Physical Geography: Fully Funded Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and Swansea Welsh Medium PhD Scholarship: Tracking Volcanic Ash in the Antarctic to Date Past Climate Change (RS657)

  • DeadlineDeadline: 15 August 2024
  • WalesWales


Closing date: 15 August 2024

Funding providers: Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and Swansea University

Subject areas: Geography 

Project start date: 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project supervisors:

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Physical Geography

Mode of study: Full-time

Project description: 

The Antarctic ice columns are key to understanding how the climate has changed in the past. Over the last few decades our understanding of past climate patterns has been transformed by analysing the long and continuous archives drilled from the ridge of the ice sheet. Despite their iconic status as valuable climate archives, dating problems hinder our ability to fully exploit the evidence within the ice and compare it with other climate records. One powerful method that has the potential to overcome the dating problems is tephrochronology, which is based on using volcanic ash, with a specific chemical fingerprint, from ancient eruptions to determine time limits in the ice columns. After a volcanic eruption, ash particles are widely dispersed in the atmosphere, immediately deposited, buried by snow and embedded within an ice sheet to create an anchor of time. By tracing time anchors in various archives it is possible to link and compare the records very accurately without the uncertainty that is typical of alternative dating methods. Antarctica is an active volcanic region and therefore ideal for using tephrochronology. Until now, studies of ash in the ice have focused on layers that are visible to the eye although recent studies show that there is great potential to trace microscopic deposits. 

The project aims to expand and develop the potential of using microscopic time anchors within the deep columns of the East Antarctic ice sheet and seabed deposits off the coast of the continent, focusing on challenging periods where time anchors are urgently needed. The project will make a direct contribution towards dating the iconic archives of the South Pole as well as providing new information about the past history of Antarctic eruptions. Use is made of archives that have already been collected and stored in freezers and warehouses in Europe. The project will use methods such as optical microscopy, chemical analysis with an electron microprobe and an ICP-MS system with laser ablation.

Applicants are encouraged to submit initial inquiries about submission awards - and to do so before the closing date; submit these enquiries to the relevant staff member(s) in the faculty. 

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must have attained, or must be expected to attain, a first-class honours degree and/or a distinction at master’s level. 

  • Where applicants have multiple master’s degrees, a distinction must be held in the degree that is most relevant to the intended PhD study. 
  • If you are currently studying for a master’s level qualification with an expected award date that is later than 01/10/2024, you should hold a minimum of an upper-second-class (2:1) honours degree.   
  • You should be able to demonstrate a pass with a minimum grade average of at least 70% for your part-one master’s degree modules (the taught aspect of your master’s course rather than a research-focused dissertation) and submit your dissertation by no later than 30/09/2024.  

If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements (see country specific qualifications).

Applicants must be able to begin their course of study in October 2024.  As a cohort-based programme, deferral to an alternative enrolment window within the academic year or to another academic year is not permissible. 

Welsh language Requirements:  

Standard programme entry requirements apply, with the additional requirement of being able to confidently write in Welsh (and or/hold a Welsh literature GCSE grade C or above). 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is – at this time – open solely to applicants who are eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK (United Kingdom) rate, as defined by UKCISA regulations.

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please e-mail details of the scholarship(s) in which you are interested and the accompanying webpage URL. 


This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £19,237 for 2024/25).

Additional research expenses of up to £1,000 will also be available.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

  1. Course choice – please select Physical Geography / PhD / Full-time / 3 Years / October

    In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

  2. Start year – please select 2024
  3. Funding (page 8) –
  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS657 - Volcanic Ash’

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

NOTE: Applicants for PhD/EngD/ProfD/EdD - to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University you are required to complete an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Monitoring Form in addition to your programme application form.  Please click the following link to complete your EDI Monitoring Form:
Please note that completion of the EDI Monitoring Form is mandatory; your application may not progress if this information is not submitted.

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • A cover letter including a ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ to explain why the position particularly matches your skills and experience and how you choose to develop the project.
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting Welsh Language requirement
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of EDI form submission (optional) 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Professor Siwan Davies (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is – at this time – open solely to applicants who are eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK (United Kingdom) rate, as defined by UKCISA regulations.

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