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Summer undergraduate project: Uncovering a hidden oceanic pathway using numerical particle tracking experiments

British Antarctic Survey

Supervisor: Dr Dan Jones, British Antarctic Survey 
Co-supervisor 1: Dr Marie-Jose Messias, University of Exeter 
Co-supervisor 2: Dr Herlé Mercier, Ifremer, France 
Funding status: Funded by NERC GW4+ DTP
Applications due by 18:00 on 21 May. Selections will be made by 28 May. 

REP Tracer 18 JPG

Project description:

Ship-based observational campaigns have detected small amounts of synthetic tracers in unexpected regions of the deep North Atlantic Ocean. These anomalous signals are thought to be sourced from a deliberate tracer release event in the Greenland Sea, but the pathway followed by the synthetic tracer remains ambiguous. We aim to test the hypothesis that a significant fraction of the synthetic tracer followed an unexpected, little-known circulation pathway along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. To locate the pathway and quantify its transport, we will perform numerical particle tracking experiments using existing software and observationally-constrained, high-resolution, ready-made velocity fields.

The selected student will principally work at the British Antarctic Survey as part of the Polar Oceans Team under the 5-year NERC ACSIS project on North Atlantic circulation and climate. The student will visit co-supervisor Marie-Jose Messias at the University of Exeter to learn about synthetic tracer release experiments and to visit her mobile trace gas detection laboratory. In addition, the student will spend one week at Ifremer in Plouzané, France to learn how to use Ariane particle-tracking software. Co-supervisors Messias and Mercier will fund the student’s travel and accommodation outside of Cambridge. Numerical simulations and analysis will be carried out on the newly-upgraded BAS computing cluster.

The ideal student will have strong numerical and computing skills, including some background in programming. During this REP, the student will gain competence with an important numerical analysis technique, as well as familiarity with handling, visualising, and analysing large oceanographic datasets. The student will become familiar with oceanography as an active area of research through interacting with scientists at three different institutes, performing a literature search, and visiting a working mobile laboratory. The student will retain ownership of their work and will be credited in any publications that use their results.

We suggest the following rough schedule, although the visit to Exeter can be shifted if necessary:

  • Week 1 (BAS): Induction. Start literature review
  • Week 2 (U. Exeter): Visit trace gas detection lab, continue literature review
  • Week 3 (Ifremer, France): Learn how to use Ariane software
  • Weeks 4-5 (BAS): Carry out numerical particle tracking experiments
  • Weeks 6-8 (BAS): Visualise and analyse particle trajectories, test hypotheses related to the trajectory of the synthetic tracer
  • Week 9 (BAS): Write short report and give an informal presentation on the project
To apply, please send the following directly to the lead supervisor:

  • CV (no more than two pages)
  • Reference contact details (no written references needed at this stage)
  • Transcripts
  • Brief covering letter (one page)
Eligibility of students

The students must:
  • Be studying for an undergraduate degree in a quantitative discipline outside of NERC’s scientific remit (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics).
  • Be applying for a placement in a different department to their undergraduate degree.
  • Be undertaking their first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters).
  • Be expected to obtain a first or upper second class UK honours degree.
  • Be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (i.e. UK, EU or right to remain in the UK).

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