phytoplankton primary production are regulated in space and time, and how ocean productivity responds to future environmental change, thereby filling a key knowledge gap for the Australian and international research communities. Developing an understanding of how Fe is cycled through zooplankton will provide significant benefits including improved global models used to quantify current and future patterns of ocean productivity critical for environmental and economic predictions.

Keywords: zooplankton, biological carbon pump, iron, carbon, Southern Ocean, biogeochemistry

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Andrew Bowie


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend co-funded by ARC 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.

Additional funding

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).


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

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • The project/scholarship is competitively assessed and awarded. Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College and Supervisory Team
  • Applicants will be ranked according to the quality of their application as a basis for entry into the research higher degree program. This includes prior peer reviewed publications, academic awards, project-specific skills, training or relevant industry experience, referee's reports and supervisory support
  • 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:

  • Degree in Chemistry (preferably Analytical), Biology/Ecology, any Earth or Environmental Science discipline, Oceanography/Marine Science

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A strong interest in the biogeochemistry of zooplankton and/or trace elements in the ocean or the atmosphere would be desirable

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Prof Andrew Bowie to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • 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.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 1 July 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the 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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