MEMO2: MEthane goes MObile – MEsurements and MOdelling

ESR9: The isotopic signature of urban methane emissions

Supervisor: Dr. David Lowry, Dr. Rebecca Fisher, Prof. Euan Nisbet (Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom), co-supervisor: Prof. Thomas Röckmann (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)
Employer: Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom

Project description: Urban methane emissions are poorly quantified fugitive emissions from gas leaks in the distribution network, old landfill sites and wastewater treatment plants. The locations are normally not identified in inventories and the plumes from sources often merge, eventually producing a citywide plume of methane that is transported some distance downwind before dispersing. Mobile methane measurements will be made in 2 UK cities with different expected source contributions on a seasonal basis either under constant wind direction and or strong overnight inversion conditions to assess the roles of the sources. This will be coupled with continuous isotopic measurement campaigns at the RHUL site on the western edge of London during city outflow to assess the transfer of the emissions. Results will be compared to the UK city inventories, assessing source distribution and intensity. Temporal variation of sources will be assessed. Furthermore the student will contribute to trans-European mobile measurement campaigns and summer schools organized by MEMO2.

Secondments: The successful candidate will spend 1 month at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, to learn technique and analyse 2H of selected samples, and 1 month at Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, for joint campaign, sampling in Paris and intercomparison of CRDS and IRMS measurement techniques. Training in mass spectrometry and isotope extraction system development will be provided by secondment to project partner IsoPrime UK. Additional stable isotopic training will be with co-supervisor Röckmann at UU, Netherlands.

We are searching for: Applicants should have, or expect to obtain by summer 2017, a degree or masters qualification in an appropriate science, preferably with experience of atmospheric chemistry, some knowledge of stable isotopes / mass spectrometry. A valid EU driving license is preferable. The thesis will be written in English so a good working knowledge of the language is required. Candidates must be willing to travel abroad for secondments and measurement campaigns, and to present their research to an international research community. As this project requires close collaboration within the consortium, candidates are expected to be excellent team players. The participation in workshops and secondments during the project is mandatory. According to EU eligibility criteria, researchers may be of any nationality, BUT must be at their early carrier stage and may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the United Kingdom for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the application deadline.

We offer: The successful candidate will join the Department of Earth Sciences at RHUL which has successful groups working in greenhouse gases and atmospheric chemistry and a strong industry-focussed taught masters programme in Environmental Diagnosis and Management. Employment will be full time for 3 years from September 2017, with submission of the completed thesis within a maximum of 4 years. There are no fixed working hours, but a minimum 35-hour working week is expected. Entitlements are for up to 27 days of personal holiday per year, plus 14 days when the university is closed for bank holidays and over the Christmas and Easter holiday periods. The successful candidate will be automatically entered into the UK Universities SmartPension scheme but can opt out in writing. Training will be provided in field-based practical scientific research (site selection, use of mobile measurement equipment, sample collection and logistics), laboratory analysis of methane and CO2 concentrations and isotopes using optical and mass spectrometers, and quantitative analysis and interpretation of the data generated. This will include the use of GIS and programming in Matlab and R. Communication, organisation and networking skills will be refined through MEMO2 training workshops and symposia and at UK and international conferences. Training in mass spectrometry and isotope extraction system development will be provided by secondment to project partner IsoPrime UK. Additional stable isotopic training will be with co-supervisor Röckmann at UU, Netherlands. Individual research development programmes at RHUL offer a wide range of transferable skills to conduct and present research efficiently and effectively. They also provide broad knowledge of environmental geoscience, and help foster a multi-disciplinary approach to research that benefits career development. MSCA-ETN projects are part of Horizon 2020 and offer attractive salaries and working conditions following the conditions as described in the respective work programs.

Selection procedure:  The selection procedure will follow the Code of Conduct for Recruitment. Candidates will be selected first on EU eligibility criteria, second on qualifications. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview either at RHUL or by Skype during the late summer 2017 and requested to complete the online postgraduate study application form prior to interview, which can be found here The interview panel will consist of the RHUL supervisors and an independent member of the departmental research committee.

Deadline: Eligible applications received before  07 August 2017 will receive full consideration.

Contact: Applications should be sent directly to or to the MEMO2 coordinator Prof. Thomas Röckmann or Dr. S. Walter. The application material should include a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae, copies of university and high-school degrees (including grades) and either two letters of recommendation or contact information of two people that can be contacted for reference. For more information on the MEMO2 project, including this and other vacancies, please visit the MEMO2 website.

Further information about the position can be obtained from David Lowry (email:, tel: 0044-1784-443105). Please contact the Postgraduate Programmes Co-ordinator if you have additional questions about the Earth Sciences department (email: ; tel: 0044-1784-443581).