A PhD position in stable isotope ecology is available in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The position is associated with a project, Shining a light on the past: improved chronology for Aotearoa-New Zealand using tree-ring based radiocarbon and stable isotope science, funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund.

Our interdisciplinary research project aims to advance tree-ring based dating methods for Aotearoa-New Zealand. Waterlogged wooden artefacts (taonga) are of utmost importance to hapū and iwi, providing tangible links to ancestors and history. However, current archaeological dating techniques are imprecise and limit our ability to accurately place these objects in time.

We aim to use tree-ring based radiocarbon calibration science and stable-isotope dating to develop a chronological framework for the last 1000 years. The provision of accurate and precise calendar-age dates for archaeological sites and taonga will shine a light on the past, revolutionising our understanding of taonga, people and past societal change in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

There are gaps in our knowledge, however, constraining effective use of the stable isotope chronologies for dating and other applications such as climate reconstruction. At the tree level, we have an imperfect understanding of the contribution of all potential fractionation and exchange steps occurring along the oxygen pathway from source water to tree rings that determines the oxygen isotope composition (δ18O) of tree-rings.

The PhD project will investigate the oxygen isotope pathway from precipitation and soil water through the xylem up to the canopy and downwards through the phloem into the tree ring in mature kauri (Agathis australis) trees during different seasons which is critical for an accurate interpretation of our multi-centennial tree ring derived annual oxygen isotope chronologies. The study will require field and laboratory work and a modelling component.

We are looking for a highly motivated student with a background in biology, ecology, plant physiology, or stable isotopes. Candidates should have a willingness and demonstrated ability to conduct field and laboratory work.

The position begins on 1 March 2023 and includes an annual stipend of $35k per year over 3 years and fees ($9k per year). Domestic and international students are encouraged to apply and applicants must meet the University of Auckland’s criteria for entry into the PhD programme (http://www.science.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-programmes/op-phd.html).

Please apply to Gretel Boswijk (g.boswijk@auckland.ac.nz) with “Kauri oxygen isotopes” and your name in the subject, including a CV, contact details for referees, and a statement outlining your interest in the role. We will start considering applications from January 16 2023, and the position will remain open until we find a suitable candidate.

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