Research

QCES student will spend 4 months (Part III) or 6 months (MPhil) completing research projects, supervised by a member of the University of Cambridge or the British Antarctic Survey

Multidisciplinary skills will be developed through diverse topics addressed in the course combined with a research project which will prepare students for careers in many sectors of the economy dealing with climate and environmental impacts.

Research Projects

for Part III

Part III students will spend 4 months completing an independent research project, culminating in a report due at the start of Easter term, along with a research presentation. 

for MPhil

MPhil students will spend 6 months (Jan-July) completing research projects, which will be individually supervised by a member of the University of Cambridge or the British Antarctic Survey. The research projects will culminate in a presentation and a dissertation. 

Examples of Research Projects

Many projects will be on offer for both Part III and MPhil students, but the specific projects will vary from year to year. The projects listed below are only a few indicative examples.

for Part III

How does the Earth’s rotation influence convection? Convection occurs in the ocean and atmosphere when the fluid is heated from below or cooled from above. On sufficiently large scales (e.g. mesoscale convective systems or deep ocean convection), the Earth’s rotation influences convective currents. This Part III project would use laboratory experiments in a rotating tank to study the influence of rotation on convective motions.
How do eddies mix the ocean? Turbulent eddies with scales between 1-100km are ubiquitous features in the ocean. While they are very important for distributing tracers (e.g. heat and carbon) in the ocean, eddies are not fully captured in climate models. This Part III project would analyse an existing dataset from a simulation of eddies in the Southern Ocean (see ocean surface temperature field in image above) to study the heat transport by ocean eddies.
What controls the greenhouse gas flux from managed ecosystems? This Part III project could include a combination of fieldwork, laboratory experiments and/or modelling to quantify the flux of CO2 and CH4 from soils as a function of soil type and management style. For example, students could ask what impact do changes in soil moisture have on greenhouse gas fluxes, combining lab experiments measuring the rate of change in soil moisture content with field measurements of soil moisture and greenhouse gas content.
How do biogeochemical changes in ocean chemistry link to the carbon flux surface to deep? This Part III project could include leveraging the growing database of ocean chemistry from recent ocean transects including GEOTRACES to parameterise existing biogeochemical models for carbon and nutrient export from surface-to-deep in the ocean. Combining mesoscale (~100km) transport with growing chemical databases will allow better leveraging of these databases to quantify processes like particle export from the surface to the deep.

for MPhil

How do plumes interact with stratification in the Earth’s mantle? In the Earth’s mantle, plumes transport from the outer core to the Earth’s crust. The release of this heat leads to widespread volcanic activity. The mantle is chemically stratified, and these compositional changes influence the rising plumes.  This MPhil project will use laboratory experiments of salt-stratified water, heated from below, to study the interaction between mantle plumes and stratification.
How do billow clouds develop and evolve? Billow clouds develop when the vertical wind shear is sufficiently strong to overcome the stabilizing effects of density. This MPhil project would use state of the art numerical simulations (see image above) to study the processes that lead to the formation, interactions, and breakdown of billow cloud formation.
How does land management practice influence the type and amount of methane production in different ecosystem? This MPhil project would include fieldwork and modelling to use the isotopic composition of methane measured in the field to model the pathway of methane production and release as a function of agriculture type, water table depth, plant type, and anthropogenic influence. Field scale models of groundwater hydrology would be combined with an isotope enabled reactive transport model to determine the production and flow of greenhouse gases in the field. Of particular interest is the difference between the net production versus the gross production and consumption.
How does particle size distribution impact the transport of microplastics in groundwater systems? Microplastic particles can enter groundwater systems where they can contaminate water supply. This MPhil project would involve a series of lab experiments in a flume tank and numerical modelling to understand how the transport of microplastics varies as a function of porosity and particle size.
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