Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

PhD on deep carbon and water cycling in subduction zones, Utrecht University

Application deadline: 15 May 2021

The PhD project will develop a visualisation approach that bridges the entire scope of transport pathways in a correlative manner.

Job description

The Department of Earth Sciences is now looking for a highly-motivated, high-potential applicant to fill a PhD position on deep carbon and water cycling in subduction zones. Subduction zones are critical for the large-scale cycles of the Earth’s most important volatiles, carbon and hydrogen, between the deep mantle and the surface. Within subduction zones, volatile release due to mineral reactions is so prolific that it triggers earthquakes and explosive volcanism. In addition, the return flux of volatiles from subduction zones to the atmosphere influences global climate. However, the amount of volatiles, particularly carbon, that is returned to the surface is currently highly debated. The Dutch Research Council VIDI project, led by Dr Oliver Plümper, ‘A multi-scale mechanistic approach to quantifying the release of volatiles in subduction zones' (short: RELEASE), will focus on the coupling between carbon- and water-releasing mineral reactions. The 4-year PhD project advertised here aims at joining next-generation analytical and machine-learning approaches with field-scale observations to decipher volatile release mechanisms and the evolution of fluid escape networks. The outcomes of this PhD project will be incorporated into a team-effort to re-evaluate H2O- and CO2-release fluxes within subduction zones.

The PhD project will develop a visualisation approach that bridges the entire scope of transport pathways in a correlative manner. Geological patterns of volatile release will be recorded using aerial drone imaging and analysed using fluid transport theory. In a next step the PhD project will expose microscopic transport networks by applying correlative X-ray tomography strategies with next-generation automated electron microscopy to unlock microscopic devolatilization domains that in turn can be directly linked with macroscale patterns. This correlative imaging workflow coupled to machine-learning-driven pattern analysis provides the input to quantify the evolution of fluid pathways and mass transport in devolatilizing systems.

The PhD candidate will engage in a trans-disciplinary research environment by closely collaborating with two postdoctoral fellows who are also part of the RELEASE project and numerous PhD students working in the field of fluid-rock interactions. Fieldwork campaigns are planned to take place in Norway, Greece and Japan. As such, the PhD candidate will be jointly supervised by Dr Andreas Beinlich at the University of Bergen (UoB), Norway and collaborate with the Tohoku University, Japan. Research visits to both institutions are anticipated.

A personalised training programme will be set up, which will reflect the candidate's training needs and career objectives. As part of this training, up to 10% of the candidate's time will be dedicated to assisting in Bachelor's and Master's teaching programmes.

Requirements

We are seeking a PhD candidate with a MSc degree in earth sciences (obtained by the time the position starts) with a demonstrable affinity for quantitative field geology, microstructural analysis, and geochemistry. The applicant must have good mathematical and programming skills and ideally an interest in upscaling theory and/or machine-learning. Moreover, the applicant should have excellent written and spoken English skills and be highly motivated to work in an international multidisciplinary team.

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Tuesday 6 April 2021