Primary production and carbon export across the Flamborough frontal system: interaction with offshore wind energy

Research projects

Project Description:

This PhD scholarship is offered by the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment; a partnership between the Universities of Durham, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield. The successful applicant will undertake a PG-Dip training year at the University of Hull before completing their PhD research at the University of Hull.

Watch our short video to hear from Aura CDT students, academics and industry partners:

The Project

In this proposal, the PhD student will use existing North Sea wind farms as examples of how modification in vertical stratification in the near and far-field may manifest in altered phytoplankton exposure to sunlight and nutrients, and hence change growth rates and productivity.

Along with the rapidly growing offshore renewable energy industry, the fisheries and tourism sectors are an important part of the UK coastal economy, and are underpinned by a healthy and productive marine ecosystem. However, concerns have been raised by regulators in relation to the impact of large offshore windfarms on productivity of coastal features.

Primary production at the base of the food web (e.g. formation of organic carbon via photosynthesis of phytoplankton, seaweeds, seagrasses and microphytobenthos) is critical in supporting marine biodiversity and fishery catches. Phytoplankton are of major importance in North Sea primary production as most of the seabed lies below the photic zone, hence limiting growth of attached benthic algae.

Initial work to model phytoplankton primary productivity has shown importance differences in phytoplankton bloom magnitude and timing for different regions of the north-east coast of England. The amount of phytoplankton productivity within a given season is known to be dependent on ocean mixing processes, and the stability of the water column. An early onset of surface water warming (stratification) is likely to produce higher productivity and a greater drawdown of carbon dioxide. Marked differences in the sea surface temperature with gradients of 5°C or more can be found along a north-south transect off the coast of NE England. This indicates the presence of discrete water masses with different levels of turbulent mixing in accordance with tidal flow, depth and wind speed. Understanding the location of transitional zones between well-mixed and stratified zones (e.g. frontal regions, such as the Flamborough Front) is needed to predict current and future levels of phytoplankton production, and possible changes in mixing due to interaction of tidal flows with artificial objects such as offshore wind farms must be taken into consideration.


For more information visit If you have a direct question about the project, you may email or the project supervisor.


Training and Skills

The successful applicant will receive training in oceanographic techniques at sea, underwater optics, measurements of phytoplankton physiology using active fluorescence, and processing and analysing satellite remote sensing images. The PhD and its training will provide an excellent background for a career in applied marine science in the offshore renewable sector or governmental agencies.


Entry Requirements

This PhD research project is suitable for applicants with a background in Biosciences, Earth Science, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Physics, or a closely related discipline. If you have received a First-class Honours degree OR a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters OR a Distinction in a Masters Degree, with any Undergraduate Degree, in one of the above subjects, (or the international equivalents,)  we would like to hear from you.

If your first language is not English, or you require Tier 4 student visa to study, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency level that meets the requirements of the Aura CDT’s academic partners. This course requires academic IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.0 in each skill.



The Aura CDT is funded by the EPSRC and NERC, allowing us to provide scholarships that cover fees plus a stipend set at the UKRI nationally agreed rates, circa £17,668 per annum at 2022/23 rates (subject to progress).



Research Council funding for postgraduate research has residence requirements. Our Aura CDT scholarships are available to Home (UK) Students. To be considered a Home student, and therefore eligible for a full award, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the scholarship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education). For full eligibility information, please refer to the EPSRC website. Please note, we have already allocated all our places for International Students to this cohort, so please do not apply unless you are a Home student.


How to apply

Recruitment is open until 16 April 2023 for Aura CDT PhD Scholarships beginning study in September 2023.

Applications are made via the University of Hull admissions system.

If you have not applied with the University of Hull before, you will need to set up an account to enable you to track the progress of your application and upload supporting documents.

With your application, you need to upload copies of the following supporting evidence:

  • complete transcripts (and final degree certificate(s) where possible). If your qualification documents are not in English, you will need to supply copies of your original language documents as well as their official translation into English.
  • A completed Supplementary Application Form (please upload when asked to add Personal Statement).

Guidance on completing your Supplementary Application Form: The Aura Centre for Doctoral Training is committed to generating a diverse and inclusive training programme. As part of our inclusive practices, the Centre adopts a process of assessing applications purely based on skills and attributes and does not consider any personal details. As such we ask applicants to remove any personal details from the Supplementary Form which is used by the Panel to assess and select applicants for interview. The form asks for details of your education, training and employment history as well as some specific questions about your motivations and research experience and interests. It is very important that you do not include any personally identifying information.

Applicants must:

Remove all personal references in their application. Specifically, do not include the following details: Names, age, country, sex, gender, religion, disability, race, sexual orientation

Complete all sections of the form in font and size Calibri 11pt

Indicate your interest in applying to a maximum of two Research Projects (you may apply for one or two, but no more than two)

Once fully completed, you should upload the form when asked for your Personal Statement, as part of your application through the University of Hull student application portal using the links below. (You will also be asked for your degree transcripts during the application process). Please do not send your form directly to the Aura CDT.

Application links:

Apply for a full-time PhD Scholarship with the Aura CDT.

Apply for a part-time PhD Scholarship with the Aura CDT.



Capuzzo, E., Lynam, C. P., Barry, J., Stephens, D., Forster, R. M., Greenwood, N., Mcquatters-Gollop, A., et al. (2018). A decline in primary production in the North Sea over 25 years, associated with reductions in zooplankton abundance and fish stock recruitment. Global Change Biology, 24, 352364.

Daewel, Ute, et al. “Offshore Wind Wakes-the underrated impact on the marine ecosystem.” (2022).

Floeter, J., van Beusekom, J. E. E., Auch, D., Callies, U., Carpenter, J., Dudeck, T., Eberle, S., et al. (2017). Pelagic effects of offshore wind farm foundations in the stratified North Sea. Progress in Oceanography, 156, 154173. Pergamon.

Lawrenz, E., Silsbe, G., Capuzzo, E., Yl?stalo, P., Forster, R. M., Simis, S. G. H., Pr??il, O., et al. (2013). Predicting the Electron Requirement for Carbon Fixation in Seas and Oceans. PLoS ONE, 8(3).

Moore, C. M., Suggett, D. J., Hickman, A. E., Kim, Y. N., Tweddle, J. F., Sharples, J., Geider, R. J., et al. (2006). Phytoplankton photoacclimation and photoadaptation in response to environmental gradients in a shelf sea. Limnology and Oceanography, 51, 936949.

Scott, B. E., Sharples, J., Ross, O. N., Wang, J., Pierce, G. J., & Camphuysen, C. J. (2010). Sub-surface hotspots in shallow seas: fine-scale limited locations of top predator foraging habitat indicated by tidal mixing and sub-surface chlorophyll. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 408, 207226.

Wihsgott, J. U., Sharples, J., Hopkins, J. E., Woodward, E. M. S., Hull, T., Greenwood, N., & Sivyer, D. B. (2019). Observations of vertical mixing in autumn and its effect on the autumn phytoplankton bloom. Progress in Oceanography.

View our webinar recording from 29 November
for information on our 2023 PhD Scholarships

For enquiries, contact