Identifying a Topic for DPhil Research

Applicants are encouraged to develop their own research topic with the relevant staff members listed below. In discussion with the School's research staff you will be able to refine your own ideas and develop a project that we can effectively supervise. Research staff will be happy to discuss potential DPhil topics in human, physical and environmental geography.

Potential Supervisors

A list of potential DPhil supervisors at the School of Geography and the Environment is provided below. Please note that research staff from the School's research centres: the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE), and Transport Studies Unit (TSU) can also be contacted with regard to supervision but are only able to co-supervise with a main supervisor from the list of academic staff members below.

NameCollege(s)Summary of Research Interests
Professor Myles AllenProfessor Myles Allen
Professor of Geosystem Science
Linacre College, OxfordLinacre CollegeHow human and natural influences on climate contribute to observed climate change and risks of extreme weather and in quantifying their implications for long-range climate forecasts.
Dr Elizabeth BaigentDr Elizabeth Baigent
University Reader in the History of Geography
Wycliffe Hall, OxfordWycliffe HallHistory of cartography, history of exploration, history of travel, history of Scandinavia, biography, with special interest in how all of these things affect women.
Dr Richard BaileyDr Richard Bailey
Associate Professor in Geochronology
St Catherine's College, OxfordSt Catherine's CollegeQuaternary palaeoclimate; geochronology (particularly luminescence-based methods) associated with environmental change, archaeology and palaeoanthrolpology; modelling luminescence processes; observations and modelling of vegetation patterning and critical thresholds in semi-arid systems; critical thresholds in environmental systems.
Dr Christian BrandDr Christian Brand
Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the ECI and TSU
Linacre College, OxfordLinacre CollegeTransport, energy and climate change policy. Systems modelling. Carbon effects of walking and cycling. Socio-technical transitions towards low-carbon, energy efficient transport systems. Measurement and evaluation of policy measures and interventions. Christian encourages graduate projects that address current challenges in the fields of 'transport and health' and 'transport and energy'. For instance, the PASTA project is producing a stream of good survey and 'objective' data, which presents a great opportunity for an analytical mind to answer research questions on key determinants of active travel and its wider transport, health and carbon impacts.
Dr Ben CaldecottDr Ben Caldecott
Director, Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme and Associate Professor
Oriel College, OxfordOriel CollegeSustainable finance and investment topics, including: active ownership, the carbon bubble, climate finance, conservation finance, disclosure, divestment, engagement, ESG, green banks, green bonds, green benchmarks and indices, impact investing, public private partnerships, reporting, responsible investment, stranded assets, and green taxonomies.
Dr Katrina CharlesDr Katrina Charles
Senior Research Fellow
No college affiliationImproving access to and sustainability of water supply and sanitation systems; Stimulating demand for sanitation; Fate and transport of viruses in the environment.
Professor Simon DadsonProfessor Simon Dadson
Professor of Hydrology
Christ Church, OxfordChrist ChurchProcesses that link climate, hydrology, and geomorphology.
Professor Patricia DaleyProfessor Patricia Daley
Professor of the Human Geography of Africa
Jesus College, OxfordJesus CollegeSub-Saharan Africa, especially topics on issues of forced migration; humanitarianism; gender; militarism; violence and ethnicity; as well as on aspects of political ecology in relation to land tenure; natural resource exploitation; community management of natural resources; forestry; indigenous knowledge; and wildlife conservation.
Dr Sarah DarbyDr Sarah Darby
Associate Professor, ECI
No college affilicationThe potential for demand response in electricity systems; electricity grids as dynamic socio-technical systems; smart metering; implications of 'smart grids' for daily life, governance and environmental impact; energy feedback and advice.
Professor Danny DorlingProfessor Danny Dorling
Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography
St Peter's College, OxfordSt Peter's CollegeIssues of housing, health, employment, education, wealth and poverty.
Dr Dustin Evan GarrickDr Dustin Evan Garrick
Associate Professor and Departmental Research Lecturer in Environmental and Resource Management
Green Templeton College, OxfordGreen Templeton CollegeProperty rights and resource allocation; collective action and the commons; environmental governance; water allocation reform and water markets; decentralisation and disaster risk governance with an emphasis on drought; the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework.
Dr Beth GreenhoughDr Beth Greenhough
Associate Professor in Human Geography
Keble College, OxfordKeble CollegeSocial implications of scientific innovations in the areas of health, biomedicine and the environment; Social, cultural and ethical processes through which humans and animals are made available as experimental subjects for biomedical research; New theoretical and methodological approaches within Geography better able to capture the material and affective dimensions of human-environment relations and how these are being reconfigured through biotechnological innovation.
Dr Richard GrenyerDr Richard Grenyer
Associate Professor in Biodiversity and Biogeography
Jesus College, OxfordJesus CollegeConservation - in particular conservation strategy, systematic conservation planning, biodiversity measurement and valuation. Biogeography, ecology and evolutionary ecology - particularly of mammals and plants. Phylogeography and phyloinformatics.
Dr Philipp GrünewaldDr Philipp Grünewald
EPSRC Fellow
Oriel College, OxfordOriel CollegeUnderstanding patterns of electricity consumption, activities and their flexibility through app-based large scale data collection. Energy systems: modelling, integration of renewables, role of electricity storage, demand response options, system flexibility, strategic transition towards a low carbon future.
Professor Jim HallProfessor Jim Hall
Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks
Linacre College, OxfordLinacre CollegeWater resource systems, flooding and adaptation to climate change. Resilience of infrastructure systems modelling and policy analysis. Decision making under uncertainty. Risk analysis.
Dr Neil HartDr Neil Hart
Departmental Lecturer in Physical Geography and Career Development Fellow
Christ Church, OxfordChrist ChurchWeather-climate interactions, particularly in the subtropical hydroclimates. Dynamical processes underpinning regional climate change. The upscale impact of convective hotspots on regional circulation. Climate dynamics of African regions. Extreme weather risks.
Professor Cameron HepburnProfessor Cameron Hepburn
Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and Professor of Environmental Economics
New College, OxfordNew College
St Edmund College, OxfordSt Edmund Hall
Environmental economics; specifically on the post-carbon transition, natural climate solutions, circular plastics, the energy revolution, integrating renewable energy, stranded assets and carbon budgets, carbon pricing.
Professor Rob HopeProfessor Rob Hope
Professor of Water Policy
No college affiliationWater security, policy and poverty in Africa and Asia. Rural water policy, institutions and finance. Emergence and performance of rural water enterprises; hybrid finance, water use behaviours and affordability. Technological innovation, monitoring systems and data analytics.
Dr Radhika KhoslaDr Radhika Khosla
Senior Research Associate in Environment and Energy, SSEE, and Research Director, Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development
Somerville College, OxfordSomerville CollegeUrban responses to climate change and urban sustainable development. Energy demand and services consumption (focus on the built environment). Climate change mitigation and socio-technical transitions. Developing countries and transitioning cities. Quantitative trends, policy, governance and institutional analysis.
Dr Ian KlinkeDr Ian Klinke
Associate Professor in Human Geography
St John's College, OxfordSt John's CollegeGeopolitics and political geography, Germany, the Cold War, military landscapes, biopolitics, far-right politics, intellectual history, European integration.
Dr Sneha KrishnanDr Sneha Krishnan
Associate Professor in Human Geography
Brasenose College, OxfordBrasenose CollegeFeminist/queer studies, cities in the global South, geo-and biopolitics, childhood and youth, colonial and postcolonial geographies, South Asia.
Professor Anna Lora-WainwrightProfessor Anna Lora-Wainwright
Professor of the Human Geography of China
St Cross College, OxfordSt Cross CollegeEnvironmental justice, environmental health controversies, transition and social change in China, anthropological theory and ethnography. More specific topics: political ecology with particular interest in pollution and rural China, popular epidemiology and perceptions of risk, questioning the lay-expert divide, grassroots responses to health inequalities (especially in China and the developing world), cross-cultural environmental activism and environmental health activism, controversies in cancer epidemiology and lay cancer epidemiology.
Dr Jamie LorimerDr Jamie Lorimer
Associate Professor in Human Geography
Hertford College, OxfordHertford CollegeMore-than-human geographies. Cultures and politics of Nature, especially in relation to wildlife conservation and rewilding. Social studies of the microbiome. The cultures and politics of the Anthropocene. Animal studies and nonhuman charisma. Elephants.
Dr Marc Macias-FauriaDr Marc Macias-Fauria
Associate Professor in Physical Geography
St Peter's College, OxfordSt Peter's CollegeBiogeosciences. Ecologist with a special focus on cold environments. Coupling of physical and biological systems over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Study of ecological and biogeographic processes through the use and interpretation of long-term and palaeoecological records, modelling, and remote sensing.
Professor Yadvinder MalhiProfessor Yadvinder Malhi
Professor of Ecosystem Science
Oriel College, OxfordOriel CollegeInteractions between forest ecosystems, climate change and land-use change, including the utility of forest protection in mitigating climate change. Techniques applied in this research include plant ecophysiology, long term forest monitoring and short-term expeditions, forest micrometerological and flux measurements, manipulative experiments, and satellite remote sensing of intact forests and deforestation. His interests are global, but particularly focus on tropical forests, especially in the Andes and Amazon, and more recently on the woodlands of the Upper Thames.
Dr Fiona McConnellDr Fiona McConnell
Associate Professor in Human Geography
St Catherine's College, OxfordSt Catherine's CollegePolitical geography and critical geopolitics. Specifically the everyday construction of statehood and sovereignty in cases of tenuous territoriality (e.g. unrecognised/de facto states, exile governments, stateless nations). Theories of sovereignty, and the relationship between territory and authority. Theories of the state and the use of ethnographic methods to uncover everyday state practices. Diplomacy, minority communities and the UN system.
Professor Derek McCormackProfessor Derek McCormack
Professor of Cultural Geography
Mansfield College, OxfordMansfield CollegeGeographies of: air/atmosphere; the body, performance and movement; affect and emotion; art, experiment, and creativity; material cultures. Social/cultural theories and philosophies of space and time, particularly non-representational theory and post-structuralism.
Dr Janey MessinaDr Janey Messina
Associate Professor in Quantitative Social Science Methods
No college affiliationQuantitative health geography, medical geography, spatial epidemiology, disease ecology, geography of infectious diseases.
Dr Amber MurreyDr Amber Murrey
Associate Professor in Human Geography
Jesus College, OxfordJesus CollegeDecolonial political geographies and political ecologies. Politics of extraction and lived or embodied experiences of extraction, particularly in African societies and the global South. Geographies of resistance. Structural violence and geographies of violence. Decolonial thought and non-western epistemologies. Digital disruptions, cyber-protest and political geographies of the Internet. Queering development, post-development, decolonising development. Geopolitics of knowledge and movements to decolonise knowledge, particularly within universities or the social sciences.
Dr Imma OliverasDr Imma Oliveras
Departmental Research Lecturer in Ecosystems Science and Deputy Programme Leader on Ecosystems
Oriel College, OxfordOriel CollegeVegetation-fire/drought-climate interactions, disturbance ecology, pyrogeography, fire ecology, earth observation applied to monitor and detect environmental change impacts on the terrestrial biosphere. Stability and resilience of ecosystems.
Dr Friederike OttoDr Friederike Otto
Acting Director, ECI
Associate Professor, Climate Research Programme, ECI
No college affiliationHow human and natural influences on climate affect the risks of extreme weather events (event attribution) and the scientific, social and political implication of these changing risks in different parts of the world.
Dr Anna PlyushtevaDr Anna Plyushteva
Departmental Research Lecturer in Transport Studies
No college affiliationGeographies of urban transport and mobility; Qualitative and mixed research methods in transport geography; Transport and mobility from the perspective of gender and the household; Night-time urban mobilities; Links between commuting practices and workplace social relations; Sociological and anthropological perspectives on how we pay for transport services; Cities and mobilities in South-Eastern Europe.
Professor Gillian RoseProfessor Gillian Rose
Professor of Human Geography
St John's College, OxfordSt John's CollegeGeographies of contemporary visual culture, digitally-produced images and visual methodologies. I'm particularly interested in how new forms of digitally-mediated imagery and practices are emerging in both popular practices and in new design professions; in smart cities; and in critical modes of investigating and theorising these shifts. Also critical urban geography, histories of visual and other cultural practice, and critical cultural geographies more broadly.
Dr Tim SchwanenDr Tim Schwanen
Associate Professor in Transport Studies,
Director of the TSU
St Anne's College, OxfordSt Anne's CollegeThe everyday mobility of people, goods and information, and in particular: transitions to low carbon mobility and living in cities, with a specific focus on questions of social justice and governance; the rise and governance of smart, shared or autonomous mobility; the interactions between transport infrastructure development and socio-spatial inequalities; the effects of urban contexts on individuals' practices and experiences of mobility; the relationship between mobility, power and subject formation.
Dr Louise SlaterDr Louise Slater
Associate Professor in Physical Geography
Hertford College, OxfordHertford CollegeFlood processes; rivers; fluvial geomorphology; hydrology; climate; computation. Research topics: Detection and attribution of changes in flood processes and hydrological extremes (e.g. disentangling climatic versus land cover drivers); understanding and predicting how river channels and their networks adjust dynamically to shifting land cover and climate regimes; developing new statistical, mathematical or machine learning approaches for better forecasting major hydro-climatic events in the future. Research methodologies: data-driven, computer-based analyses; data science, statistical modelling, machine learning, satellite remote sensing.
Professor David S.G. ThomasProfessor David S.G. Thomas
Professor of Geography
Hertford College, OxfordHertford CollegeQuaternary environments in the low latitudes, especially Africa; luminescence dating applications; aeolain systems; land degradation and human-environment interactions in drylands and Africa; climate change impacts and adaptation.
Dr Alex VasudevanDr Alex Vasudevan
Associate Professor in Human Geography
Christ Church, OxfordChrist ChurchCritical urban geography: alternative urbanisms, radical politics and the geographies of protest: contemporary urbanisation and precarious living: the history of squatting and its relationship to broader currents in contemporary urban thinking: spatial theory and experimentation: cultural geographies of artistic practice: historical and cultural geographies of performance.
Professor Heather VilesProfessor Heather Viles
Professor of Biogeomorphology and Heritage Conservation,
Head of School of Geography and the Environment
Worcester College, OxfordWorcester CollegeGeomorphology and environmental change (especially in arid and karst environments); building stone deterioration and conservation; weathering and rock breakdown (especially in arid, coastal, karst and other extreme environments); rock breakdown on Mars and other planets.
Professor Richard WashingtonProfessor Richard Washington
Professor of Climate Science
Keble College, OxfordKeble CollegeAfrican climate science; climate change and variability in Africa; rainfall variability and prediction in Africa; mineral aerosol (dust) production and transport in Africa.
Professor Robert J. WhittakerProfessor Robert J. Whittaker
Professor of Biogeography
St Edmund College, OxfordSt Edmund HallIsland ecology and biogeography; conservation biogeography; diversity theory; macroecology. I have particular interests in the islands of the Macaronesian biogeographic region, and in themes connected with habitat island ecology and using islands as model systems in conservation.
Professor Giles WiggsProfessor Giles Wiggs
Professor of Aeolian Geomorphology
Brasenose College, OxfordBrasenose CollegeMeasuring and modelling aeolian processes in deserts with an emphasis on aeolian sediment transport; sand dune dynamics; dynamics of aeolian dust; desert geomorphology; and low latitude environmental change. Research techniques include fieldwork in southern Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and Australia in combination with wind tunnel and computer modelling. Enquiries concerning any aspect of desert geomorphology are welcomed.
Professor Dariusz WójcikProfessor Dariusz Wójcik
Professor of Economic Geography
St Peter's College, OxfordSt Peter's CollegeGeographies of finance, economic geography, financial centres and global cities (including Shanghai and Dubai), emerging market economies, corporate governance, environmental finance (including carbon markets), varieties and models of capitalism, geography of advanced business services (including finance, law, management consultancy and accountancy).

Examples of Specific Research Topics

Below is a list of topics which applicants might like to consider and discuss further with the relevant staff. This list is not exhaustive, however, if you wish to develop a research topic outside of this list then please feel welcome to contact a relevant member of staff for discussion. These topics do not have funding attached.

National infrastructure systems (energy, transport, digital communications, water, waste management) provide essential services for people and the economy. They are increasingly interdependent, so performance of one system relies on others. Infrastructure is widely regarded as an essential pillar for economic competitiveness (World Economic Forum, 2018) and as a contributor to sustainability (Thacker et al. 2019).

The Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium has over the last eight years developed a unique modelling capability, called NISMOD (Hall et al., 2016), for simulating Britain's infrastructure systems. NISMOD contains modules to simulate Britain's energy, transport, digital and water supply systems. It uses scenarios of population and the economy to estimate future demand for infrastructure services and explore the performance of infrastructure policies and investments to meet those needs. The various simulation models are integrated with a model coupling framework called smif (Usher and Russell, 2019), which orchestrates model coupling, scenario analysis and optimisation.

Now that NISMOD is fully operational there are exciting opportunities for generating new scientific insights and results to guide decision making about national infrastructure systems in Britain. The types of questions that could be explored include:

  • Examination of the implications for infrastructure service provision of different scenarios for population and economic growth;
  • Evaluation of alternative strategies to achieve net zero carbon emissions from infrastructure;
  • Quantification of the most efficient strategies for providing essential services given constraints on infrastructure investments;
  • Examination of the implications of interdependencies between infrastructure sectors, for example due to the electrification of transport;
  • Strategic planning of infrastructure at a sub-national scale e.g. the Northern Powerhouse or Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

The research will particularly focus on the application of multi-objective optimisation methodologies to problems of infrastructure planning. We will explore the use of robust control methods and real options analysis to test and compare adaptive strategies for national infrastructure provision.

The project will therefore involve using and adapting existing simulation models of infrastructure systems and development of methods for optimisation and adaptive planning. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, mathematics, economics and the physical sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References

  • Otto, A., Hall, J.W., Hickford, A.J., Nicholls, R.J. A quantified systems-of-systems modeling framework for robust national infrastructure planning. IEEE Systems Journal, 10(2) (2016): 385-396. DOI: 10.1109/JSYST.2014.2361157
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (eds.) The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Hall, J.W. Using system-of-systems modelling and simulation to inform sustainable infrastructure choices, IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine, DOI:10.1109/MSMC.2019.2913565.
  • Hall, J.W., Thacker, S., Ives, M.C., Cao, Y., Chaudry, M., Blainey, S.P. and Oughton, E.J., Strategic analysis of the future of national infrastructure, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Civil Engineering, 170(1) (2017): 39-47. DOI: 10.1680/jcien.16.00018
  • Usher, W. and Russell, T., 2019. A Software Framework for the Integration of Infrastructure Simulation Models. Journal of Open Research Software, 7(1), p.16. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jors.265
  • World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2018

Thanks to a successful collaboration with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) we have developed methodology for sustainable infrastructure planning in developing countries. Our approach examines the current state of infrastructure service provision; assesses further needs for infrastructure services, guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and explores future strategies that combine investments with policy reforms. The approach has successfully been applied in the Caribbean islands of Curacao (Adshead et al., Oxford, 2018) and St Lucia, where it has resulted in national infrastructure plans and identification of quick wins for infrastructure service provision. The next significant step will be to adapt, apply and test the methodology in a large rapidly urbanising country, where the challenges of infrastructure provision are most urgent. This will bring several significant new research challenges:

  1. Infrastructure provision in large urban areas: Our research has focussed on national infrastructure networks. Urban infrastructure provision in rapidly expanding megacities and secondary cities provides a new set of challenges for our methodologies in system-of-systems modelling. Yet we do not believe cities should be dealt with in isolation from the hinterlands and catchments upon which they depend for resources. This therefore demands a multi-scale approach and a tractable methodology for dealing with the spatial complexity of cities.
  2. Navigating trade-offs between multiple policy objectives: Large countries have complex governance infrastructure arrangements. A focus of the research will therefore be upon the exploration of multiple objectives within multi-actor problems. Those multiple objectives may be framed in terms of the global agendas of the SDGs, but will doubtless entail other political goals. We propose to explore the trade-offs and feasibility of future provision and prosperity through infrastructure simulation modelling.
  3. Adaptive planning to deal with future uncertainties: Countries face large uncertainties about the trajectory of development, technological innovation and climate change, amongst other factors. Infrastructure planning decisions often involve making decisions with very long legacies, which may lock in patterns of development for years to come. Infrastructure planning therefore needs to rigorously account for future uncertainties, for example using the methodologies of adaptive management (Hall et al. 2019). This can be combined with simulation modelling, which estimates infrastructure system performance and service delivery for a given future state of the world.

These topics (or some selection thereof) will be explored in the context of a large rapidly urbanising country, chosen in collaboration with our partners in the UN Office for Project Services. The precise focus of the project will be driven by specific country needs.

The project will involve using a variety of decision analysis methodologies, along with qualitative methods for analysis of infrastructure objectives and governance contexts. It will therefore require a student with an interdisciplinary outlook and a wide range of capabilities. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and an ability to address critically with major policy challenges.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Additional funding may be available from the UN Office for Project Services. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Adshead, D., Fuldauer, L.I., Thacker, S., Hickford, A., Rouhet, G., Muller, W.S., Hall, J.W. and Nicholls, R.J. Evidence-Based Infrastructure: Curacao.: National infrastructure systems modelling to support sustainable and resilient infrastructure development. University of Oxford and UNOPS. May 2018, 60pp.
  • Adshead, D., Thacker, S., Fuldauer, L.I. and Hall, J.W. Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals through long-term infrastructure planning, Global Environmental Change, in press.
  • Hall, J.W., Harvey, H. and Manning, L.J. Adapting London's flood protection to multi-centennial sea level rise, Climate Risk Management, 24(2019): 42-58. DOI:10.1016/j.crm.2019.04.001.
  • Thacker, S., Adshead, D., Morgan, G., Crosskey, S., Bajpai, A., Ceppi, P., Hall, J.W. and O'Regan, N. Infrastructure: Underpinning Sustainable Development. UNOPS, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Planning national infrastructure, in all parts of the world, involves difficult choices about where infrastructure is located in order to efficiently provide services whilst minimising negative impacts on people and the environment. Versions of this spatial allocation problem exist in many situations. New spatial datasets from satellites, sensors and crowd sourcing are providing information that can enable better navigation of the trade-offs associated with spatial allocation.

We are currently working on two versions of this spatial allocation problem in the context of developing countries:

  1. Optimisation of drinking water supplies in coastal Bangladesh: There is extensive experience of providing drinking water infrastructure (tube well, pond sand filters) for communities in the coastal zone in Bangladesh (Flanagan et al., 2012). There is also growing interest in whether more centralised piped systems might help to improve water quality, helping to address severe problems with arsenic and saline contamination. One of the lessons that has been learnt is that different systems perform well in different circumstances.
    Thanks to the work of the REACH project, we have growing understanding of the spatial heterogeneity in Polder 29 in Bangladesh, including GIS of population of 59,000 people, a household survey and audit of water supply infrastructure. That provides evidence to develop methodology for prioritising water supply interventions in a way which is tuned to local conditions. Using a combination of GIS and optimisation (in terms of cost-effectiveness with respect to multiple criteria) it is possible to explore options for prioritising drinking water infrastructure interventions to achieve the water supply targets in SDG6. We will then seek to generalise the method to a scalable methodology that can be applied extensively in Bangladesh.
  2. Electrification of transport is widely regarded as an opportunity for developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ fossil-fuel dependent transport and associated infrastructure networks, by co-developing renewable energy supplies and vehicle charging points. There are however many different versions of how such systems might develop (e.g. with centralised electricity grids, or with micro-grids). What system is viable depends, in part, on local context (population density, building density, wealth, existing infrastructure), but is also subject to other big uncertainties, such as the relative price of technologies and the business models that are adopted for service provision.
    We have developed unique datasets of road infrastructure globally (Koks et al., 2019) and methodology for simulating electricity transmission and distribution networks all over the world. This is coupled with population datasets for analysing energy and transport demand and global datasets of potential for renewable energy supply. We propose to combine these datasets with different scenarios of the costs and business models of renewable energy and electric vehicles to generate efficient scenarios for roll-out of these technologies.

These are just two examples of the sorts of problems that could be addressed with methodologies for spatial allocation and optimisation (Faiz and Krichen, 2012). We expect that other opportunities will materialise during the course of the research, so the thesis will combine methodological development with a series of case studies. Overall, we would like to develop a broad framework to characterise different infrastructures and their relationship with the space and people around them. We wish to incorporate multiple sustainability indicators which can help to inform decisions about infrastructure provision to achieve the SDGs. We aim to demonstrate how market forces in infrastructure service provision (for example the proliferation of private tube wells in rural Bangladesh) can be combined with targeted development assistance and public investment to provide networks that leave no one behind.

The project will involve statistical analysis of survey data and application of methods for spatial optimisation. The derived solutions need to take account of local economic, societal and governance conditions, so the student should also study these important contextual issues. Thus the student should have a strong quantified background (e.g. engineering, economics, physics, geostatistics) but should also have a good appreciation of the wider societal context of infrastructure service provision.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University’s EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Faiz, S. and Krichen, S., 2012. Geographical information systems and spatial optimization. CRC Press.
  • Flanagan, S. V., Johnston, R. B. and Zheng, Y. (2012). Arsenic in tube well water in Bangladesh: health and economic impacts and implications for arsenic mitigation. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 90, 839-846.
  • Koks, E.E., Rozenberg, J., Zorn, C., Tariverdi, M., Vousdoukas, M., Fraser, S.A., Hall, J.W., Hallegatte, S. A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. Nature Communications, 10(1) (2019): 2677. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10442-3.

The relationship between infrastructure provision and spatial patterns of economic activity is only partially understood. Infrastructure serves multiple purposes, as a factor of production, providing access to markets and enabling agglomeration and innovation. Because of the complexity of these processes, the empirical evidence of the effects is often inconclusive. Theoretically, the relationship has been addressed through the frameworks of New Economic Geography, input-output modelling and spatial computable general equilibrium models. Each of these approaches has their limitations as well as their strengths.

Vast investments in infrastructure, in particular in Asia, mean that there are large-scale changes in the spatial structure of global networks and the economies that they serve. This means that there are new empirical data to characterise these phenomena and parameterise models.

The proposed research will take a combination of a model-based and empirical approach to understanding the relationship between infrastructure and economic development at broad scales. The model-based analysis will start with stylised models, possibly reproducing the insights from NEG models, but introducing other functions of infrastructure (e.g. energy and water as factors as production; roads as factors of access to economic activities). Meanwhile, we will seek datasets that can be used to characterise spatial changes. The analysis will be used to understand future demands for infrastructure services and how patterns of economic development may evolve in future. The work will be applied to a large geographical region, such as a national-scale or multi-national scale to see how infrastructure developments can create positive and negative effects for different regions.

The project will involve computer model development, along with parameterization and validation using empirical data. Candidates must therefore be ready to take on a highly interdisciplinary analysis and modelling task. It will require a candidate with advanced computational and mathematical skills, coming from an engineering, economics or physical sciences background. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University’s EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Venables, A., Laird, J. and Overman, H. Transport investment and economic performance: Implications for project appraisal. (Department for Transport, 2014).
  • Bird, J. H. and Venables, A.J. Growing a Developing City: A Computable Spatial General Equilibrium Model Applied to Dhaka. The World Bank, 2019.
  • Lall, S. V. and Mathilde S. M. L. "Who Wins, Who Loses? Understanding the Spatially Differentiated Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative." 2019.
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Critical infrastructure systems form the backbone of modern society, facilitating the distribution of goods and services across broad spatial extents, transcending the boarders of regions and countries. The increasingly global nature of these networks and complex interdependencies that have emerged between them have created a number of systemic vulnerabilities, creating a situation where local failures can result in cascades of disruption, resulting in far reaching and large-scale losses.

There is a rapidly growing number of global infrastructure datasets. For example, we have developed a global dataset of transport networks and quantified their vulnerability to natural hazards, including flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes (Koks et al., 2019). However, this analysis is simply an analysis of infrastructure exposure and vulnerability. A full risk analysis would involve understanding the spatial structure of natural hazards i.e. what area do they cover and what is the likelihood of other hazards striking elsewhere in the world at the same time. The possibility of different types of hazard happening at the same time further complicates matters.

The aim of this research is to develop new methodology for generating large ‘event sets’ of spatial hazards for use in risk analysis of global infrastructure networks. The research will start by focussing upon one hazard (flooding) but could be extended to multiple hazards.

There’s a range of methods that could be adopted to analyse this problem, which could combine statistical modelling of the dependence structure of multivariate spatial statistics (e.g. Gaupp et al., 2017) with large ensembles of climate model and reanalysis outputs (Guillod et al., 2018). The aim will be to develop and test a practical methodology for generating global hazard scenarios for stress testing infrastructure networks. That capability can then be combined with global infrastructure network models to simulate the possible impacts of large-scale failures and how they propagate through infrastructure networks.

The research will require making use of a range of hazard datasets, including model outputs, satellite observations of extreme events and other measurements. For example, it may be possible to combine large numbers of flood observations, which are coming available from new satellite platforms, with statistical analysis to synthesise realistic spatial combinations of flood which have not been observed in the past. The duration of extreme events is also very important for modelling the impacts of infrastructure failure, so we will seek to explore how long coincident catastrophic extreme events can be expected to last in different parts of the world.

The outcomes will be at the cutting edge of international global risk and resilience research and will also be of interest to businesses and government including insurers and investors interested in risks to global infrastructure.

It will suit students from any quantified background, including statistics, mathematics, engineering, physics or another quantitative science subject. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance. Experience of high level programming (e.g. Python), GIS and geospatial databases is desirable.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University’s Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Gaupp, F., Pflug, G., Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Dadson, S.J. and Hall, J.W. Dependency of crop production between global breadbaskets: A copula approach for the assessment of global and inter-regional risk pools, Risk Analysis, 37(11) (2017): 2212-2228. DOI: 10.1111/risa.12761.
  • Guillod, B.P., Jones, R.G., Dadson, S., Coxon, G., Bussi, G., Freer, J., Kay, A.L., Massey, N.R., Otto, F.E., Sparrow, S.N., Wallom, D.C.H., Allen, M.R. and Hall, J.W. A large hydro-meteorological dataset of potential past, present and future time series over the UK, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(1) (2018): 611-634. DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-611-2018
  • Koks, E.E., Rozenberg, J., Zorn, C., Tariverdi, M., Vousdoukas, M., Fraser, S.A., Hall, J.W., Hallegatte, S. A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. Nature Communications, 10(1) (2019): 2677. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10442-3.
  • Thacker, S., Kelly, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. Evaluating the benefits of adaptation of critical infrastructures to hydrometeorological risks. Risk Analysis, DOI: 10.1111/risa.12839.
  • Pant, R., Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Alderson, D. and Barr, S. Critical infrastructure impact assessment due to flood exposure, Journal of Flood Risk Management, DOI: 10.1111/jfr3.12288.
  • Thacker, S., Barr, S., Pant, R., Hall, J.W. and Alderson, D. Geographic hotspots of critical national infrastructure. Risk Analysis, (2017) DOI: 10.1111/risa.12840.

Environmental pressures emanating from climate change and resource scarcity in the 21st century threaten the well-being of millions of people, exacerbating political instability in regions of entrenched conflict. For example, environmental stress, climate change and the mismanagement of natural resources are claimed to have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Syria leading to regional destabilisation. The prevailing approach to meeting the water and energy needs of the MENA region focuses on sector-based supply-side solutions aligned with narratives of national self-sufficiency. This approach ignores both the cross-border nature of many resources in the region and their strong interdependence (the water-energy-food nexus): energy is critical for water production, water is needed in power generation, and both resources are essential for food production. Climate change affects the availability and predictability of water out of fossil fuels. Shared natural resources (e.g. river basins, aquifers and fossil fuel reserves) are also closely linked to regional politics and can potentially inflame conflicts. Conversely, cross-border water cooperation is more common than water conflict, e.g. the Jordan-Israel Water Agreement. We posit that simultaneously addressing questions of energy and water, will accelerate the opportunities for synergistic technical solutions (in particular in the context of renewable energy technologies and desalination), and provide opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.

This project will address these challenges through development of an Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF) to provide an analytical process for conceptualising and understanding the roles and relationships between organisational, political, economic, scientific and environmental parameters in shaping resource security [66]. Quantified systems analysis will establish a baseline understanding of the availability, use, variability and uncertainty in water and energy resources in the region, and will provide tools for the exploration of possible futures. The IAF will integrate analysis of natural resources with a simulation of built infrastructure systems, institutional arrangements, political interests and the governance systems to manage these resources. This will provide a tool for modelling various development and management pathways, including scenario-building of regional climate, water and energy systems, using the Oxford System-of-Systems approach. The System-of-Systems is a powerful computer-based modelling framework for the analysis of alternative, long-term strategies for infrastructure development and management, within a spectrum of uncertainties about future demands. Participatory scenario modelling will account for and build buy-in from different stakeholder views and preferences [50] in which stakeholders provide input into the modelling through an iterative process.

The project will involve a combination of water resource systems modelling, energy systems modelling, hydrology of climate change and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance. The project will involve interaction with stakeholders in the region (Israel, Palestine, Jordan) so applicants should be eligible and willing to travel to these countries. A mature attitude to engagement in complex region is required. The project forms part of the Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University’s Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Kurian, M. The water-energy-food nexus: Trade-offs, thresholds and transdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development. Environmental Science & Policy, 2017. 68: pp. 97-106.
  • Tamee, R.A., Arica, C. and Christopher, A.S. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A systematic review of methods for nexus assessment. Environmental Research Letters, 2018. 13(4): p. 043002.
  • Wheeler, K.G., Hall, J.W., Abdo, G., Dadson, S.J., Kasprzyk, J.R., Smith, R. and Zagona, E.A. Exploring cooperative transboundary river management strategies for the Eastern Nile Basin, Water Resources Research, (2018) DOI:10.1029/2017WR022149.
  • Wolf, A.T. Shared Waters: Conflict and Cooperation. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2007. 32(1): pp. 241-269.
  • World Bank, Beyond scarcity: water security in the Middle East and North Africa. 2017, World Bank: Washington DC.

In collaboration with partners in the UK (the National Infrastructure Commission) and internationally (UNOPS, the World Bank) we have developed and tested methodology for long-term infrastructure planning (Hall et al., 2016, Thacker et al., 2017). Our approach examines the state of infrastructure service provision i.e. energy, transport, digital, water and waste; identifies future infrastructure needs; and establishes adaptive strategies for future infrastructure policies and investments. The effectiveness of this approach depends crucially on the enabling environment: the institutional structures (e.g. the responsibilities and powers of government); legal arrangements and enforcement; human capacity; data availability; institutions for project delivery and maintenance. We therefore wish to undertake systematic research to map the elements that constitute the enabling environment.

Through a combination of case studies, possibly including several different countries, we wish to obtain empirical evidence of the importance of different elements of the enabling environment and their relevance to the provision of effective, sustainable and resilient infrastructure services. This will involve looking back at the history of infrastructure provision in different countries and the extent to which this explains the physical infrastructures and policy arrangements that have been established. We will have a particular focus on the role of national infrastructure units – cross-governmental entities with a responsibility for planning and coordinating long-term infrastructure provision. To what extent have these units been successful in contributing to sustainable infrastructure provision?

The research will be conducted in collaboration with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) with whom we have successfully collaborated in developing national infrastructure plans in Curacao and St Lucia. This DPhil project will be carried out in collaboration with UNOPS, working with a wider group of partner countries and institutions.

The project will involve using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies for studying institutional arrangements and their relationship with sustainable infrastructure outcomes. It will therefore require a student with an interdisciplinary outlook and a wide range of capabilities. Students should be able to demonstrate an ability to address critically with major policy challenges.

Candidates for this project would be eligible to apply for funding from the Grand Union ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Additional funding may be available from UNOPS. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (eds.) The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Pant, R., Russell, T., Leung, J. and Koks, E. System-of-systems infrastructure modelling to support sustainable development outcomes. International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure (ISNGI), Institution of Civil Engineers, London, September 11-13 2017

There is growing concern about the resilience of water supplies in Britain in the context of climate change and increasing population in some parts of the country. These risks have been studied in Water UK’s National Water Resources Long-Term Planning Framework study and in the National Infrastructure Commission’s study on water scarcity. The water group in the Environmental Change Institute made significant contributions to both of these studies. In the first of these studies a unique national water resource systems model was developed, which has since been extended and improved. The model represents all of the main water users in England and Wales. It is driven by a unique event set of simulated droughts (Guillod et al., 2018). The simulation model is combined with multi-objective optimisation, to enable searching and selection of investments and policies to improve the resilience of water supplies in the face of future uncertainties (Borgomeo et al., 2016). This model now provides a powerful platform for exploring a range of questions about the resilience of Britain’s water supplies in the face of uncertain future conditions, and for assessing the potential effectiveness and trade-offs associated with alternative policies and investments, such as water storage, water transfers and water reuse. These possible decisions will be explored using methods for decision and robustness analysis (Borgomeo et al. 2018). The research is likely to result in new insights into the conditions in which severe water shortages might occur in Britain and the associated scientific uncertainties. It will go on to evaluate possible responses to enhance the resilience of water supplies for a range of different users, including public water supplies, farmers and industrial users of water. The project will in particular examine the benefits and impacts of water transfers between river basins in the UK.

The project will involve a combination of water resource systems modelling, hydrology of climate change and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University’s Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Borgomeo, E., Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O’Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W. and Watson, T. Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2) (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018164.
  • Borgomeo, E., Mortazavi‐Naeini, M., Hall, J. W. and Guillod, B. P. Risk, Robustness and Water Resources Planning Under Uncertainty. Earth's Future, 6(2018): 468–487. DOI:10.1002/2017EF000730
  • Guillod, B.P., Jones, R.G., Dadson, S., Coxon, G., Bussi, G., Freer, J., Kay, A.L., Massey, N.R., Otto, F.E., Sparrow, S.N., Wallom, D.C.H., Allen, M.R. and Hall, J.W. A large hydro-meteorological dataset of potential past, present and future time series over the UK, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(1) (2018): 611-634. DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-611-2018
  • Ives, M.C., Simpson, J.M., Hall, J.W. Navigating the water trilemma: a strategic assessment of long-term national water resource management options for Great Britain, Water and Environment Journal, DOI: 10.1111/wej.12352.

Managing water resources inevitably involves trade-offs between human and environmental needs for water. In recent years significant steps have been taken to limit unsustainable water withdrawals in England that are potentially harming the natural environment. This has been based upon assessments of environmental water requirements. In practice the sensitivity of the aquatic environment to altered flow regimes is not fully understood. We know that water bodies in a healthy condition are more able to recover from occasional shocks like droughts. However, knowledge of the resilience of aquatic ecosystems is limited. There have been many studies of restoration projects, but the evidence base is difficult to generalize. Evidence of ecosystem response to droughts is bound to take a long time to acquire because these are rare events. In the meantime, decisions have to be made about the management of water resources. There may be more opportunities for enhancing ecosystems, for example through constructed wetlands, which may also contribute to the resilience of water supplies for human consumption. Given our ignorance about the potential effectiveness of these schemes, the approach needs to be one of ‘adaptive management’ – of piloting schemes and embedding learning from monitoring programmes in future cycles of decision making.

We have done extensive research on the risk and resilience of water resource systems. We now wish to extend that analysis to incorporate ecosystem resilience. The approach will be to develop and test by simulating an adaptive management approach. The research will involve identifying a range of possible ecosystem restoration interventions and assembling evidence on their hydrological performance and ecosystem response. In the context of a case study catchment (possibly a lowland groundwater dominated chalk stream) we will propose a sequence of possible ecosystems interventions and explore their potential effect on the resilience of water supplies for human and ecological purposes. We will simulate how learning from system response could be incorporated in future cycles of decision making. This will help to make the case for catchment restoration schemes and the monitoring programmes with which they will need to be accompanied.

The project will involve a combination of catchment modelling and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University’s Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Borgomeo, E. Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O’Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W. and Watson, T. Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2) (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018164.
  • Borgomeo, E., Pflug, G., Hall, J.W. and Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Assessing water resource system vulnerability to unprecedented hydrological drought using copulas to characterize drought duration and deficit, Water Resources Research, 51 (2015), 8927–8948. doi:10.1002/2015WR017324.
  • Borgomeo, E., Hall, J.W., Fung, F., Watts, G., Colquhoun, K. and Lambert, C. Risk based water resources planning, incorporating probabilistic non-stationary climate uncertainties. Water Resources Research, 50 (2014): 6850–6873.
  • Lake, P.S. 2003. Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshwater Biology, 48(7), pp.1161-1172.
  • Poff, N.L. et al. Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling. Nature Clim. Change 6, 25-34, doi:10.1038/nclimate2765 (2016).

There is growing and urgent interest in the future use of the land in Britain and many other countries worldwide. The synergies and trade-offs between use of the land for food, climate mitigation (forestry, biofuels etc.), nature and housing are becoming increasingly. At the same time, the process of the UK preparing to leave the European Union has opened up debate in areas of agriculture policy and environmental regulation that were previously handled by the EU. A range of radical options are under consideration, including ‘rewilding’, large areas of afforestation, and new nature recovery networks. Changes in agricultural subsidies and import/export tariffs could result in a shock to the viability of many farms.

Working out what will be the result of any given scenario is extremely complex and place-specific. Complex models of agriculture such as MAgPIE and EPIC are often difficult to interpret. Their representation of agricultural markets, government regulation and land use change is not sufficient to represent the range of policy scenarios that the UK now faces. We therefore propose to develop an approach that is simpler, more flexible and more place-specific. The approach will involve using high resolution gridded land cover data for Britain, with attributes including land use type, agricultural land grade, protected areas and nature recovery networks, mapping of ecosystem services. A merit order for different land uses will be developed for each grid cell, subject to various different objectives for the land, and including the relationship with neighbouring cells. A simple aggregate model of national and global agricultural markets (including crop prices and land prices) will be developed, which will enable testing the effects of different levels of agricultural subsidy and tariffs on exports/imports. The model will be used to test different policy options e.g. for agricultural subsidies and regulation, and to identify policies that achieve goals including climate mitigation, nature conservation and food security.

The project will involve working with geospatial datasets and programming models of markets and for scenario and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including environmental sciences, economics, engineering and physical sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

The project will form part of and contribute to the FABLE consortium, in which the University of Oxford and CEH Wallingford are the UK partners.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University’s Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford’s several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
Project area:

Island biogeography and conservation biogeography.

Project attributes:

The student will work on developments in island theory accounting for diversity variation in islands and/or habitat islands as a function of biotic and abiotic controls, involving the challenge of interconnecting varied forms of data (macroecological, metacommunity &/or phylogenetic data) within the framework of recent developments in mixed effect modeling, and potentially addressing both theoretical and practical conservation goals. The student will join an international collaborative network focused on a wide range of themes within island ecology and island biogeography, including species-area relationships, species incidence functions, species abundance distributions, development and testing of the general dynamic model of oceanic island biogeography. The project is likely to involve primary field data combined with analysis and modelling of secondary data sets.

The dry valleys of the Namibian Skeleton Coast are significant emitters of atmospheric mineral dust. Preliminary studies show that Holocene valley fills are the primary source of dust (Thomas et al., in press). There are however distinct spatial variations in both dust sources, revealed by remote sensing analysis, and the accumulation of fluvial valley deposits. The latter are a potentially significant source of Holocene palaeoclimatic data, but disparate studies to date reveal complex and sometimes conflicting records of climate change (Stone and Thomas, 2013). The aim of this project is to provide a robust, chronometrically controlled, record of extensive valley fill deposits and past fluvial system behaviour. This will involve examining the spatial variability in deposit characteristics and age that will allow potential dust emission sources and controls to be identified. The initial focus will be on the Huab Valley system, but this is extendable to other valleys as results emerge. The project will include fieldwork in the Skeleton Coast region that will examine and map sedimentary exposures and drill fill deposits, allowing sampling for sedimentary analyses including mineral properties, provenance work and age control through OSL dating. This project offers a unique opportunity to develop and apply field and laboratory skills, and will make a major contribution to southern African Quaternary research and investigations of atmospheric dust emissions, both major research themes in the School.