Summer REPs 2024

Summer Research Experience Placements (REPs)

This year our Summer REPs are targeted at student groups that are typically under-represented at Oxford, and within higher education pathways in general.  The programme will allow students to get valuable research experience, including those who normally need to work during the holidays.  They also give students the added opportunity to become familiar with an Oxford department and to network with staff and students. Each Summer REP student will have a student mentor from the DTP in Environmental Research to help them to settle in, to answer questions about student life at Oxford, and to form a point of contact during the placement.  In addition to this a number of sessions will be included to welcome interns and to give informaiton about the application process, and routes to funding for a PhD.  We hope that this will encourage talented students UK-wide the confidence to apply to Oxford for a PhD, who might not otherwise consider it.

This year, we will again be offering free accommodation for the duration of the Summer REPs for students coming from outside Oxford, in addition to the salary.  We will be basing salary on the UKRI stated wage band for 23+ (to be confirmed plus free accommodation), irrespective of age.  We assume a working week of 37 hours.


You must be an undergraduate, and not have completed your degree at the time of the placement.

You must be eligible to be funded by NERC (UK resident, or pre-settled/settled status).

Students from any discipline will be eligible, but shoudl express an interest in pursuing an environmental sciences career. 

As part of our commitment to promoting equity, we are applying the same additional eligibility requirements as UNIQ+


Deadline to apply is 21st May:

If you wish to apply for a project, you should first make contact with the supervisor to discuss the project and then go to the online application form. 


Oxford has 6 Summer REPs on offer this year.


1. AI for grassland resilience

Supervisor: Dr Rob Salguero-Gomez (Biology) and Nick Hawes (Oxford Robotics Institute)

Please contact

Grasslands occupy a large extent of terrestrial ecosystems and provide key ecosystem services. However, these ecosystems are currently under high environmental stress due to human actions, including but not limited to fertilisation, mechanism disturbances, land degradation, etc. As such, the preservation of the resilience of grasslands is key for the continued provision of their ecosystem services… but how to go about preserving them most efficiently? In this project, the NERC REP student will be integrated in an interdisciplinary consortium of quantitative ecologists, robotics engineers, and computer vision experts at Oxford to solve this fundamental ecological challenge. Taking advantage of the experimental design of the DRAGNet network (, the student will help develop AI algorithms to autonomously identify presence/absence and trends in species diversity based on the three years of accumulated data at Wytham Woods, as well as the incoming growing season’s data in 2024. The student will develop key skills such as fieldwork species identification and data collection, usage of hyperspectral cameras and light-weight drones, programming, and development of neural networks.

2. Navigating the Anthropocene: how does landscape development shape the routes pigeons follow home?

Supervisor: Dr Graham Taylor, Department of Biology

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The structure and appearance of the visual landscape shapes the movement ecology of visually-oriented animals such as birds. This summer project uses homing pigeons as a model for understanding how the landscape influences navigation behaviour, building on two decades of research at the John Krebs Field Station, Wytham. Previous work using GPS trackers has shown that pigeons learn to follow specific routes home by following linear features such as roads and rivers. This project builds upon these earlier findings by exploring whether the routes that pigeons learn are modified by intervening changes in the environment such as the construction of new housing or solar farms. The student will assist in new pigeon releases undertaken as part of an international collaboration between the University of Oxford (Prof. Graham Taylor) and the University of Rochester (Prof. Dora Biro). Working alongside a postdoctoral researcher (Dr Joe Morford), the student will analyse the GPS tracks they collect using simple mapping tools such as Google Earth, and will compare these to the routes learned by other birds released from the same sites in previous decades. They will then interpret any apparent changes in light of the intervening changes to the visual landscape. This work will serve as a pilot study and baseline for a future long-term study analysing the effects of planned changes in the built environment.


3. Tidally driven flow in Earth's core

Supervisors: Richard Katz, James Bryson, Hamish Hay, Department of Earth Sciences

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Tides are a means by which rotational kinetic energy is transferred to deformation and flow within planetary bodies, and subsequently into heat or magnetic field generation (and Ohmic dissipation).  Tides affect almost every planetary body in the solar system, including Earth.  A key question about Earth is how tidal forces have driven flow within the core through Earth history.  This is particularly important for early Earth, before the growth of the solid inner core.  This project will use a new spectral solver framework, Dedalus, to model tidally driven flows in a liquid metal core.  To simplify the problem, the Lorentz force will be neglected, and hence any coupling between flow and magnetism will be considered as only affecting the magnetic field.  But the project will focus on understanding how tides can drive flows within a core, and how these might interact with convective flows.

The student will attend research group meetings, learning about a range of projects and networking with DPhil students and postdocs.  Research will involve learning in fields of palaeomagnetism, fluid dynamics, numerical methods, orbital mechanics.   

Applicants should have familiarity with partial differential equations and fluid dynamics, and some programming experience (in any language).

4. Do igneous intrusions pose a seal risk for CCUS prospects in the Southern North Sea?

Supervisor: Dr Joe Cartwright, Department of Earth Sciences

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The overall goal of this project is to characterise the intrusion geometries of dolerite intrusions associated with the Palaeocene magmatic province of NW Britain in the SNS. Dykes are well known, and mapped across the area of CCUS activity by Carver et al. 2023, but sills have only been identified to a much more limited extent. Specifically, the aim will be to answer the key question: 'what implications do these different modes of intrusion during the Palaeocene have for seal potential for CCUS projects?' 


The main traps for the Bunter reservoir (a primary target for CO2 injection) are salt cored anticlines. These are often, but not always associated with supra-salt faults, and in many cases intersected by Palaeocene dykes that cross the major Triassic seal and reservoir and also the Permian (Zechstein) salt. The project will consider if there is any evidence linkng dyke emplacement to loss of seal integrity in the Triassic. 

The Zechstein evaporite sequence is the major regional seal for the Rotlegend resevoir, a target for CO2 stoarge in depleted gas fields. It is multilayered, and sills have been reported intruded into the Z3/Z4 boundary interval, a zone of preferential development of potassium salts. An open question is how do these sills propagate within the evaporite multilayer? Did their intrusion result in alteration of seal properties? Do intrusions facilitate fluid flow across otherwise sealing sequences?


The project will take advantage of a large 3D seismic database which can be calibrated with over 300 exploration boreholes. 

Training will be provided on the state of the art software package from Schlumberger, that allows rapid mapping of seismic horizons using autocorrelation algorithms. Training will be given in subsurface interpretation using seismic and well data- essential skills for anyone interested in the energy transition arena.

A strong background in geology is a necessary requirement for this project.


5. Satellite measurements of volcanic clouds

Supervisor: Dr Isabelle Taylor, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary Physics

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Emissions of gas and ash from volcanoes are hazardous to health and to aircraft. Additionally, they can have significant impacts on the environment and climate. Studying them is important for minimising the hazards they present and for better understanding their impacts. Satellite data offers the opportunity to study volcanoes across the globe, including in remote or difficult to access regions, and allows us to track emissions as they are transported away from the source.

This project will look at volcanic emissions using satellite instruments such as the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) with which we can learn about the composition of the plume and the amount/height of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and ash within the volcanic cloud.

A background in physics, earth sciences, geography or similar subject area would be beneficial.

Some programming experience (eg Python) would be useful but not essential.


6. Detecting trace gases in the atmosphere using satellite data

Supervisor: Dr Anu Dudhia, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary Physics

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The project involves working within a group specialising in using satellite measurements of the Earth's infrared emission spectra to retrieve concentrations of a number of different atmospheric gases normally only present in small concentrations (SO2, NH3, C2H6, etc).

The project will involve writing Python code to analyse our data and compare these with other datasets, culminating in a written report and a final presentation to the group. The student will be based in an office with other summer project students, with whom they are expected to collaborate, and also participate in weekly group meetings.

You should preferably have, or be studying, a degree in physics and have Python programming experience.