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 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.
Professor Nick EyreProfessor Nick Eyre
Jackson Senior Research Fellow in Energy and Professor of Energy and Climate Policy
Oriel College, OxfordOriel CollegeLow carbon energy transitions and policy, particularly inter-disciplinary approaches to energy demand and energy efficiency.
Dr Dustin Evan GarrickDr Dustin Evan Garrick
Departmental Research Lecturer in Environmental and Resource Management
No college affiliationProperty 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 College, OxfordChrist Church CollegeWeather-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.
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 Friederike OttoDr Friederike Otto
Acting Director, ECI
Associate Professor, Climate Research Programme, ECI
How 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.
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.

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 recent 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 using the WATHNET system. 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 WATHNET 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 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): 468487. 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.

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.

This project will use a combination of GIS and optimisation (in terms of cost-effectiveness with respect to multiple criteria) to propose a methodology for prioritising drinking water infrastructure interventions. It will demonstrate how a strategic investment strategy could achieve the water supply targets in SDG6 for Polder 29. We will then seek to generalise the method to a scalable methodology that can be applied extensively in Bangladesh.

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 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 water supply.

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
  • Flanagan, S. V., Johnston, R. B., & 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.

The Eastern Nile river basin (including Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt) is an extraordinarily important transnational river which is undergoing very significant changes, above all because of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which will dramatically change the hydrological conditions experienced by the downstream riparian countries. The effects of constructing the GERD have been extensively studied in the University of Oxford by Wheeler et al. (2016 and in review). This important work has explored the potential effects of hydrological variability on hydropower production at the GERD and downstream water availability. It has made rather simple assumptions about the needs for electric power supplies in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries to which Ethiopia may be connected with electricity transmission networks.

Meanwhile, a transformation is taking place in energy supply in Africa and the Middle East, with the widespread uptake of renewable energy supplies. Recent auctions for renewable energy supply have demonstrated rapidly reducing costs. This means that the role of hydropower potentially needs to be reconsidered, from one of providing a reasonably steady power supply to a flexible backup mechanism to complement renewable supplies. The proliferation of renewables is changing the geography of energy supply and meaning that there may be potential for new transnational agreements for managing the energy-water nexus.

This project will start with the existing studies by Wheeler et al. using the Eastern Nile RiverWare model. Scenarios and a model of renewable energy uptake and tranmission infrastructure will be developed for East Africa and the Middle East. Trade-offs between the various actors in these neighbouring countries will be modelled, to identify the most beneficial arrangements for energy supply and management of the GERD and the Aswan High Dam.

The project will involve water resource systems modelling, energy supply systems modelling, economic modelling of water and energy demand and possibly also of energy (and water) markets. 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.

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
  • Wheeler, K.G., Basheer, M., Mekonnen, Z.T., Eltoum, S.O., Mersha, A., Abdo, G.M., Zagona, E.A., Hall, J.W. and Dadson, S.J. Cooperative Filling Approaches for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Water International, 41(4) (2016): 611-634. DOI:10.1080/02508060.2016.1177698
  • Wheeler, K.G., Simpson, M., Borgomeo, E. and Hall, J.W. A multi-site non-parametric method for hydrologic scenario generation in the Eastern Nile Basin, Water Resources Research, in review.
  • Wheeler, K.G. Hall, J.W., Abdo, G., Dadson, S.J., Kasprzyk, J.R., Smith, R., Zagona, E.A., Exploring Cooperative Transboundary River Management Strategies for the Eastern Nile Basin, Water Resources Research, in review.

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 systems1,2,3. 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 analysis4. 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
  1. Borgomeo, E. Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O'Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W., and Watson, T. (2016) Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2): 622-643.
  2. Borgomeo, E., Pflug, G., Hall, J.W. and Hochrainer-Stigler, S. (2015) Assessing water resource system vulnerability to unprecedented hydrological drought using copulas to characterize drought duration and deficit. Water Resources Research, 51(11): 8927-8948.
  3. Borgomeo, E., Hall, J.W., Fung, F., Watts, G., Colquhoun, K. and Lambert, C. (2014) Risk based water resources planning, incorporating probabilistic nonstationary climate uncertainties. Water Resources Research, 50(8): 6850-6873.
  4. Poff, N.L. et al. (2016) Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling. Nature Climate Change, 6: 25-34.

Failures within infrastructure networks, including energy, transport and digital communications, can result in major disruption to the economy and society. During disruptions, the use of infrastructure networks can be adapted, for example by rerouting traffic, in order to preserve some level of service. This dynamic adaptive response, which is not well understood, is fundamental to ensuring network resilience. This project proposes the development of an integrated system-of-systems methodology for understanding infrastructure network resilience to failures. Resilience here is defined in terms of the ability to maintain functionality when shocked, and the speed of recovery from shock.

The aim will be to model the dynamics of resource flows across interdependent national infrastructure networks, providing new tools to understand network disruption and failure over range of scales. The analysis will take in account the linkages between infrastructures, customers, and businesses, to test the dynamics of infrastructure failure propagation and subsequent recovery for the socio-economic systems. The study will examine how business supply chains make use of infrastructure networks and hence are vulnerable to network disruptions. There will also be the opportunity to examine how embedded digital technologies influence system resilience.

The developed system models will be used to inform resilience planning, by testing alternative strategies to avoid and cope with disruption. The research will combine interdisciplinary theories and methods from network science, fluid dynamics, probability theory, statistics, demographics, economics, decision science, and simulation.

The project builds on pioneering work done in the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) on risk analysis of spatially explicit representations of Great Britain's infrastructure networks such as electricity and dependent transport, water, waste and ICT systems (see references). The theoretical modelling is supported by a unique geospatial dataset that was developed and includes systems data from multiple companies and organizations. The prospective candidate will build their methods on this data, and provide novel developments.

The prospective candidates should have an undergraduate degree in engineering, physics, mathematics or another quantitative science subject. They should have a keen interest in the long-term sustainability of infrastructure systems.

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
  1. Thacker, S., Kelly, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. (2017) Evaluating the benefits of adaptation of critical infrastructures to hydrometeorological risks. Risk Analysis.
  2. Pant, R., Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Alderson, D. and Barr, S. (2017) Critical infrastructure impact assessment due to flood exposure. Journal of Flood Risk Management.
  3. Thacker, S., Barr, S., Pant, R., Hall, J.W., and Alderson, D. (2017) Geographic hotspots of critical national infrastructure. Risk Analysis.
  4. Thacker, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. (2017) System-of-systems formulation and disruption analysis for multi-scale critical national infrastructures. Reliability Engineering and Systems Safety, 167: 30-41.
  5. Pant, R., Hall, J.W. and Blainey, S.P. (2016) Vulnerability assessment framework for interdependent critical infrastructures: a case study for Great Britain's rail network. European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, 16(1): 174-194.

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.

One important example of this is port infrastructure which, besides being an infrastructure hub itself, is also a location in which multiple global infrastructure systems converge. This includes energy, transportation and digital communications network systems and a variety of traded commodities that support other critical infrastructures including water supply and waste water treatment systems. The vulnerability of ports and its interconnected infrastructure have been highlighted numerous times in the past years, including through the 2011 Thailand floods and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. With the installation of new infrastructure that is required to satisfy an ever increasing and consuming global population and a climate system that is changing, this vulnerability is only set to increase into the future. Despite their importance, the vulnerability of, and solutions for building resilience in, interdependent global infrastructure networks, remains poorly understood.

The aim of this research project is twofold: (i) to develop a deeper understanding of the current and future vulnerabilities of global infrastructure networks, with a focus upon major ports, and (ii) to develop and test (through simulation modelling) a range of possible interventions that could reduce infrastructure network.

One approach to addressing these challenges would be to develop a nested network model, which combines global representation of supply chains and transport networks, and then nests more detailed modelling of the vulnerability of specific ports within that global framework. The first step of the study would therefore be to develop a state-of-the-art methodological framework to map and integrate the interdependent critical infrastructures at an international scale. This will require using and adapting a combination of methodologies from engineering systems, reliability theory, network science and risk analysis. It will also require making use of the latest global infrastructure databases and, where necessary, development of innovative methodologies to augment existing datasets from a variety of sources (e.g. satellite imagery, crowd sourced datasets). The developed framework will allow identification of vulnerable points in global networks due to failure of critical infrastructure systems converging in ports. This will provide an important platform to estimate present and future impacts on these global networks and to develop measures for improving their resilience. 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 risk managers in high-level multilateral organizations, such as the OECD and the World Bank, as well as port authorities and national governments.

It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, physics, mathematics, 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. 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
  1. Thacker, S., Kelly, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. (2017) Evaluating the benefits of adaptation of critical infrastructures to hydrometeorological risks. Risk Analysis.
  2. Pant, R., Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Alderson, D. and Barr, S. (2017) Critical infrastructure impact assessment due to flood exposure. Journal of Flood Risk Management.
  3. Thacker, S., Barr, S., Pant, R., Hall, J.W., and Alderson, D. (2017) Geographic hotspots of critical national infrastructure. Risk Analysis.
  4. Thacker, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. (2017) System-of-systems formulation and disruption analysis for multi-scale critical national infrastructures. Reliability Engineering and Systems Safety, 167: 30-41.

Transport infrastructure serves important economic purposes by enabling trade in goods and services and mobility of workers. The interplay between transport connectivity and regional economic development has been a longstanding topic in economic geography, which has been studied empirically and modelled in a variety of different ways.

There is now rapidly improving capability to study connectivity in transport networks and the flows of goods and people on those networks. Over the last year we have done studies of transport networks in Tanzania and Vietnam at a scale of spatial resolution which could not have been conceived of a few years ago. We have developed methodology to model trade flows and realistically allocate those flows to the transport network. Much of this work has been done in support of studies of network risk and resilience, but it potentially enables much more general insights into patterns of trade and location of pinch-points on the transport network which can be used to prioritise investments in improved connectivity. This then raises the question of how improved connectivity might feed back into patterns of economic activity, which we will explore with economic geography and growth models. Prioritisation of transport connectivity should also take into account other objectives and constraints e.g. providing access to services for people and in opening up areas for natural resource (over-) exploitation. These questions will be explored as part of the DPhil.

The research will be applied and tested in the context of developing economies, possibly in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

This project will suit students from any quantified background, including economics, engineering, physics, mathematics, 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.

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
  • Masahisa Fujita, Paul Krugman and Anthony J. Venables, The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade. MIT Press.

The relationship between infrastructure provision and regional 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 strengths1. An alternative approach is provided by agent-based modelling, which provides the possibility to represent a richer set of interactions between infrastructure systems and human behaviour, but is challenging in terms of data requirements for parameterisation and validation.

The University of Oxford leads the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), which is a world-leading interdisciplinary programme developing new models and tools to support long term analysis and decision making for national infrastructure. As part of the second phase of the ITRC programme (called MISTRAL) the Institute for New Economic Thinking in Oxford is developing and agent-based model of the interaction between infrastructure and the economy, extending a previous model of the UK housing market. That model development is led by Professor Doyne Farmer. It is an ambitious project which is opening up new insights and modelling possibilities, which this doctoral project is intended to explore. The research will result in new theoretical, empirical and applied insights regarding the interplay between infrastructure and the economy. That will help to inform the long term planning of infrastructure and investment in infrastructure projects.

The doctoral student will become a member of the ITRC-MISTRAL research team, so will benefit from a vibrant research environment and exceptional links with government and business.

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
  1. Venables, A., Laird, J. and Overman, H. (2014) Transport investment and economic performance: implications for project appraisal. Transport appraisal and strategic modelling (TASM) research reports. Department for Transport.
  2. Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (eds.) (2016) The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

With the growth of investment in distributed electricity generation, the number of potential sellers of electricity to final consumers has hugely increased. This is potentially destabilising for electricity markets. In most jurisdictions, the majority of the electricity that is generated is sold in wholesale markets to 'suppliers' or 'retailers', who then sell the electricity to final users. 'Self-supply' of electricity generated on site is widely allowed, but there are generally regulatory barriers to selling electricity on a small scale, either to neighbouring properties or, via the grid, to a wider market. These relate in part to the structures of the market, designed for large scale generation, but also to the need to protect electricity users, especially vulnerable customers. However, there is now widespread demand for, and increasingly examples of, 'peer to peer' electricity sales.

The research will address questions related to the changes to electricity markets implied by more widespread 'peer to peer' sales. It will involve reviewing existing and planned business models; and interrogation of the market design and regulatory measures that encourage or discourage this practice. It is likely that this will involve research in more than one country. It is expected that there will be an emphasis on the policies required to allow commercial innovation whilst retaining acceptable levels of consumer protection, and therefore that the research has potential to inform energy policy.

The research is highly interdisciplinary, so will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary research. The student should be numerate and be willing to learn and apply new skills in fields as disparate as technology assessment, regulatory economics and electrical engineering. It is expected that (s)he will undertake primary research with industry and policy makers in more than one country. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy (Integrate). It is envisaged that the student will be affiliated to these programmes and will have access to the range of broader research, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response, being undertaken within them.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Explore possible funding opportunities. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

If the world is to address climate change effectively, energy systems will need to be transformed in the first half of this century. It is now widely accepted that this will require massive adoption of renewable electricity sources, such as wind and solar power. Analyses also show that major improvements in the efficiency of energy use will be required. Usually, the two are considered separately, as 'supply side' and 'demand side' changes. However, such an approach is not satisfactory, as the type of fuels used affect energy efficiency significantly. The most obvious examples are in the electrification of heat and transport. These are usually thought of as 'supply decarbonisation', in that they enable low-carbon electricity to substitute for direct use of fossil fuels. However, they imply the use of technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, which also enable large improvements in energy efficiency. There is greater complexity in end uses where electrification is problematic, such as industrial processes, freight transport and non-electric heating. In these cases, new energy vectors such as hydrogen are possible, and the implications for energy efficiency depend on the details of the energy conversion processes over the supply chain.

The research will address questions related to the change in energy efficiency driven by the decarbonisation of supply chains for different end uses of energy. It could involve reviewing the existing literature on decarbonisation scenarios and low-carbon energy technology options; the development of simple models of decarbonised energy systems and more qualitative assessment of technology costs and social acceptability on various timescales. The research could use cases studies of one or more country.

The research topic is interdisciplinary, so will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary research. The student should be highly numerate and be willing to learn and apply new skills in fields as disparate as technology assessment, energy modelling and theories of energy transitions. It is expected that (s)he will work closely with analysts in industry and policy makers. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy (Integrate). It is envisaged that the student will be affiliated to these programmes and will have access to the range of broader research, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response, being undertaken within them.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Explore possible funding opportunities. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

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.