Numerical detrital analysis of sedimentary systems in East Antarctica

Developing ways to understand the glacial history of East Antarctica from minerals found in sediments


A knowledge of the glacial history of Antarctica is needed to help to predict future effects of a changing climate. This project seeks to develop a more robust technique to better analyse records of past periods as predictors of East Antarctic glacial history.

This PhD project will develop and apply approaches to the analysis of detrital data using a Bayesian probabilistic framework to interrogate models of detrital generation and transport.These techniques will seek to find, for records of past deposition, the most likely state of the erosion and sediment transport system in the past, and in so doing will define the most likely state of the ice sheet and the ocean in Antarctica.

The approach will also support the selection of new sites for detrital records to be collected, optimising value of data. 

The new approach will be applied to vulnerable glacial catchments in East Antarctica and will help to constrain past ice sheet evolution and projections for the future of sea level and climate.

Project goals:

  • Develop a rigorous method to analyse sedimentary detritus to identify the most likely source regions
  • Apply this knowledge with ice sheet and ocean models to understand likely past glacial configurations

  • Determine detrital characteristics of changing glacial systems 

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Research team leader: Dr Alan Aitken

I am a geophysicist and tectonicist. I have worked extensively in Antarctica, understanding its geology and the influence of that geology for understanding glacial change. I specialise in studying the interaction of ice sheets with the rocks beneath. I pursue a broad portfolio of research in other regions of the world and for several applications. 

The project is to be co-supervised by an inter-disciplinary team of excellent researchers in geology, geochemistry, mathematics and statistics. The project is linked into ARC-funded research centres.


Funding and Collaborations

This project is supported by the $20M, 4 year Australian Centre of Excellence in Antarctic Science, which conducts world-leading research into the changes that are happening in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, seeking to revolutionise predictions of their future.

External Collaborators:

    • Dr Jacqui Halpin ACEAS at IMAS (University of Tasmania)
    • Dr Taryn Noble ACEAS at IMAS (University of Tasmania)




How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • To be accepted into this program you will have a strong background in Earth Sciences with some exposure to the fundamental methods of detrital provenance, and be willing to engage in quantitative numerical and spatial analysis methods.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below.
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact [email protected] to proceed with your application.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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