PhD – Shear Madness: Plug and Play Monitoring – Developing Novel Solutions for Marine Observations with Divers as Citizen Scientists

PhD – Shear Madness: Plug and Play Monitoring – Developing Novel Solutions for Marine Observations with Divers as Citizen Scientists (KAISER_UENV17NEX)

University of East Anglia – Environmental Sciences
Qualification type: PhD

Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students

Closes: 16th January 2017

Start Date: October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Prof Jan Kaiser

Project Rationale

Massive deployments of autonomous sensors can deliver large amounts of data and provide novel solutions for marine monitoring. This can help overcome limitations of remote sensing (e.g. inability to “see” below clouds) and reduce costs. One such approach that has gained recent traction is “citizen science” where interested laypeople collect data on smart phones, tablets or scuba divers’ computers.

The aim of this project is to develop the enabling technology and to analyse the potential of low-cost monitoring solutions for physically and biologically relevant data from marine environments. Initially the project will focus on working with scuba divers to source water temperature from dive computers to test the emerging technology, with scope to include other measurements like salinity and oxygen later.


Initial work will focus on the development of appropriate software interfaces to collect temperature data from dive computers, using the “diveintoscience” platform as a base. This builds upon Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP architecture, particularly to improve upload and visualisation facilities for citizens, professional scientists, and decision-makers. A machine-learning ensemble-based methodology will be developed for:

(a) Assessing the quality of the submitted data automatically;

(b) Integrating with other traditional, citizen and remotely sensed datasets;

(c) Visualisation.

Maps of inshore temperatures will be created to detect hydrographic features such as fronts and thermoclines. This will be linked to biological data to assess the impact on populations of young fish, species distribution, and commercial activities such as aquaculture. Comparisons with model hindcasts will be done to assess limitations in accuracy and resolution.


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, industrial and policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and hosted at UEA and CASE partner Cefas.

The student will acquire numerical and computing skills including the development of systems for analysis of large data sets. They can attend suitable Masters level course to acquire background knowledge in physical and biological oceanography. The student will gain understanding of marine policy and management through close linkages with government scientists at Cefas and work with the NERC scientific diving unit to understand the challenges with diver-based sensors and new technology being developed. They will also build skills in citizen science and scientific outreach and there is the potential to work with dive organisations to deploy sensors.

Person specification: Minimum entry 2:1 in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Engineering, Oceanography, Marine Science, Computing Sciences, Mathematics, or other relevant subject.

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