PhD Studentship

Radiocarbon Dating & Extraction of Isotopic Palaeo-Climate Data from Terrestrial & Freshwater Shells in Tropical Environments

School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast

Stipend: £14,296 per annum (in line with RCUK rates) plus home/EU tuition fees.

Limit of tenure applies*

Applications are invited for a three-year, fully funded (UK/EU rated) PhD studentship, to contribute to the AHRC/Xuan Truong Enterprise funded research project Human Adaptation to Coastal Evolution: Late Quaternary evidence from Southeast Asia (SUNDASIA) – PI: Ryan Rabett (Queen’s University Belfast), CI: Fiona Coward (Bournemouth University), CI: Tran Tan Van (Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources).

SUNDASIA explores how prehistoric communities adapted to cycles of coastal inundation over the last 60,000 years in northern Vietnam. Data emerging from the project will extend our current knowledge of prehistory in the tropics. It will also inform models and responses to modern climate-induced rising seas in Southeast Asia. The project is centred on the Tràng An Landscape Complex World Heritage property, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam.

The studentship, based at Queen’s University Belfast, will focus on isotopic analysis of material recovered from sites within Tràng An, with two principal objectives: 1) to produce a reliable calibration for radiocarbon dating terrestrial and freshwater molluscs from tropical settings; 2) to explore palaeoclimatic (precipitation) patterning, chiefly through oxygen isotope signals in shell-increment analysis. Co-supervision will be provided by Dr Rabett and Prof. Paula Reimer. Dr Natalie Ludgate (Queen Mary University of London) will be the studentship’s external advisor.

The successful applicant will have, ideally, a good understanding of geochemistry and statistics, with an MSc or equivalent in Geochemistry, Geology, Environmental Science, Geoarchaeology or related discipline. The appointment will involve periods of fieldwork. The post-holder will be expected to participate fully in field excavations as well as conduct data-collection pertaining to their own research. Applicants are, strongly advised to take into account their level of physical fitness, field experience and resilience, as well as academic capabilities when preparing their application.

The studentship starts on 1 October 2016 and is open to applicants from anywhere in the world, though available funds are set at RCUK rates. Please include a cover letter. NOTE: short-listed candidates will be asked to provide names and contact details of TWO academic referees to support their application. Closing date: 29th August.

*Limit of tenure: 3 years (until 30 Sept 2019)

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


Working in collaboration with the 14CHRONO Centre and the Stable Isotope Facility (Queen’s University Belfast), and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Dating Service, this PhD project will establish a widely applicable protocol that can consistently and accurately date terrestrial and riverine snail shell from tropical contexts that is based on the Tràng An data. It will build directly on a successful sister dating protocol using terrestrial land snails in the Mediterranean that was recently completed by a doctoral student under the supervision of Prof. Reimer at Queen’s.

Isotopic analysis of growth increment measures on land snails will be used to reveal high-resolution records of rainfall using a methodology pioneered by Dr Natalie Ludgate (Queen Mary University of London). These data will make it possible to formulate an accurate picture of changing precipitation (palaeomonsoon) patterns around each period of marine transgression, the effects this had on settlement and resource availability, and hence on human occupation and activities. Within the remit of the project there will also be the opportunity to investigate plant hydrocarbons as an additional proxy for monsoonal rainfall patterns.

Applications via: or Findaphd