PhD Studentship - Observing the Ocean Surface Layers with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (MATTHEWS_UENV18NEX)

University of East Anglia

Primary supervisor: Dr Adrian Matthews

Start date: October 2018
Application deadline: 23:59 on 16 January 2018

Project description

The detailed vertical structure of the ocean near its surface has a major impact on how the ocean exchanges heat and momentum with the atmosphere, but is difficult to measure accurately with conventional oceanographic observations. The use of ocean gliders has provided a potential new data source of these near-surface measurements, as they are streamlined, free flying, and do not disturb the delicate near-surface structures they are attempting to measure. For example, recent glider observations in the Indian Ocean have revealed the detailed structures of diurnally formed surface warm layers in the upper few metres of the ocean. Together with the standard parameters used for surface manoeuvres at the beginning and end of each dive, the glider flight characteristics are sub-optimal for obtaining the best possible near-surface measurements. This project will investigate the effect of optimising glider flight characteristics on the quality of near-surface measurements.

The student will liaise with and be part of the piloting team for all glider missions run out of UEA and SAMS during the project. Once each glider is correctly trimmed and gathering high quality data, a small number of dives will be used to evaluate the improvement in near-surface data to changes in a number of glider flight parameters. In parallel, the student will use the large database of glider dives already generated by the UEA and SAMS glider groups, to evaluate the effect of glider flight parameter changes on near-surface data quality. A set of recommendations will be developed to optimise near-surface measurements at minimal cost to the quality of deeper measurements. The science questions to be addressed are the formation of surface diurnal warm layers, barrier layers, and near-surface mixing processes, and their impact on ocean-atmosphere fluxes.

The NEXUSS CDT provides state-of-the-art, highly experiential training in the application and development of cutting-edge Smart and Autonomous Observing Systems for the environmental sciences, alongside comprehensive personal and professional development. There will be extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial / government / policy partners. The student will be registered and hosted in the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) at UEA but will spend time based at SAMS in Oban working with engineers to share best practice for glider operations. Specific training will include:

  • Ocean glider piloting, operation, and data analysis
  • Oceanography, ocean dynamics, ocean physics
  • Computing and processing of large data sets
  • Seagoing and marine data collection skills
  • Use of glider hydrodynamical models use for optimising glider flight characteristics and near-surface measurements


A degree in Engineering, Geophysics, Mathematics, Oceanography or Marine Science, Physics, Natural Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Meteorology, or Climate Sciences (minimum 2:1 or equivalent).


Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC/EPSRC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources. 

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