PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities for 2016 are now closed and the relevant application deadlines have passed.

All our doctoral training opportunities are through Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) or Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT).

Eligibility: NERC studentships are bound by the Research Councils UK Grant Terms and Conditions including residency and minimum qualifications. Doctoral Training in Environmental Research in the UK provides a useful summary of these.

The BGS has three categories of PhDs:

Opportunities for PhDs starting in 2016 will be listed by BGS science area when available.

BGS Hosted opportunities

Centre for Environmental Geochemistry
Are land-use decisions of African elephants based on environmental geochemistry?

BGS Supervisor: Michael Watts and Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Martin Broadley and Lisa Yon

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham

The supply of essential minerals to humans and animals is influenced by the local mineral characteristics of soils. Plants growing in mineral-deficient soils lack key minerals, resulting in deficiencies in those consuming the plants.

The primary aim of this project is to assess the influence of environmental geochemistry on land use decisions by wild African elephants. Mineral levels in a range of biological samples (serum, urine, nails, hair) from elephants at five UK zoos will be measured to validate their use as possible biomarkers of mineral status in wild elephants, alongside mineral analyses of soil, food and water consumed by these elephants. This first phase of the project will involve using advanced inductively coupled mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) techniques. Stable isotope data from tail hairs will determine seasonal variation in their diet.

The second phase of this project will apply these validated methods to a case study of wild African elephants. The multi-element capability of ICP-MS for measuring environmental and biomonitoring samples will enable the estimation of mineral balance and potential metal uptake from the discharge of a phosphate mine in South Africa.

The working hypothesis for the project is that elephants for this particular case study in South Africa are deficient in phosphorus, owing to a phosphorous deficiency in the (soil and) forage in the associated National Park; this drives the elephants to supplement their phosphorus from the water, soil and forage on the land surrounding the phosphorus mine. Elephant incursions into human settlements near this mine have resulted in human-elephant conflict, causing risk of injury and loss of income. This project may identify key locations in the elephants’ home range at which mineral-supplemented forage, or mineral licks, may be placed to reduce the drive to seek additional sources of phosphorus; this could reduce human-elephant conflict.

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Michael Watts (British Geological Survey), Dr Lisa Yon (University of Nottingham, School of Veterinary Medicine & Science), or Professor Martin Broadley (University of Nottingham, Dept. Plant Nutrition).

Climate and Landscape Change
Lignin as a tracer for terrestrial vegetation across the river-estuarine-coastal continuum

BGS Supervisor: Chris Vane

University Supervisor: Colin Snape

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham

Introduction: Biogeochemical processes in rivers, estuaries and coastal seas play key roles in the global carbon cycle by controlling the flux of material from land to sea. It has been estimated that as little as 10% terrestrial organic matter (TOM) is transferred from river to eventual burial in continental margins. However, what is not clear is where the C comes from and what fraction is decomposed and where within the river-estuary it is sequestered. Information on C provenance along the river–estuarine continuum is routinely elicited from sediments using bulk δ13C in combination with C/N values by ascription to isotopic-bulk geochemical biological 'end members'. However, although these approaches broadly estimate marine as compared to terrestrial C they are insensitive to changing terrestrial vascular plant sources due to confounding factors such as, biochemical heterogeneity, variable taphanomic decay susceptibilities and over-lapping primary source values.

Approach: This project aims to identify the vascular plant sources encountered down a river transects (land to sea) using a molecular biomarker approach to quantitatively understand the source(s), degradation processes and fate of terrestrial particulate organic matter in sediments. The PhD will focus on the use of lignin because it provides the greatest potential as a tracer due to its ubiquitous presence in all true vascular plants, its relatively high resistance to biotic and abiotic alteration as well as retention of source specific characteristic phenolic fingerprints. We will employ state-of-the-art analytical techniques such as solid-state 13C NMR to provide a broad overview of the main structural biopolymers namely cellulose, xylans and lignin and employ analytical pyrolysis-GC/MS and off-line chemolysis-GC/MS using standard and 13C-labelled tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) to characterise the lignin fraction.

The manifold inputs can be distinguished because lignin from different types of vegetation differ in the ratio of phenylpropanoid units and inter-unit linkages. Gymnosperm woods are mainly comprised of guaiacyl (G) units (80%) with p-hydroxyphenyl (H) (15%) and syringyl (S) (5%) whereas angiosperm woods exhibit monomer ratios of approximately equal amounts of S, P and H in contrast grasses including many agricultural crops (barley, wheat) have equal proportions of all three monomers. Elevated concentrations of ferulic (F) and p-coumaric acids (P) can also separate non-woody angiosperm and non-woody gymnosperm plants. Also decomposition of lignin is mainly driven by the action of certain soil inhabiting fungi which thrive in upper soil horizons (oxygenated) and cause a variety of structural modifications including demethylation, dehydoxylation and oxidative cleavage of alkyl side-chains between the α-β position. Therefore, increasing Acid/Aldehyde (Ad/AlG), (Ad/Als) and decreasing S/G values can potentially indicate either:(1) warm wet conditions and, (2) that the lignin fraction of had long residence times in oxygenated soils and flood plain deposits.

Study Sites: A central theme of this project is that it utilises existing BGS study sites and the planned NERC cross-centre land to sea observational studies (critical zone observatories projects BGS/CEH/NOC/HEIs) namely LOCATE and RUBIC. Consequently, the project will opportunistically access samples collected from Conwy Tamar, Thurso and the Thames. The student will therefore be expected to undertake additional field work in collaboration with other centres and organisations (e.g. EA and Port of London).

Technical Challenges: Measurement of lignin in aquatic and river-estuarine sediments in particular using 13C-labelled TMAH represents a challenge suitable for a PhD project. Firstly the reagent cannot be purchased commercially and will therefore need to be synthesised as part of the project, secondly the amounts of lignin phenols in outer reaches of estuaries can be low, due to sediment dilution, therefore, technical improvements in the chemolysis procedure will be pursued in order to broaden the techniques utility. Whilst most chemolysis studies have rightly focussed on the main monomers (methylated phenols with alkyl side chains) we will also attempt to characterise the dimeric units which are released during cleavage of the β-O-4 inter-unit linkage, these retain ring to ring and side chain to side chain bonds that could be used to identify taxonomic source and decay of the polymer. Combined the resulting lignin phenol (monomer and dimer) concentrations will then be evaluated using a variety of standard lignin phenol bi-plots and multivariate statistical (e.g. PCA, Cluster analysis) alongside developing develop new binary equations for the purpose of improved source apportionment.

Research Questions:

  1. Quantify gradient of vascular plant input from head to mouth of selected UK river-estuaries
  2. how much terrestrial C escapes the river-estuarine transition zone out to coastal shelf
  3. do local changes in lignin composition correspond to varying sub-catchment land-use change (agricultural soils, forests, riparian marshes, flood plains, eroding salt-marshes, peri-urban, urban) and how far downstream within the main channel are these signatures observed
  4. How microbial altered is the sedimentary OM and is there selective removal / alteration of specific lignin types
  5. What is the relationship between grain size-lignin chemistry and transport distance
  6. Do lignin dimers offer new insights into the provenance, decay state of sedimentary terrestrial organic matter

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Chris Vane.

Engineering Geology
Geophysical indicators of slope stability: towards improved early warning of landslide hazards

BGS Supervisor: Jon Chambers

University Supervisor: Mike Kendall

DTP: GW4-Plus, Bristol University

Most current methodologies for assessing landslide hazard are heavily dependent on surface observations (e.g. remote sensing or walk-over surveys). These approaches generally neglect the influences of subsurface structure and hydrogeological processes on landslide triggering and activation; instead they typically only quantify the surface expressions of slope failure events once they have been initiated. Consequently, there is a growing interest in the development geophysical approaches for investigating slope stability (e.g. Perrone et al., 2014). Geophysical techniques have the potential to provide volumetric subsurface information revealing the internal structure and hydraulic process within the slope or landslide body – thereby providing an indication of subsurface precursors to slope failure (e.g. elevated moisture distributions) and possibly early warning of failure events.

Here we seek to develop two very promising, and complementary, geophysical approaches for slope characterisation – geoelectrical and seismic methods. Geoelectrical imaging is sensitive to lithological variability, and crucially with recent advances in monitoring instrumentation, changing moisture conditions in the subsurface. Seismic methods, such as P and S wave tomography, can provide information on the engineering properties of the subsurface in terms of strength, stiffness and compressibility. Emerging developments in the area of geophysical inverse theory now enable joint inversion of geoelectrical and seismic data – thereby improving image resolution and enhancing the information content of the resulting interpretations. Our hypothesis is that the combined use of geoelectrical and seismic monitoring will provide the means to investigate subsurface processes at unprecedented levels of spatial and temporal resolution – thereby providing an enhanced diagnostic and predictive capability for early warning of failure events within vulnerable slopes.

The student will have access to a number of geophysical observatories on natural and engineered slopes, all of which are instrumented with geophysical monitoring systems and environmental / geotechnical sensor networks (e.g. weather stations, pore pressure, tilt, and moisture content). A key site is the Hollin Hill Observatory in North Yorkshire (Merritt et al., 2014), which BGS has been operating since 2008 on an active landslide in Lias Clays in North Yorkshire, UK. This observatory has a permanently installed resistivity monitoring system, seismic survey data, and a broad band seismometer. The primary purpose of the seismometer is to monitoring fracking activities in the Vale of Pickering – but will also be capable of monitoring shallow landslide movements at the site. This combination of sensors, instrumentation and surveys provides the potential to investigate both moisture-driven and seismically induced landslide events.


Merritt, A J, Chambers, J E, Murphy, W, Wilkinson, P B, West, L J, Gun, D A, Meldrum, P I, Kirkham, M, and Dixon, N. 2014. 3D ground model development for an active landslide in Lias mudrocks using geophysical, remote sensing and geotechnical methods. Landslides, 11, 537-550.

Perrone, A., Lapenna, V. & Piscitelli, S. 2014. Electrical resistivity tomography technique for landslide investigation: A review. Earth-Science Reviews, 135, 65-82.

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Jon Chambers.

Geophysical Characterisation of Fractures in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Reservoirs

BGS Supervisor: Oliver Kuras

University Supervisor: James Verdon

DTP: GW4-Plus, Bristol University

Unconventional hydrocarbons are sources of oil and gas requiring methods for extraction that are not normally associated with traditional hydrocarbon production. If such unconventionals can be extracted safely and economically, it could provide a substantial boost to the local and national economies, and help to ensure energy security for the U.K. as North Sea gas supplies steadily decline. Recent estimates suggest that shale host rocks in northern England contain as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In addition to shale gas, other unconventional resources (e.g. coal-bed methane) may provide further reserves. A critical factor common to unconventional hydrocarbons is that their extraction must make use of complex fracture networks, either naturally occurring in the reservoir rocks or induced by hydraulic stimulation, to allow fluids to flow from the rock into the wellbore. Therefore, the development and refinement of techniques that are capable of (1) mapping and characterising fracture networks in-situ and (2) monitoring fluid flow through them is vital to our understanding of the performance of unconventional reservoirs.

Models of discrete fracture networks are parameterised in terms of fracture orientations, sizes, intensities, spatial patterning and hydraulics, based on geological and geophysical data. Some modern geophysical methods (including microseismics and geoelectrical/EM imaging) show great potential for characterising fracture properties in unconventional reservoirs. However, their effectiveness is currently limited by a lack of joint geophysical interpretation and calibration at both the core and field-scale. Moreover, linking geophysical monitoring data to the overall reservoir response is still challenging.

This project will investigate the combined ability of geophysical techniques to image fractures and parameterise fracture networks in the subsurface. In particular, the student will conduct near-surface geophysical field surveys of rocks that are relevant for unconventional gas, including outcrops of the Bowland Shale (surface and/or borehole), and in the Spireslack opencast coalmine. These field measurements, along with laboratory measurements on core samples, will be used to calibrate rock physics models of these rocks. The calibrated models will then be upscaled to simulate the expected geophysical response from these rocks at depth, where they are prospective for unconventional gas resources. These simulations will be used to assess the effectiveness of different techniques and technique combinations for characterising fractures at depth. They will also contribute to the design of geophysical monitoring arrays with a view to maximising sensitivity and detection accuracy.

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Oliver Kuras. Contact number: +44 (0) 0115 936 3416

Combining geoelectrical imaging and X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) for improved hydraulic characterisation of soils

BGS Supervisor: Oliver Kuras

University Supervisor: Sacha Mooney

CDT: STARS, Nottingham University

Soils are the host for hydrological and biogeochemical processes in the unsaturated zone. However, variations in soil structure and hydraulic properties remain difficult to quantify, hence improved physical characterisation at multiple scales is vitally important if we want to truly understand fluid dynamics and the fate of nutrients and pollutants in soils.

Current soil imaging methodologies operate at different spatial scales, are sensitive to different physical properties, and have distinctive strengths. Rapid advances have recently been made in two promising, but unconnected fields, namely geoelectrical imaging and X-ray Computed Tomography (CT). Modern geophysical techniques evaluate geophysical properties of soils to infer spatiotemporal models of hydrological properties or states. Novel instrumentation with permanent sensor arrays allows continuous geophysical monitoring of soil volumes in near-real time and with practical resolutions in the cm range on soil columns. Conversely, CT maps variations of spatial attenuation of EM radiation with material densities, which allows examination of the soil porous architecture at the microscopic level. State-of-the-art CT systems achieve much higher spatial resolution than geophysics (~10 m voxels on 10 mm samples), however accurate segmentation of soil images is non-trivial, a trade-off exists between sample size and resolution, and repeat measurements, e.g. to track moisture dynamics, are time-consuming.

Integration of both methodologies has not been attempted so far, however their joint application to quantitative soil characterisation offers great potential for reducing uncertainty in the imaging of preferential flow and estimation of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. This would benefit studies of agricultural and industrial leaching of contaminants in different soil scenarios.

Project aims:

  • Design and undertake pioneering laboratory experiments using concurrent CT and geophysical measurements on soil columns or core;
  • Assess the potential of synergetic imaging by exploiting complementarity;
  • Establish theoretical and quantitative modelling frameworks to explain observed results.

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Oliver Kuras. Contact number: +44 (0) 0115 936 3416

Geology and Regional Geophysics
The interplay between fracture networks, fluid flow and microseismicity

BGS Supervisor: Richard Haslam

University Supervisor: Max Werner

DTP: GW4Plus, Bristol University

Fracture networks in the Earth’s crust play a key role in many crustal processes. For example, they may constrain the direct flow of fluids, influence mechanical properties of the crust and constrain the locations and orientations of micro‐seismic events. Unfortunately, fracture networks are difficult to image at depth, and we therefore have a limited understanding of the properties of deep fracture networks and the effects these have on the rockmass. Exhumed fracture networks present the unique opportunity to analyse these structures at the surface using modern geological and geophysical imaging techniques. The goal of this PhD project is to improve our understanding of the interplay between fracture networks, fluid flow and micro‐seismicity using computer models that are constrained by geological and geophysical observations.

The proposed project consists of two phases. The first phase consists of obtaining detailed characterisations of exhumed fracture networks (predominantly in the UK) using modern and complementary geological and geophysical techniques. Methods include visual imaging (including photogrammetry), seismic imaging (obtaining anisotropic elastic properties), as well as measuring rock mechanical properties (permeability, porosity, frictional properties) in the laboratory. The complementary measurements will provide a unique characterised dataset of fracture networks.

The second phase consists of building a computer model that captures the observations and that can be used as a synthetic laboratory to explore important questions: How do micro‐seismic events change the state of stress and the flow of fluids in the fracture network? How does fluid injection change the pore pressure and the state of stress, and how might it contribute to micro‐quakes? How do fractures affect the mechanical and flow properties of the medium (such as those imaged by seismology)?

The outcomes of this project will shed greater light on the interplay between fracture networks, fluid flow and microseismicity. This insight is crucial given increasing fluid injections and hydraulic stimulation of reservoirs in the context of carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy, and oil and gas exploration. More generally, the intertwined evolution of fractures, stress and fluids may contribute to improved physics based models of seismicity, with applications to probabilistic seismic hazard and risk assessment globally.

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Richard Haslam. Contact number: +44 (0) 01159363195

Minerals and Waste
Epithermal paleosurface evolution in emergent volcanoes: implications for shallow submarine mineral deposit exploration and preservation

BGS Supervisor: Jon Naden

University Supervisor: Frances Cooper

DTP: GW4Plus, Bristol University

Figure 1. A. Location of Milos in the active Aegean arc; B. Satellite image of Milos Island with key mineral, hydrothermal, and volcanological features located; C. Computer generated virtual landscape (aerial photography draped over a 2m-resolution LiDAR digital elevation model) of the Triades Pb-Zn-Ag-Cu deposit (spoil heaps located in centre left of image); D. Virtual landscape of the same area with a Landsat clay alteration map overlain – white and red areas indicate intense clay alteration; E. Virtual landscape with draped geology showing the distribution of submarine lava domes (purple) and their hyaloclastite aprons (purple triangles and orange dashed lines).
Figure 2. Field images of surficial epithermal features and products A. Exhumed submarine paleotopography – high ground comprises lava domes with the slopes and lower ground formed of hyaloclastic material; B & C. Active fumaroles and associated advanced argillic alteration; D. Native sulfur forming around an active fumarole; E. Possible geyser vent mound – high ground in the background is the Proftis Ilias–Chondro Vouno Au-Ag deposit [2]; F. Sinter with syneresis cracks G. Steam-heated alteration with flat lying silica ridge formed at the paleogroundwater table;  H. Submarine diffuse sub-seafloor vent system in baritised sandstone; I. Algal mats and manganese oxide mineralisation forming on the paleoseafloor; J. hydrothermal iron-rich cherts.

Active geothermal and volcanic-hydrothermal systems are commonly associated with characteristic near surface and surface landscape products and structures resulting from the discharge of thermal fluids. Relics of these surface features and products can be preserved in a range of epithermal mineral deposits, which are significant sources of Au, Ag, Cu and by-product technology metals (e.g. Sb, Te and Se). Moreover, they can serve as vectors to mineralisation

  1. It is also known that epithermal style mineralisation can extend into the submarine environment
  2. which is an emerging field for mineral exploration and exploitation and is currently attracting significant international and national research funding to help secure the supply of a range of raw materials

The intention of the PhD project is to extend our understanding and knowledge of paleo-geothermal and volcanic-hydrothermal systems into the shallow submarine environment.

Two key research questions will be addressed:

  1. What are the key geological, geochemical, and mineralogical features of shallow submarine epithermal paleosurfaces and how do these relate to different mineral deposit styles?
  2. How does paleosurface aggradation and degradation affect deposit evolution as volcanism transitions from the submarine to subaerial environment?

The questions will answered by undertaking a programme of research on a recently (<2 Ma) emergent volcano – Milos island, Greece (Fig 1A) – that is an on-land natural laboratory for studying volcanic-hydrothermal processes in the submarine environment (Fig. 1B).

The project will employ the following methodologies and techniques:

  • Remote sensing: A high-resolution airborne remote sensing data set (LiDAR, digital photography, hyperspectral SWIR imagery) will provide information on paleosurface features, geological structures and types of hydrothermal alteration (Fig 2C-E).
  • Fieldwork: Fieldwork will focus on detailed mapping and sampling of up to three paleosurface alteration systems (see Fig 2 for examples), mostly identified through interpretation of the remote sensing data. It will include the deployment of field-based-spectroscopic techniques (ASD/PIMA, hand-held XRF).
  • Mineralogy and geochemistry: Guided by the results of the field studies, a suite of samples will be collected for detailed mineralogical and geochemical analysis. Techniques to be deployed will include SEM and XRD to determine mineralogy and mineral textures and ICP-MS analysis to provide information on the spatial distribution of trace elements, in particular semi-metal pathfinder elements such as Sb, As, and Te, in paleosurfaces and alteration zones.
  • Laboratory-based spectral analysis. Laboratory-based spectral analysis of rocks and hydrothermal alteration products will be undertaken to help underpin the interpretation of the satellite and airborne remote sensing data.
  • Geochronology: There will be a need to put paleosurface processes into the correct volcanological context. This will require a targeted geochronological study of alteration systems and their hosting volcanic rocks. Techniques to be utilized include U-Pb dating of zircon in the host volcanics, zircon and apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronology of material located in the cores of hydrothermal up-flow zones, Ar-Ar dating of alteration minerals such as adularia, and potentially cosmogenic nuclide dating of silicified paleosurfaces such as sinters.


[1] Sillitoe (in press) Epithermal paleosurfaces. Mineralium Deposita. DOI: 10.1007/s00126-015-0614-z

[2] Naden et al (2005). Active geothermal systems with entrained seawater as modern analogs for transitional volcanic-hosted massive sulfide and continental magmato-hydrothermal mineralization: The example of Milos Island, Greece. Geology 33: 541–544 DOI: 10.1130/G21307.1

Application procedure: Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send:

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate; no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project

By e-mail to

Further information: contact Dr Jon Naden. Contact number: +44 (0) 01159363280

BGS CASE opportunities

Centre for Environmental Geochemistry
Coupling of late Pliocene Indian monsoon variability and global climate: new data from IODP Expedition 353

BGS Supervisor: Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Kate Littler

DTP: GW4Plus, Exeter University

The Indian monsoon is one of the most powerful meteorological phenomena on the planet, affecting the lives of over a billion people. However, its behaviour in the near future under the influence of anthropogenic climate change is uncertain, particularly in terms of the intensity and amount of seasonal precipitation. The Pliocene (2.58–5.33 Ma) is the most recent period in Earth’s history with similar elevated global temperatures and CO2 levels to those predicted for the coming century, and may serve as a useful analogue for future climate and monsoon behaviour. The late Pliocene (˜3.3–2.5 Ma) was a time of great global change, witnessing the descent into Northern Hemisphere glaciation concurrent with a significant drop in CO2. Understanding the response of the monsoon system during this time of changing boundary conditions will further enhance our mechanistic understanding.

This project will utilise new deep-sea sediments recovered during IODP Expedition 353 (Dec 2014–Jan 2015). As this region has never been scientifically drilled before, these high-resolution cores represent an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the past behaviour of the Indian Monsoon through the application of sophisticated multi-proxy techniques. We will focus on two sites: U1448, Andaman Sea, and Site U1445, NE Indian Margin. Here we will generate coupled Mg/Ca and d18O records to reconstruct temperature and d18O seawater (salinity) changes of surface and thermocline-dwelling planktic foraminifera, at high (2kyr) resolution, allowing us to track the changing response of the monsoon to orbital forcing. These records will be compared to pollen, biomarker, and foraminifer assemblage data from the same samples, which will allow a holistic picture of orbitally-paced climatic change in the region to be constructed.

The student will be embedded within the Deep Time Global Change group at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Dr Littler, where facilities for sediment and foraminifer processing are available. The student will benefit from significant involvement with the British Geological Survey, where the majority of the stable isotope data will be generated under the supervision of Prof. Leng. The trace element data will be generated at the Open University under the supervision of Dr Anand. The student will also visit Dr Robinson at the United States Geological Survey in the USA to learn foraminiferal assemblage skills, and will attend the Exp. 353 Post-Cruise Meeting in India in spring 2017, where they will be fully embedded within the expedition's international scientific team.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dr Kate Littler. Contact number +44(0)01326 255725.

Climate and Landscape Change
Proxy-data climate-model comparisons using lake-isotope records of the last 2000 years

BGS Supervisor: Andy Barkwith

University Supervisor: Matt Jones

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham University

The last 2,000 years has become a key time frame for assessing the magnitude of anthropogenic impact on the climate system. Temperature has been the major research focus (e.g. PAGES 2k Consortium 2013 Nature Geoscience 6, 339-346), however hydroclimate (the patterns of precipitation and evaporation), particularly the extremes of drought and flood, arguably has a far greater impact on many societies worldwide (e.g. Dai, A. et al. 2004. International Journal of Climatology 24, 1323-1331).

This project will improve our understanding of precipitation and evaporation variability in the UK over the last 2,000 years using proxy data of past climate derived from lake isotope records alongside proxy system and climate models.

The project will

  1. produce new stable oxygen isotope data for the last 2,000 years from two lake sites
  2. produce new General Circulation Model simulations for the last 2,000 years which include isotope tracers to facilitate easier model data comparisons for this and future projects
  3. use models of how the proxy is produced from the climate of the time (a proxy system model), to improve proxy-data climate-model comparisons
  4. investigate the limits, in terms of the magnitude and temporal extent, of climate variability that can be recorded by isotopes in lake sediments, information which can be used to relate lake records back to climate in this, as well as future studies.

New cores spanning the last 2000 years (dated using 210Pb, 14C and U-series methods) will be obtained from two lake sites; Hawes Water a hardwater 'marl' lake in Cumbria and Rostherne Mere in Cheshire. The sites have been chosen as their isotope systematics are already well understood and a substantial amount of monitoring data is available to help create the proxy system models. Hawes Water is ˜ 225 m wide and 400 m in length, reaching a maximum depth of 12 m towards the centre. Despite its carbonate catchment previous work by project collaborator Marshall (Liverpool) has shown that the sediments within the lake precipitate in the lake waters and reflect lake water isotope values (Fisher et al. 2006 IAEA-CSP-26, 134-138). Rostherne Mere is also a relatively small (0.49 km2), deep (30 m), freshwater lake. Extensive monitoring work by project collaborator Ryves (Loughborough) has shown that authigenic carbonates are precipitated every summer (and are often clearly visible as distinct white bands in the sediments) following seasonal lake water δ18O values closely (Ryves et al. unpublished).

These new records of lake oxygen isotope changes over the last 2,000 years will be compared to climate simulations from isotope enabled versions of either the HadAM3 or HadCM3L climate models. These will run on a dedicated PC through the PhD programme, with limited simulation time also available on the BGS High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster. Based on the existing monitoring data and new monitoring work undertaken as part of this studentship lake isotope proxy system models for Hawes Water and Rostherne Mere will be developed and used to help compare the down-core isotope data with climate models by forward-modelling the lake system using climate model output to produce pseudoproxy time series to compare with sedimentary δ18O data.

The student will receive generic and project specific training. Transferrable skills training and training (research design, thesis writing etc) will be available via the University of Nottingham Graduate School and the East Midlands Postgraduate Consortium as well as via regular (at least 10 a year) supervisions with the two main supervisors, and other collaborators when appropriate. Specifically to the project the student will be provided with training in fieldwork; both in the collection of water samples and cores. Cores collected will allow the student to be trained in core curation and description and in the sampling and preparation of samples for isotope analysis. The student will receive training in the running and interpretation of data from climate models. The student will also receive training in sample preparation and analysis of lake carbonates for oxygen isotope analysis at the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory (NIGL), as well as in the interpretation of this data; including the development of proxy system models.

As part of the project, a 1 month internship at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia has been arranged. The student will spend time with Dr Josh Larsen and the Climate Research Group researching further modelling techniques for hydrological and geochemical systems. This will provide training in related, but different disciplines, to the core PhD training programme.

The student will spend a minimum of 10 weeks per year undertaking research at BGS; climate modelling and isotope analysis at the NIGL. In addition to BGS, Nottingham and The University of Queensland the project will involve collaboration with groups in Liverpool (Prof. Jim Marshall) and Loughborough (Dr David Ryves) ensuring the student will have an extended collaborative network, with opportunities to spend time at other institutions.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dr Matt Jones.

Plumbing the carbon cycle: agricultural headwater catchment respiration experiments under contrasting land use

BGS Supervisor: Daren Gooddy

University Supervisor: Fred Worral

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

Recent research has highlighted the importance of freshwater CO2 fluxes in the global carbon cycle (Butman and Raymond, 2011), but also many processes that are not well understood (Hotchkiss et al., 2015). The concentration of CO2 in streamwater is an integrated measure of the fate of carbon within a landscape (Worrall and Burt, 2005). Measurements of carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) and its flux (stream discharge) in headwater channels could offer an effective way to compare soil respiration over large (>1 km2) areas and also the contribution of CO2 from the turnover of particulate and dissolved carbon washed from the landscape. If the contributions to streamwater CO2 could be understand than not only can the contribution of streams to atmospheric CO2 be measured but also CO2 emissions from large areas can be mapped. Novel sensors are now available that mean this project can now measure pCO2 over short intervals (15 minutes) in both streamwater and their bed sediments.

New research has highlighted the importance of land cover on freshwater CO2 evasion at national scale but a range of confounding factors and a lack of temporal data, make it difficult to make inferences to parameterise national-scale models of changes in C flux. Based on scenarios for 2060 across the UK (Haines-Young, 2014), the largest change in land cover type by area will likely be between arable and grassland, accounting for as much as 2M hectares. Crucially, we do not know how such changes will influence carbon losses at a catchment scale. This can be resolved by experiments in adjacent, paired catchments (Palmer-Felgate, 2009) in which land use is dominated by either arable or grassland, but with the same geology, soils and climate. By monitoring pCO2 concentrations in both stream and bed sediment, we can quantify the relative importance of in-stream sources of carbon relative soil sources.

Using measurements of Carbon-14 (Billett et al., 2006) under high and low flow conditions we will determine the age of carbon transferred from the terrestrial biosphere to atmosphere via aquatic pathways and assess whether old stores of carbon will be unlocked during the expected land use changes.

Field experiments with novel sensors and dating techniques will be supported by laboratory incubation experiments to determine rates of mineralization of particulate and dissolved organic matter washed from both land cover types. Measurements will also determine and characterise the lability of dissolved and particulate organic carbon in stream water and sediment using fluorescence excitation emission matrices (EEM) and FTIR spectroscopy.

Hypotheses to be tested:

  • In two sets of paired catchments, arable systems have significantly larger annual pCO2 concentrations and fluxes in streamwater compared to grassland-dominated land cover.
  • Carbon-14 ages of channel pCO2 in the arable, paired land cover catchments are substantially younger than that from grassland under all flow conditions.
  • Differences in internal (sediment) CO2 production in streams draining grassland and arable paired catchments (using field and laboratory measurements of mineralised organic C) reflect the quality/recalcitrance of dissolved and particulate organic matter.
  • Supply-limited storm event hysteresis of pCO2 concentration is consistent for both land cover types

Data collected from the headwater catchments will be used to further develop and apply the model for estimating CO2 evasion from freshwater for England and Wales (Rawlins et al., 2014, Worrall et al., in press) to predict the effects of different scenarios for land use change.

The streamwater pCO2 measurements will be undertaken using novel, in stream sensors that are connected to bankside CO2 detectors in battery-powered, weatherproof housings. Concentrations are logged along with water temperature and flow developed from a site-specific rating curve. A zeolite molecular sieve can be placed in the gas line to trap sufficient carbon for Carbon-14 dating. Sensors can be placed both in stream and in bed sediment to compare up-stream (flow) and in-stream (bed sediment) sources of CO2, respectively. We have four CO2 sensors, so four series of pCO2 measurements can be collected contemporaneously for periods of several weeks to encompass multiple storm events. We will identify two groups of adjacent paired catchments that will each be monitored for a period of 9 months during the study. Data collected from regular fieldwork will be understood in a range of modelling approaches both statistical and physical and by use of laboratory incubation experiments.


Billett, M F, Garnett, M H, and Hardie, S L. 2006. A direct method to measure 14CO2 lost by evasion from surface waters. Radiocarbon, 48, 61-68.

Butman, D, and Raymond, P A. 2011. Significant efflux of carbon dioxide from streams and rivers in the United States. Nature Geosci 4:839-842.

Haines-Young, R. et al., 2011. Chapter 25: The UK NEA Scenarios: Development of Storylines and Analysis of Outcomes. UK NEA.

Hotchkiss, E R., et al.,. 2015. Sources of and processes controlling CO2 emissions change with the size of streams and rivers. Nature Geosci 8:696-699.

Palmer-Felgate, E J, Jarvie, H P, Withers, P J A, Mortimer, R J G and Krom, M D. 2009. Stream-bed phosphorus in paired catchments with different agricultural land use intensity. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 134:53-66.

Rawlins, B G, Palumbo-Roe, B, Gooddy, D C, Worrall, F and Smith, H. 2014. A model of potential carbon dioxide efflux from surface water across England and Wales using headwater stream survey data and landscape predictors. Biogeosciences 11:1911-1925.

Worrall, F, and Burt, T P. 2005. Fluxes of dissolved carbon dioxide and inorganic carbon from an upland peat catchment: implications for soil respiration. Biogeochemistry 73, 515-539.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Prof Fred Worrall.

Global change during the Jurassic; applying multiproxy studies to outcrop and cores

BGS Supervisor: Jim Riding

University Supervisor: Stephen Hesselbo

DTP: GW4Plus, Exeter University

The Jurassic was a dynamic time in Earth’s history. Despite intense study of both marine and terrestrial sections, much remains to be discovered regarding the coupling between climate and the carbon cycle during this enigmatic period. However, it is necessary to have a robust orbitally-tuned age model on which to hang other geochemical, sedimentological, and palaeontological data.

This project will investigate key Jurassic intervals using multi-proxy techniques, such as X-ray fluorescence, carbon-isotope stratigraphy and palaeomagnetic analysis. We will study outcrop of European basins, such as those in Germany France and the UK, as well as accessing the significantly underused UK borehole archive at the British Geological Survey (BGS). These boreholes have yielded a detailed biostratigraphy, and the lithological succession and geophysical log characteristics are well known, but they have only been subject to limited additional analysis. Advances in stratigraphical techniques, as well as new data suggesting that cores previously thought to be devoid of a primary remnant magnetisation still carry a weak signal, will allow high-resolution age models to be constructed for this interval for the first time. Additionally, these data will shed light on major environmental change events from this interval, notably expressed as black shales in the Sinemurian and at the Sinemurian-Pliensbachian boundary. In these examples, the stratigraphical records show close similarities to the well-known palaeoenvironmental changes at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event, but the intensity and duration remain mysterious.

Data generated will be interpreted in the context of these larger perturbations to the Earth system and also used to test hypotheses that link palaeoenvironmental change to either long-periodicity orbital variations or large igneous province development.

The student will be embedded within the Deep Time Global Change group at the University of Exeter, as well as gaining experience with project partners at BGS and the University of Oxford. Combining fieldwork and borehole studies, along with a multi-proxy approach, will ensure excellent employability and training in a range of technical and research skills.

Measurements on the cores will be carried out at the British Geological Survey in Keyworth where the cores are currently stored. In addition to a programme of non-destructive XRF and magnetic susceptibility measurement the student will take oriented core samples for analysis in the Oxford Palaeomagnetism Laboratory, and a series of smaller bulk rock and macrofossil samples for generation of a high-resolution chemostratigraphy using analytical facilities at Exeter.

Relevant literature:

Riding, J B, Leng, M J, Kender, S, Hesselbo, S P, Feist-Burkhardt S. 2013, Isotopic and palynological evidence for a new Early Jurassic environmental perturbation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 374, p. 16–27

Korte, C & Hesselbo, S P. 2011. Shallow-marine carbon- and oxygen-isotope and elemental records indicate icehouse-greenhouse cycles during the Early Jurassic. Paleoceanography v. 26, PA4219.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Professor Stephen Hesselbo. Contact number: +44 (0) 01326 253651.

The topographic signature of earthquake-triggered landslides

BGS Supervisor: Mike Ellis

University Supervisor: Alexander Densmore

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

Project overview: It is well-established that landslides in general, and bedrock landslides in particular, play a critical role in shaping mountainous topography and controlling the efflux of sediment from orogens (Hovius et al. 1997; Densmore et al. 1998; Egholm et al. 2013). It is equally well-established that large earthquakes are one of the dominant triggers of landsliding in mountain belts, causing landslides and sediment transfer over large areas (Keefer, 1984; Pearce and Watson, 1996; Dadson et al., 2004). Densmore and Hovius (2000) hypothesised that, at the scale of individual hillslopes, earthquake-triggered landslides should be clustered at ridge crests because of topographic focusing of seismic waves, a pattern that was documented by Meunier et al. (2007, 2008). More recently, Parker et al. (2011) and Hovius et al. (2011) argued that earthquake-triggered landslides may partly or completely counteract the material added to an orogeny by coseismic slip, raising fundamental questions about how mountainous topography is built and maintained by active faulting across multiple earthquake cycles.

All of these investigations of the interactions between landsliding and topographic form suffer from important limitations, however. Meunier et al. (2007, 2008), like Densmore and Hovius (2000), focused on landslide position on individual hillslopes, amalgamating landslides from different portions of the mountain belt into a single distribution. Hovius et al. (2011) addressed landsliding within a single catchment in Taiwan, while Parker et al. (2011) considered only the bulk volumes of landslide material and coseismic rock uplift, rather than their spatial distribution. These limitations mean that we cannot currently answer a number of important research questions related to the growth of mountainous topography, including:

  1. What is the topographic fingerprint of earthquake-triggered landsliding across an entire mountain belt?
  2. In orogens where the locus of active faulting has shifted over time, does the locus of landsliding shift as well? How do such shifts affect the morphology of the landscape and the distribution of sediment storage within the orogen?
  3. Using the outcomes of (1) and (2), can we use the topography as a robust indicator of landslide occurrence, and thus hazard, over short to medium time scales (e.g., one or several earthquake cycles)?

This PhD studentship sets out to answer these outstanding questions in a range of different orogens worldwide. The proposed research sits equally under the Geodynamics and Earth Resources (crustal processes) and Hazards, Risk, and Resilience (landsliding) research themes within IAPETUS. The studentship takes full advantage of several recent advances that now make this problem tractable at the orogen scale, including

  1. the advent of consistent, robust global data sets for topography (e.g., filled SRTM or the upcoming Tandem-X), active faulting (e.g., GEM Active Faults Database), climatic data (e.g., APHRODITE for Asia; Yatagai et al. 2009);
  2. new process-based understanding of landslide area-volume scaling relationships (Larsen et al., 2010), hillslope form in areas of rapid erosion (Hurst et al., 2012), and sediment storage in mountain belts (Straumann and Korup, 2010; Bloethe and Korup 2013);
  3. compilation of available earthquake-triggered landslide databases (Parker, 2013);
  4. growing archives of published erosion-rate and cooling-rate data from orogens worldwide; and
  5. next-generation landscape evolution models that allow the interactions between rock uplift, landsliding, sediment storage, and fluvial incision to be explored (Egholm et al., 2013; Lague et al., in prep).

References and Further Reading

Bloethe, J. and Korup, O. (2013) Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 382, 38-46.

Dadson, S. et al. (2004) Geology, 32, 733-736.

Densmore, A.L. et al. (1998) J. Geophys. Res., 103, 15203-15219.

Densmore, A.L. and Hovius, N. (2000) Geology, 28, 371-374.

Egholm, D. et al. (2013) Nature, 498, 475-478.

Hovius, N. et al. (1997) Geology, 25, 231-234.

Hovius, N. et al. (2011) Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 304, 347-355.

Hurst, M. et al. (2012) J. Geophys. Res., 117, F02017, doi:10.1029/2011JF002057.

Keefer, D.K. (1984) Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 95, 406-421.

Larsen, I.J. et al. (2010) Nature Geosci., 3, 247-251.

Meunier, P. et al. (2007) Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L20408, doi:10.1029/2007GL031337.

Meunier, P. et al. (2008) Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 275, 221-232.

Parker, R.N. et al. (2011) Nature Geosci., 4, 449-452.

Parker, R.N. (2013) Hillslope memory and spatial and temporal distributions of earthquake-induced landslides. PhD thesis, Durham Univ.

Pearce, A.J. and Watson, A.J. (1986) Geology, 14, 52-55.

Straumann, R.K. and Korup, O. (2009) Geology, 37, 1079-1082.

Yatagai, A. et al. (2009) SOLA, 5, 137-140.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Prof Alexander Densmore.

Earth Hazards and Observatories
Interaction between proglacial lake development and Icelandic glacier dynamics

BGS Supervisor: Emrys Phillips

University Supervisor: Rachel Carr

DTP: IAPETUS, Newcastle University

Glaciers and ice caps are major contributors to global sea level rise and this is forecast to continue during the 21st Century. Consequently, understanding the mechanisms by which glaciers retreat and identifying the factors controlling ice losses are essential for accurate prediction of near-future sea level rise. A growing influence on ice loss is the expansion of proglacial lakes, which develop at the glacier margins as the ice retreats. As a consequence of climate warming, these lakes are currently expanding in many regions, including Iceland, the Himalaya and New Zealand. Here, they represent major natural hazards, with outburst floods threatening human life and causing severe and costly damage to infrastructure. Despite their expanding impact, the detailed interaction between proglacial lakes and their associated glaciers is not properly understood, which limits our capacity to accurately predict glacier loss and its associated hazards, as climate warms.

The formation of a proglacial lake markedly alters the conditions at the glacier terminus and allows the glacier to lose mass through calving of icebergs, in addition to surface melting. Iceberg calving is a key mass loss mechanism for both lake- and marine-terminating glaciers, but the process and its triggers are not properly understood. A number of potential controls have been identified to date, including: lake level; lake properties (temperature, circulation); pre-existing weaknesses created by crevasses; surface melt inputs; and ice thinning. However, it is unclear which factor(s) dominate and how this may change over time, as proglacial lakes develop grow. Furthermore, it is uncertain how the interaction between the lake and the glacier evolves temporally and the types of feedbacks that might develop.

Iceland and Europe's largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, has a number of outlet glaciers with recently developed proglacial lakes (e.g. Skeiðarárjökull, Skaftafellsjökull, Fjallsjökull, Heinabergsjökull and Hoffellsjökull. Iceland is therefore an ideal location for investigating interactions between proglacial lakes and glacier dynamics. Icelandic glaciers have been highly responsive to climate change and have experienced negative mass balance and margin retreat for the past 20 years. During this time, proglacial lakes have expanded rapidly at the margins of its southern outlet glaciers and have been identified as a cause of their variable response to climate change, but this relationship is not properly understood, due to a lack of detailed data. Given that major ice loss is forecast to continue in the region during the 21st and 22nd centuries, it is vital to understand controls on ice loss from the region.

This studentship will address the following key research questions:

How does proglacial lake development effect glacier dynamics, including surge behaviour?

How does the interaction between the proglacial lake and the glacier evolve over time?

What role do proglacial lakes play in the calving process


The project will use a combination of fieldwork, remote sensing and numerical modelling. The study will focus on the past 25 years, during which these glaciers have retreat rapidly, the ice cap has shown negative mass balance and the proglacial lakes have grown dramatically.

Fieldwork will be conducted in two, four-week long periods in 2017 and 2018, with the aim of quantifying the detailed, short-term interaction between the glacier calving front, the proglacial lake and the inland ice. This will be achieved through repeat surveys of the calving front, glacier surface and proglacial topography, using a combination of terrestrial time lapse photography, terrestrial laser scanning and dGPS. Lake temperature and level will be monitored using data loggers. The basal topography of the glacier may also be quantified, using radar surveys. Key meteorological and glaciological datasets will be identified during a two month placement at the University of Iceland and the Iceland Meteorological Office.

Remotely sensed data will be used to assess the relationship between proglacial lake development and glacier dynamics at annual to decadal timescales. Optical imagery (e.g. Landsat, ASTER) will be used to map changes in lake extent and glacier frontal position and to determine velocities using feature tracking. Furthermore, the imagery will be used to determine glacier structure and its evolution over time, in order to evaluate its relative importance in determining ice loss rates and calving patterns. A numerical modelling component may be included, in order to further investigate the impact of the proglacial lakes on glacier retreat and response to climate change.


Year 1: Initial remote sensing analysis of glacier change. Field season 1.

Year 2: Analysis of field data, refinement of field methods and remote sensing analysis on basis of results. Field season 2.

Year 3: Complete processing and analysis of field and remotely sensed data.

Year 4: Integration of results and thesis writing.

As part of the IAPETUS DTP, the successful student will undertake a total 3 months placement at the BGS Edinburgh divided into 3 placements of 1 month during each of the first three years of the project.

Training and Skills

The student will receive training in relevant GIS techniques and software packages, including ArcGIS, ENVI and ERDAS imagine. They will be trained in field data collection techniques, such as operation of the Terrestrial Laser Scanner, dGPS and hydrometric equipment. In terms of health and safety training, the student will undertake out door first aid training and a 4x4 driving course.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Energy and Marine Geoscience
Collapse of the British-Irish Ice Sheet: the role of climate and sea level changes

BGS Supervisor: Dayton Dove

University Supervisor: Lauren Gregoire

DTP: SPHERES, Leeds University

This project will use the latest generation of ice sheet models and a new reconstruction of the retreat of British and Irish ice sheet (BIIS) to understand what drives the collapse of marine-influenced ice sheets.

The largest threat to future sea level rise is the potential collapse of the marine–influenced West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The same processes that could cause up to 5 m sea level rise over the coming centuries were at play at the end of the last ice age and drove the collapse of the BIIS. Now, thanks to the BRITICE-CHRONO project, the BIIS is becoming the best constrained palaeo-ice sheet system globally, and can serve as an excellent test case for ice sheet models that that will be used to project future sea level rise.

Marine-influenced ice sheets (where portions of the ice sheet are based below sea level) can retreat and in some cases be destabilized by atmosphere and ocean warming and sea level rise. Simulating such processes requires complex models such as BISICLES. What makes BISICLES stand out from other complex ice sheet models is its ability to increase its resolution where and when it is needed, allowing us to make efficient and accurate simulations of marine ice sheets. Simulating the British-Irish and Scandinavian Ice Sheets with BISICLES will allow us to test these latest model developments.

BRITICE-CHRONO is a large research project lead by Prof Chris Clark (co-supervisor of this project) aimed at reconstructing the rate and patterns of retreat of the British-Irish Ice Sheet. Research cruises and fieldwork have been undertaken to collect material to build a reconstruction of the collapse and retreat of the ice sheet. Further data will be provided by the CASE partner, the British Geological Survey (see below), to help understand the complex interaction of the British and Scandinavian ice sheets.

The student will use the last generation BISICLES ice sheet model combined with the new and extensive BRITICE-CHONO dataset and British Geological Survey datasets to understand the extent to which ice retreat is driven by fluctuations in sea level and ocean and atmosphere warming.

Key scientific questions are:

  1. How well can the BISICLES ice sheet model simulate the British-Irish ice sheet deglaciation?
  2. What were the relative roles of ocean and atmosphere warming and sea level changes in driving ice retreat?
  3. How did ice dynamics and the rate of retreat change when the ice sheet retreated onto land?
  4. How did varying tidal ranges tides influence the stability of ice cover and rates of retreat?

Potential for high impact:

Understanding marine ice sheet retreat is of great relevance to current and future sea level changes as it is the largest threat to future sea level change. This project will test the ability of complex ice sheet models to simulate retreat and provide better understanding of the processes that drive ice sheet collapse. The novelty of techniques and dataset used provides great potential for making exciting scientific discoveries and producing high profile publications.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dr Lauren Gregoire.

Watch: Short story about the BISICLES ice sheet model

Read: Reconstructing the British-Irish ice sheet retreat (,

Finding tsunami-causing landslide deposits in the lakes of New Zealand

BGS Supervisor: Dave Tappin

University Supervisor: Stuart Dunning

DTP: IAPETUS, Newcastle University

Relief in mountainous landscapes is a balance between the forces of tectonics, climate, and surface processes. Landslides are an effective means of limiting the growth of mountains to maintain some form of equilibrium, with seismic shaking in particular able to trigger widespread failure and downslope mobilisation of material. It is common that during earthquakes a number of very large, highly mobile landslides, termed rock avalanches, can be expected to be triggered from steep mountainsides with sufficient relief. If rock avalanche run out paths reach settlements or infrastructure, destruction is almost total and with death tolls historically measured in thousands. However, in many of the landscapes where these events happen, the rates of geomorphic processes are high enough to erode and remove most evidence of past events. As a result, the relative frequency of these catastrophic events remains poorly understood, and so the risks posed remains poorly understood.

Advantageously, in previously glaciated terrain deep fiords and inland lakes are common, and interestingly, provide a unique geomorphic setting that can capture the record of past large landslides through underwater preservation of the landslide deposits. If these landslide deposit post-date initial lake formation / relative sea level rise, they may also have triggered tsunami, which themselves pose further risks to a wider area.

The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most seismically-active areas in the world, demonstrated recently by a series of earthquakes that highlighted significant urban vulnerabilities (ML 7.1 and 6.3). These, however, remain minor compared with the expected > ML 8 earthquake on the 600-km long Alpine Fault on the margin of the Southern Alps (SA), known to rupture on average every 200-300 years.

The area that will be affected by intense coseismic shaking has numerous waterside population centres, usually heavily tourist focussed, bounded by steep rock walls already at threshold stability. The last rupture was 1717 AD, a ML 8+ earthquake is a 34% probability in the next 20 years, and 54% in the next 100 years. Fault movement of > 8m horizontally and > 4m vertically is predicted with a rupture length of ˜400 km. This scale of event will generate shaking intensities sufficient to trigger landsliding across much of the SA, and many will enter lakes and fiords, and some will in turn generate hazardous tsunami. There are consequently large risks to waterside developments in this rapidly-developing tourist region.

Tsunami-hazard assessment requires the spatial distribution and sizes of landslides triggered by previous earthquakes; currently there is only a partially complete inventory of terrestrial deposits, and exceptionally limited investigation of submarine deposits in lakes and fiords. This project aims to fill this data gap using the following hypotheses:

[H1] Large landslide deposits are likely to be preserved in lake-bottom environments so geophysics will be able to determine their magnitude-frequency.

[H2] If large landslides are triggered coseismically then spatial and temporal clustering relationships can be developed.


An integrated suite of cutting-edge, boat-mounted geophysical survey equipment will be deployed in selected lakes in New Zealand. Sonar will be used to generate the first high resolution maps of lake-basin bathymetry to locate underwater landslide deposits, usually characterised by discrete, sharply bounded lobes that can cover areas from hundreds of m2 to several km2. The bouldery deposits surfaces show distinctive longitudinal ridges and grooves and/or hummocks from which emplacement dynamics can be modelled. These deposits will be draped and intercalated with variable depths of fine-grained lacustrine sediments. When the drape is deep enough to obscure distinctive surface topography, sub-bottom profiling can locate the buried deposits due to the strong difference in acoustic characteristics of the lacustrine sediments and landslide deposits. Using conservative estimates of lake sedimentation rates in the SA, we can expect to penetrate <13,000 years into the sedimentary record in some areas, a period in which we expect to capture landslides triggered by at least 40 Alpine Fault ruptures and other large earthquakes.

We expect most of the deposits to be associated with sub-aerial sources; coseismic failures tend to originate at ridgelines, and rock avalanches descend several hundreds to thousands of metres down slopes. Identifying sources areas in the absence of a deposit is non-trivial due to post-failure modification overprinting by, for example, glacial erosion. Having a certain identifiable deposit allows us to assess the distinctiveness and degradation of subaerial source areas. Cosmogenic dating campaigns based on the identification of source scars is an anticipated secondary output of the project, as well as locating potential core sites to extend our knowledge of the seismicity of the Southern Alps, and to puts bounds on the frequency of rock avalanches triggered by large earthquakes.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Onshore-offshore Quaternary glacial processes and correlations: Dudgeon offshore windfarm zone, Southern North Sea

BGS Supervisor: Jonathan Lee

University Supervisor: Bethan Davies

DTP: London, Royal Holloway

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Bethan Davies or Jonathan Lee.

Sea-level change, glacial isostatic adjustment and drowned geomorphology of northern Scotland

BGS Supervisor: Claire Mellet

University Supervisor: Ian Shennan

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

Current highly sophisticated glacial-isostatic adjustment (GIA) models used to predict long-term land and sea-level changes generally show good agreement with empirically derived postglacial sea level curves from around the British Isles (Shennan et al., 2006, 2012). But these models struggle to predict the relative sea-level variations at sites around the NW margins of the last British and Fennoscandian ice sheets, partly owing to a lack of good empirical data constraints on ice sheet dimensions and past sea-level positions (Kuchar et al., 2012). The NW seaboard and northern isles of Scotland provide unique constraints on both the sea level and ice sheet components relevant for GIA modelling. Between Applecross and Shetland, a distance of 400 km, relative sea level and crustal motions change considerably across a steep spatial gradient. Whilst Applecross experienced overall lateglacial emergence and uplift, Shetland has experienced continuously rising sea levels coupled with the highest current rates of subsidence in the UK and Ireland (˜1 mm/yr) (Shennan et al., 2006).

Explaining the contrasting sea-level records across northern Scotland is rooted in the ice sheet history of the wider area. Until relatively recently it was widely thought that parts of northernmost Scotland were largely unaffected by the last British and Scandinavian Ice Sheets – with any evidence of glaciation on Orkney or Shetland related to small, thin local ice caps or to earlier glacial cycles (Sutherland, 1991; Lambeck, 1993). This model has recently been overturned, largely through the advent of new shelf-wide digital bathymetry data (e.g. Bradwell et al., 2008) showing numerous ice sheet moraines with fresh morphology on the seafloor around northern Scotland. Although not currently dated, seismic stratigraphy and selected offshore cores place this widespread glaciation of northernmost Scotland and the adjacent continental shelf within Marine Isotope Stage 2 (Stoker et al., 1993; Bradwell et al., 2008). Recent ice-sheet modelling experiments support these empirical reconstructions, with a considerably thicker and more extensive ice mass developing over northern Scotland (Hubbard et al., 2009). The maximum British-Irish ice sheet extent, flow configuration and decay history are currently the subject of a major NERC-funded research project – Britice-Chrono.

Importantly only some of the new, glaciologically realistic, ice sheet models provide reasonable fits with the sea-level records – the minimum model of Hubbard et al. (2009) for example, but not the median and maximum models. Increasing numbers of cosmogenic-exposure ages also point to a thicker ice sheet across NW Scotland, with a younger age for thinning and final deglaciation (e.g. Bradwell et al., 2008; Mathers, 2014). These increased ice-volume scenarios all predict RSL above present ca. 16-12 ka BP in parts of NW Scotland. One of the key aims of this doctoral training project is to gather empirical constraints from across northern mainland Scotland to test the hypothesis that RSL was above present during the lateglacial. The student will integrate their new observations with dated ice-sheet margins arising from Britice-Chrono and systematically compile these to produce a geospatial database of palaeo-shoreline information to integrate with Long and Shennan’s continuing collaborations with GIA modellers (G. Milne, Ottawa; S. Bradley, Utrecht). In addition, the student will undertake new mapping of the offshore zone, especially the seafloor around Shetland where numerous submarine features have been attributed to marine erosion (Flinn, 1964), and may date from the lateglacial period. This aspect of the project will draw on state-of-the-art high-resolution multibeam echosounder bathymetry data to extend the geospatial database to drowned sea level features, in order to produce detailed onshore/offshore palaeo-coastline maps from ˜20ka to the present day. These maps will be used to target further nearshore marine geophysical surveys (multibeam, sub-bottom seismic, etc), and geological seabed coring within the second half of the studentship to establish the sedimentary architecture and age of the drowned shorelines. Crucially these spatially and temporally constrained palaeo-marine limits will enable a new long-term sea-level curve to be constructed for northern Scotland and will serve as valuable index points to refine future GIA models of the British Isles – reducing uncertainties and improving predictive capability in this weakly constrained sector.

This project aims to spatially and chronologically constrain former sea level change along a unique emergent-to- submergent coastline gradient in northern Scotland. This study will use the sedimentological and geomorphological record of former sea levels, both above and below the present-day coastline, to map the rates of relative sea level change between NW Scotland and Shetland over the last 18,000 years. Importantly, this work will directly feed into glacial-isostatic adjustment models, used to predict long-term land and sea-level changes, which currently underperform in this part of NW Europe.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Prof Ian Shennan or Dr Tom Bradwell. Contact number: +44 (0) 01326 253651.

Style of deglaciation and environmental changes during deglaciation of the Irish basin

BGS Supervisor: Claire Mellet

University Supervisor: Richard Chiverrell

DTP: TNGES, Liverpool University


The last British – Irish Ice Sheet declined rapidly after 24,000 years ago, with the Irish Sea home to one of the largest ice streams draining this former ice mass. Geochronological modelling constrains the decline of this ice mass to 24,000 to 19,000 years ago (Chiverrell et al., 2013; Mccarroll et al., 2010). The sea floor geomorphology (e.g. van Landeghem et al., 2009) shows the evidence for subglacial landforms and a sedimentary record for this deglaciation. BriticeChrono is a 5 year NERC Consortium Project running 2012-2018 for which the explicit aim is constrain the rates and styles of ice stream retreat during the last deglaciation. The motivation is that better data are needed by the icesheet modelling community to test and validate their simulations to increase confidence in future scenarios for Antarctica and Greenland. The recent Britice-Chrono cruise of the RRS James Cook obtained >40 cores and 100’s km of geophysical (seismic) and multibeam morphological data for the Irish Sea. This coupled with >270 cores and a comprehensive survey dataset for the High Voltage Direct Link (HVDL) that crosses the Irish Sea from the Wirral to the Firth of Clyde provides an unrivalled opportunity to test hypotheses about rates and styles of deglaciation.

Project Summary:

This project will use an unrivalled geophysical data archive and comprehensive collection of core materials to explore the environments and ice marginal retreat sequence in the Irish Sea broadly north from the Llyn Peninsula to SW Scotland and Cumbria. Focusing almost entirely on the offshore record the project will test hypotheses about: nature and influence of grounded ice, the extent and ice flow indications in the subglacial landforms, the sediment signature across the subglacial to proglacial transition, the extent and degree of marine influence (the glacimarine debate), sediment provenance and ice source / flow paths. The overarching aim is to reconstructing the environmental changes in the basin across this deglaciation. The research will benefit from a comprehensive marine and land-based geochronology developed in parallel through the proposed PhD research (Britice-Chrono) and the PhD candidate would benefit from the connections and research environment of the Britice-Chrono research community (Field and Annual Meetings, and Conferences). The lead supervisor (Chiverrell) is the Terrestrial Lead for Britice-Chrono and Transect Lead for Irish Sea East.


The student will receive training in the use of an array of sediment description and analysis, geophysical data and accompanying software. It will be expected that the student will participate in workshops that provide additional training in research skills, GIS and experimental design. The School of Environmental Sciences requires that the student participate in a comprehensive postgraduate research programme. The British Geological Survey (BGS) is a CASE partner and so though based at Liverpool the student will spend between 6 months at the BGS during the 3-4 years of research training. Claire Mellett will be the lead BGS supervisor but other members of the marine geology team will contribute to the training programme that will include technical training (e.g. Kingdom and Fledermaus software).

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Prof Richard Chiverrell.

Engineering Geology
Impact and value of geo-resources underneath cities for resilient urban design

BGS Supervisor: Deodato Tapete

University Supervisor: Jon Coaffee

DTP: CENTA, Warwick University


There is a wealth of geo-resources and services that the subsurface offers to growing and transforming cities including: bedrock for foundations; water for domestic/business uses; space for waste disposal, underground storage, infrastructure and utilities; energy sources; building materials.

With increasing urbanisation cities are becoming more reliant on subsurface and deep geological resources (e.g., in the UK each city-dweller's typical daily use amounts to 150-165 litres of freshwater (the UK Water Partnership, 2015) and ˜19% of London's heat demand may be met from ground heat (London's Zero Carbon Energy Resource: Secondary Heat Report Phase (2013)). Urban geo-reources are not always renewable, frequently interdependent with other city systems and their stock, demand and quality vary spatially from site to site, even within the boundaries of the same city.

There are existing examples presented in the academic literature about how local supply of geo-resources influenced the urban development and structure of past cities (Margottini & Spizzichino, 2014; Bianca, 2014), and what the opportunities and challenges are associated with strategic approach to urban development (European Commission, 2002).

However more research is needed to assess quantitatively how present and future cities can utilise these resources to be more resilient to urbanisation and environmental pressures and their interactions.

Key research questions

This project therefore aims to answer the following key research questions:

  • What metrics can we use to quantify the resilience of urban design?
  • How can innovative use of urban geo-resources complement contemporary urban design?
  • What social and economic benefits can be generated to promote the three pillars of sustainability?

The PhD student will develop a novel 'geoscientific-thinking' model as a new paradigm of urban design where geological approaches are fully integrated into the design process of city and building forms.

This will be achieved by valuing the geoscientific data as source of objective information and use them into inputs of practical solutions to the concept of 'working with the landscape' established in the contemporary theory of sustainable urbanism.

Methodology and timeline

Accounting for 3.5 years of total duration of the PhD, the project will achieve the following specific objectives and generate the expected research outputs:

  1. Identify the cities geo-resources influencing urban design and review the current practice of sustainable urbanism harnessing the intrinsic resources of the site. The student will collate data and analyse case studies with main geographic focus on the UK, although at this stage it is envisaged that comparative assessment might include case studies overseas. The expected research output is the publication of a white paper.
    [Year 1]
  2. Define metrics to assess quantitatively the role played by each subsurface geo-resources and combination of them on resilient performance of new buildings and urban forms. The metrics will be designed to apply to urban fabric and green/blue infrastructure as integral parts of eco-friendly and sustainable ways of designing cities.
    [First half of Year 2]
  3. Implement the metrics to analyse the current scenario of urban design across the UK. The student will have full access to the geological core datasets available at BGS (e.g., bedrock geology, superficial thickness, soil parent material model, groundwater datasets, GeoSure, SuDS maps), to correlate with the design characteristics of new buildings and urban quarters. In this framework, the student will also assess the value of the geoscientific information and ground investigation as integral part of the design process.
    [Second half of Year 2]
    The core results will be presented in scientific peer-review publication for submission to high-impact factor journal.
  4. Generate a geo-resource systems analysis tool highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, possible threats and proposed way forwards to resilient urban design. This analysis will specifically include an assessment of the economic and social implications for urban communities.
    Time will be specifically dedicated to dissertation preparation, alongside dissemination at international conferences and stakeholder meetings as part of the pathways to impact of this research.
    [Year 3]

To achieve the above objectives the student will be provided with full access to the unique core datasets available at BGS and state-of-the-art research facilities of the Resilient Cities Laboratories at the University of Warwick. A total period of 3 to 4 months at BGS, Keyworth is foreseen, so as the student can be fully supported and mentored especially for the geological and urban geoscience side of their research project.

In this context the PhD student will gain state-of-the-art skills of how to integrate geological approaches into urban analysis, modelling and planning.


In particular training will be provided in:

  • Urban geological environments: assessment and investigation
  • GIS and geospatial analysis;
  • 3D geological modelling and high-resolution 3D visualisation of spatial data to interrogate wide range of environmental datasets and relate subsurface ground investigations to the above-ground.

The above training aims to bring the student up to speed with the interdisciplinary subject of their project and build, since the very beginning of the PhD, a professional and academic profile capable to connect specialist geological expertise and urban design skills to the broader decision-making context of a complex project and geoscientific data provision.

Placement opportunity

As the PhD progresses, the supervisory team will pursue options for a placement within an urban planning/design company in Year 2 providing the student with a bespoke development opportunity.


In terms of pathways to impact, the novel set of metrics that the student will develop and implement on a nationwide scale will address the current research gap of measuring resilience of buildings and cities in a quantitative way and will provide a realistic figure of how effectively current urban designs 'work with the landscape', as recommended, for instance, by the Homes and Communities Agency (2013). The research will be complementary to active research agendas within RCUK e.g. Urban Living Partnership and H2020 e.g. nature-based solutions.

The research findings will be of immediate interest to practitioners and industry (e.g., firms of consulting designers, planners, engineers) and stakeholders (e.g., Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK, the UK Water Partnership, city councils, governmental agencies), thereby leading to direct impact of the research and opening a wide range of career perspectives to the student at the end of the PhD.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Assimilation of geophysical data in snow hydrology modelling

BGS Supervisor: Oliver Kuras

University Supervisor: Richard Essery

DTP: E3, Edinburgh University

Project summary

This project will develop a novel fusion of geophysical measurements and models to enable automated tracking of liquid water flow in snow for improved forecasting of flood and avalanche risks.


It has been estimated that a sixth of the world population rely on melt from seasonal snow and glaciers for their water (Barnett et al. 2005). Snowmelt provides both important hydropower resources for industry and significant hazards to people and infrastructure (e.g. flooding, wet snow avalanches). Even if the total annual precipitation remains the same in a warming climate, changes in the fraction falling as snow and the timing of melt will require major adaptations in management of water resources and risk. Management decisions currently have to be made with the aid of models that only have simplistic representations of snow hydrology due to a lack of input data and a poor understanding of flow processes. Standard methods for measuring the liquid water content of snow rely on destructive sampling and cannot be adapted for continuous in-situ monitoring in support of early warning systems.

Electrical self-potential and resistivity measurements are mature methods in hydrogeology that we have recently adapted for application in snow (Kulessa et al. 2012, Thompson et al. 2015) and permafrost (Kuras et al. 2014). There is now a need for detailed experimental design and field trials to develop these methods into a complete snow hydrology measurement system. The Météo-France snow research site at Col de Porte (1325 m elevation) in the Chartreuse Mountains near Grenoble will provide an excellent location for these trials, with existing facilities and hydrometeorological instrumentation. The data will be used to test model representations of hydrology and to adjust model parameters in a flexible snow modelling framework (Essery 2015). The model that relates electrical potential to water flux requires information on snow density and grain size, which are regularly measured by destructive sampling at Col de Porte. These measurements will be used in initial tests but will later be replaced by predictions from the snow model itself. Using a model to produce synthetic observations, comparing these with real observations and adjusting the model state to minimize differences is a classical application of data assimilation for which well-founded methods are available.

Key research questions

  • How can geophysical measurement techniques be adapted and combined to determine hydraulic properties and fluxes in snow?
  • How can novel measurements be optimised and exploited to improve the modelling of snow hydrology?
  • How can data and models be combined to make optimal forecasts of snow states and fluxes?

Methodology and timetable

Year 1. Research training. Familiarization with snow modelling and data assimilation. Building and testing an array of low-cost electrodes with a logging system to make alternating measurements of electrical potential and resistivity. Installation of instruments in snow-free conditions at Col de Porte.

Year 2. Winter and spring field experiments at Col de Porte, including measurements with dye tracing, the Swansea ground penetrating radar, BGS electrical resistivity and electrical self-potential equipment, and a terrestrial laser scanner loaned by the NERC Geophysical Equipment Facility. Snow model testing and calibration. Paper on instrument development and field results.

Year 3. Additional field measurements at Col de Porte. Paper on combining the snow model with field data by assimilation. Recommendations for applications and commercialization of the system. Thesis writing.


A comprehensive training programme will be provided comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills. Advanced training in scientific programming, geophysical measurement techniques and data assimilation will be arranged as required. The student will spend 3 to 6 months at BGS, undertaking their research whilst embedded in the Geophysical Tomography team, who specialise in geoelectrical monitoring. There will be opportunities to attend a NERC summer school on atmospheric measurements and a University of Saskatchewan winter school on cold regions hydrology. Future career opportunities could include water industries, geophysical consultancy and academia.


The ideal student will have good quantitative skills and an understanding of physical processes, possibly with a background in geophysics, physics or quantitative earth sciences. Practical skills will be required for building and maintaining the instruments. Snow physics models are generally coded in Fortran, and the data handling and visualization requirements of this project could be handled in Python, Matlab or R; knowledge of one or more of these languages would be helpful, but previous experience with at least one programming language and a demonstrable ability to acquire programming skills will be essential.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Environmental Modelling
Investigating drainage beneath the British-Irish Ice Sheet: groundwater flow modelling and meltwater channel networks

BGS Supervisor: Christopher Jackson

University Supervisor: Domenica Bau

DTP: ACCE, Sheffield University

The behaviour of ice sheets is largely governed by basal conditions at the ice-bed interface. In particular, observations made beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets reveal significant basal meltwater generation, storage and evacuation; lubricating the bed and facilitating rapid ice-flow. Unfortunately, the basal and temporal form of the hydrological system beneath modern ice sheets is poorly conceived. This is compromising the ability to accurately model processes at the ice bed interface.

In particular, glaciologists have tended to think of the ice-sheet bed as an impermeable surface. However, an overlying ice mass has a major impact on groundwater flow patterns, recharge rates and distribution of freshwater. Detailing the complex aquifer-ice-sheet interactions is therefore a crucial component of the basal meltwater system, both as a mechanism for draining meltwater and in landform and sediment genesis.

An alternative approach to investigating the subglacial hydrology of existing ice sheets is to observe palaeo-ice sheet beds. This is advantageous because we have comprehensive information about the bed properties, and can easily access and examine the glacial sediments and landforms. We can therefore provide detailed information on the form and evolution of the hydrological network (e.g. the pattern of meltwater flow) and investigate their impact on meltwater drainage and ice-dynamics over long time-scales. Moreover, understanding palaeo-groundwater flows has profound implications for water resource managers, in reconciling modern groundwater stores; identifying offshore glacial meltwater plumes; and determining sustainable pumping rates from confined aquifers that hosted glacial meltwaters; in considering the long-term disposal of nuclear wastes; and for biologists investigating microbe evolution in groundwaters.

This PhD project will use the bed of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, which has fully retreated revealing a bewildering array of meltwater features (see figure above), in tandem with a numerical model, to reconstruct the form, evolution and drainage of groundwater and basal meltwater. This will be explored through:

  1. High-resolution (1 m, LIDAR) mapping of meltwater channels on the bed of the former British-Irish Ice Sheet.
  2. Using a numerical model to reconstruct the pattern of groundwater drainage during the last glacial.


Clark, C D, Hughes, A L C, Greenwood, S L, Jordan, C J and Sejrup, H P. (2012). Pattern and timing of retreat of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews, 44, 112-146.

Livingstone, S J, Clark, C D and Woodward, J. (2013). Predicting subglacial lakes and meltwater drainage pathways beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The Cryosphere Discuss 7: 1177-1213.

Livingstone, S J, Clark, C D and Tarasov, L. (2013). North American palaeo-subglacial lakes and their meltwater drainage pathways: predictions and geomorphological clues to their origin. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375, 13-33.

Alzraiee A, Baú D and Garcia L A. (2013). Multi-Objective Design of Aquifer Monitoring Networks for Optimal Spatial Prediction and Geostatistical Parameter Estimation, Water Resources Research, 46, Issue 6,DOI: 10.1002/wrcr.20300

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Modelling coupled contaminant fluxes from surface and atmosphere for human exposure

BGS Supervisor: Mark Cave

University Supervisor: Joshua Vade Hey

DTP: CENTA, Leicester University

Atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM) is widely accepted as one of the major drivers of morbidity and mortality outcomes related to environmental pollution. While combustion exhaust from traffic, energy and heating are the major sources of PM and therefore receive the greatest attention, the exposure pathways of particularly dangerous heavy metal particulates are poorly understood, partly due to the lack of emphasis on the atmosphere surface interaction in the context of the urban environment. For example, despite the fact that lead was eliminated from fuels decades ago, lead is still detected in the atmosphere for example in London and is therefore most likely present due to uptake of surface contamination deposited throughout Victorian times and into the latter half of the 20th century.

Lead and other contaminants in the soil also have exposure pathways through digestion. The average human consumes approximately 100mg of soil per day. Children playing in parks, in gardens, at beaches, etc., tend to consume the largest amounts of soil during key developmental points.

Current modelling approaches tend to neglect fluxes between soil and atmosphere when assessing human exposure and either focus on ground or atmosphere. This project aims to bridge that gap. Using state of the art datasets on air pollution and soil contamination in the Greater London area, along with the most up to date modelling and analysis techniques, a wholistic approach to assessing pollution pathways will be taken in this project through a multi-dsiciplinary approach.


There is reasonably good understanding of the magnitude of contamination in the environment. The key gap to address here is the fluxes between surface and atmosphere. In order to do this high resolution BGS data on soil contamination, along with the extensive network of air pollution monitoring from the London air quality network will be related using a variety of exploratory and modelling techniques. R statistical software will be used to analyse the individual data and the result of modelled outputs generated from an earth systems model deployed on the London scale and validated through observational input.

A final methodology will be proposed to assess total human exposure, including application of the BGS bioaccessibility expertise.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Physico-chemical controls on diffuse metal mine pollution

BGS Supervisor: Barbara Palumboe-Roe

University Supervisor: Chris Greenwell

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

A principal aim of the EU Water Framework Directive (Directive EC 2000/60/EC) is to prevent further deterioration and to improve the quality of surface waters (rivers and lakes), groundwater and coastal waters and to promote ‘good ecological status’ (GES) with respect to biodiversity in rivers. One of the key reasons for failure to obtain GES is because of the presence of high concentrations of metals (e.g. Zn, Cd. Pb). This particularly occurs in areas with a history of metal mining such as the North Pennines. Whilst point sources (e.g mine adits) provide an opportunity for remediation technologies to be emplaced, diffuse contamination from the waste heaps, fluvial tailings, soils and sediments associated with past mining activity is harder to quantify and remediate. Understanding the processes involved within catchments and the variables that affect the rate of element release are key to predicting and managing future metal concentrations in stream water and designing effective remedial options.

Recent work by Banks and Palumbo-Roe (2011) has demonstrated the importance of diffuse metal contributions to dissolved metal loads in mining impacted catchments. It is likely that the erosion of sediment from waste deposits close to the river banks produces a continual supply of sediment-borne metals to the river dissolved metal load.

This PhD aims to investigate the fate of Zn, Cd and Pb from source (mine spoil, soil) to release within the water column.

Key processes to be investigated within this work will be:

  • Understanding sediment erosion/transport patterns: how erosion and transport processes from source (waste tips) to river channel grade or size particles and the influence of mineralogy (mineral density and weatherability) on the sediment dispersion patterns in the river network.
  • Understanding physical and chemical processes responsible for the dissolved metal load from sediment-borne metals once the sediment has entered the river network and quantifying long term contaminant export.

This proposal builds on a considerable body of work undertaken by the British Geological Survey in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding natural beauty (Figure 1). It will develop links and utilise GIS and other information generated by the Wear/Tees Diffuse Metals project funded by DEFRA through the Environment Agency.


Phase 1: Literature Reviews and Site Identification

Initial work will involve the student undertaking a literature review on the current state of knowledge and methodologies to investigate metal release. Examination of key environmental factors potentially influencing metal release will be identified through access to GIS work undertaken by the Wear/Tees Diffuse Metals project along with EA water quality data. Information will be used to locate suitable sampling sites for monitoring studies in each of 4 catchments (2 each in the Wear and Tees).

Phase 2: Fieldwork and material characterisation

After selection of sites field experimentation will be undertaken. Rapid surveys of metal concentration of source sites will be undertaken using portable XRF. Analysis of sorting processes of sediment from source to river, and within river channels, will be undertaken using a combination of particle size analysis and mineralogical techniques to identify metal solid speciation and the degree of weathering. In-situ characterisation of the dissolved metal concentration in equilibrium with the sediment will be undertaken using Diffuse Gradients in Thin films (DGT) (Palumbo-Roe and Dearden, 2013).

Phase 3: Laboratory studies

Reactivity of metals contained in sediment will be undertaken using multi-element isotopic dilution assays (Marzouk et al. 2013). Laboratory studies will be carried out to assess the rate of release of Zn, Cd and Pb from minerals using reactor tests where we can assess and change environmental geochemical properties.

To understand the pathways associated with mineral particle dissolution/growth and binding/release of Cd, Zn and Pb, atomic force microscopy will be used to understand the crystal growth kinetics of relevant mineral phases and establish the effect of, for example, the relative supersaturation of ions, pH and temperature using a fluid cell.

Other factors to be examined will include size of particle, presence or absence of fulvic/humic acids and redox status. Batch and flow through tests will assess the influence of flow conditions on the mass transfer processes.

Results relating to the release of metal contaminants will be modelled using the geochemical model package PHREEQC/ Geochemists Workbench.

Phase 4: Thesis write up and dissemination

Along with the write up of the thesis the student will be asked to present results to interested parties (e.g. EA, Wear/Tees Diffuse Metals Forum project).

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Understanding and managing interactions between urban infrastructure and groundwater for water security

BGS Supervisor: Chris Jackson

University Supervisor: Joshua Vade Hey

DTP: SCCP, Imperial College London

The issue of urban water management is of growing importance for groundwater dependent cities because urbanisation can have a major impact on underlying aquifers. This may be through the greater use of groundwater to supply an increasing population, the modification of recharge to aquifers, or detrimental impacts on groundwater quality from surface pollution. In addition to these potential impacts on aquifers, changing groundwater conditions may adversely affect grey urban infrastructure. For example, rising groundwater levels can inundate utilities and basements, affect drainage systems, and infiltrate sewers. Infiltration of groundwater into sewers under normal conditions reduces the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants but under extreme conditions can overload sewers and cause the discharge of untreated effluent into the environment.

Blue-green (BG) infrastructure is increasingly being used to manage complex urban water systems to enhance sustainability, resilience and liveability. One aspect of this is the use of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to try to shift towards a more 'natural' water cycle. SuDS offer potential benefits in terms of reduced pluvial and fluvial flood risk, enhanced natural recharge to aquifers, reduced burden on combined sewers and in supporting habitat creation and biodiversity. However, without careful planning, underpinned by a robust understanding of the interactions between BG and grey infrastructure, and groundwater, new schemes could have detrimental impacts on groundwater resources and quality.

Whilst there is a need to understand these interactions within the urban water cycle, few studies have attempted to do this within the context of urban water planning. Furthermore a limited number of accessible tools exist with which to model such systems and assess the potential impacts of new urban developments, catchment interventions or groundwater resources potential. Building upon the ongoing research at Imperial College London on groundwater impacts on SuDS design and implications for long-term sustainability, this PhD project proposes a novel integrated approach for conceptualising the 'critical' urban water zone within an urban water management framework that sets out the necessary components for water security. Central to this will be the development and implementation of an integrated model that simulates the fluxes of water between SuDS, urban drainage systems, sewers and groundwater. In order to maximise the capacity of BG infrastructure to enhance urban resilience to future change, it is essential to understand the linkages between all urban water cycle elements, and quantify the urban water feedbacks between the subsurface and surface.

The proposed modelling framework will be developed and tested using the Isle of Thanet (IoT), Kent as a test-bed. The IoT is a water scarce region in southern England, which is subject to multiple pressures. The region must accommodate an expected growth target of 15,660 homes by 2031, is projected to experience increased winter rainfall over the coming century, and Kent’s groundwater body is currently defined as 'poor' for both groundwater chemical and quantitative Water Framework Directive (WFD) status. There are a number of organisations with responsibilities that impact green infrastructure and sustainable drainage in the region. The inclusion of sustainable drainage is overseen by the local authority Kent County Council (KCC) in its statutory role in with the planning process with respect to surface water for development. The Environment Agency (EA) has a role to protect groundwater resources and manages flood risk. Southern Water as water supplier and sewerage undertaker in the region has interests to ensure a sustainable water supply. Thanet District Council must ensure that development is sustainable. Though each organisation has a role in promoting sustainable drainage and green infrastructure there is no one means of prioritising delivery of sustainable drainage for the specific benefit of water resources and wider catchment management. The PhD will seek to work with, and across, these organisations, to ensure that the outcomes of the project are truly integrated, and therefore of benefit to the range of important stakeholders, including the local community.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dr Ana Mijic.

Geochronology and Tracers Facility
When did crustal melting form the soft centre at the heart of the Himalaya?

BGS Supervisor: Nick Roberts

University Supervisor: Tom Argles

DTP: CENTA, Open University


Major mountain belts are contortions of the Earth's crust, ravaged by gravity. Rocks buried in these zones soften, stretch and melt, with drastic consequences for their mechanical strength. Just a few percent of partial melt can dramatically weaken the continental crust1 and rapidly change the evolution of the mountain belt.

In the Himalaya, research on granites has mainly focused on conspicuous, pale bodies of Miocene-aged granites (leucogranites). These magmas formed when fertile rocks were rapidly exhumed from the mid-crust, decompressed and melted. However, these melts were a symptom of that dramatic exhumation, not its cause. Clues to what triggered that exhumation in the Himalayan core must lie in earlier events.

Sporadic evidence for earlier melting has been recognised along the entire Himalayan chain from Pakistan to Bhutan2. These cryptic, deformed kyanite-bearing leucogranites and partly-molten gneisses (migmatites) crystallized during Paleogene prograde burial and heating. However, such evidence is commonly overlooked among rocks with textures heavily reworked during Neogene mountain-building.

Understanding Paleogene crustal melting in these youthful mountains is therefore key for establishing the tipping point at which crustal thickening was overtaken by exhumation3. Moreover the spatial distribution of such melting will help fingerprint the underlying tectonic mechanism that drove the tectonic extrusion (critical taper, wedge tectonics or channel flow).

This project aims to interrogate field relations and mineral assemblages to define melt reactions during heating in the crystalline core of the Himalaya. Results from the project will yield insights into viscosity changes in both the Paleogene Himalaya and older collisional orogens, providing critical constraints on thermomechanical models that attempt to explain how all mountain belts evolve.


The initial phase of this study will examine samples of Paleogene granites from the OU collection to identify the most appropriate field area for detailed study. Fieldwork in the Indian Himalaya will allow the spatial relationships of these granitic bodies and their deformational and metamorphic histories to be assessed. Migmatites, leucogranites and potential source rocks for granitic melt will be subjected to trace element and isotopic (Nd and Sr) whole-rock study, while melt accessory phases (monazite, zircon) will be dated via the U-Pb system and analysed for Hf isotopes to trace the history of the melts. Monazite and zircon ages will be linked to crystallization reactions by employing pseudosection modeling of metamorphic minerals4.

Training and skills:

The successful student will be trained in advanced fieldwork techniques, as well as petrological, geochemical and geochronological analysis and modelling. Training in ICP-MS and in situ laser-ablation isotopic techniques (using LA-MC-ICPMS) at the OU and the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory (NIGL) will be integral to the project.

The Department has a thriving postgraduate community, where online teaching opportunities via the Open University Virtual Learning Environment are available, including teaching on the new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

CENTA students will be provided with 45 days training from CENTA through their PhD which includes a 5-day residential and a 10-day work placement. In the first year, students will undertake training in general environmental science, research methods and core skills as a single cohort. Training in years 2 and 3 will progress from core skills to masterclasses specific to the project and overall scientific theme.

1 Beaumont et al., 2001, Nature 414: 738-742.

2 Prince et al., 2001. J. Geol. Soc. Lond.: 158, 233-241.

3 King et al.: 2011. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 123: 218-239.

4 Kelsey et al., 2008, J. Metamorph. Geol., 26: 199–212.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Investigating tectonic-climate interactions using sedimentary records in the Tarim Basin, China

BGS Supervisor: Ian Millar

University Supervisor: Yani Najman

DTP: ENVISION, Lancaster University

This project will use the sediment record in the Tarim Basin, China, to document regional climate change during development of the northern Tibetan plateau. Himalayan-Tibet evolution is a type example of continental collision and climate-tectonic interactions. The plateau's uplift is considered to have caused regional climate change, by deflection of wind systems, intensification of the monsoon, and retreat of the adjacent Paratethys ocean. Yet a knowledge of the mechanisms and timing of the plateau’s evolution, needed to assess its interaction with climate, and to contribute to our understanding of crustal deformation processes, are poorly known. Similarly, the influence and timing of increased monsoon intensity and retreat of the Paratethys ocean on the regional climate is debated. Better constraints to both timing of plateau evolution and regional climate change are required in order to test their proposed coupling.

We will use the Paleogene-Recent sedimentary record of material eroded from the rising Tibetan plateau and preserved in the adjacent Tarim Basin to:

  1. record regional climate variation through time, including measurement of stable isotopes in pedogenic carbonate and organic carbon, to indicate rainfall dynamics and vegetation change.
  2. constrain the timing of deformation in the northern margin of the Tibetan plateau by a detrital isotopic provenance and thermochronological study. Dating the minerals will allow assessment of their provenance, ie. which part of the Tibetan plateau was evolving, and the time it did so.

The above will permit:

  1. distinction between competing crustal deformation models of synchronous versus diachronous uplift, by comparison with published data from the southern Tibetan plateau.
  2. assessment of the degree of coupling between tectonics and climate.

The research programme would involve:

  1. Fieldwork to the northern margin of the Tibetan plateau. Fieldwork will involve collection of sandstone samples from a Cenozoic sedimentary section in the Tarim basin, previously dated by magnetostratigraphy.
  2. Isotopic analysis of samples by single grain and bulk techniques for provenance and detrital thermochronology. After mineral separation, zircon fission track analyses, combined U-Pb and Hf on zircon and U-Pb analysis on rutile will be carried out on grains from the sedimentary section to document the region’s exhumation history through time. Sr-Nd will be carried out on the mudstones for additional provenance assessment.

Stable isotope analyses of organic carbon and pedogenic carbonate in order to assess rainfall dynamics / climate (O isotopes) and vegetation change (carbon isotopes).

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dr Yani Najman.

Methane clathrates and the glacial-interglacial cycle

BGS Supervisor: Dan Condon

University Supervisor: Mark Claire

DTP: IAPETUS, St Andrews University

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Mark Claire or Andrea Burke or James Rae.

Groundwater Science
Fate of pharmaceuticals in groundwater systems

BGS Supervisor: Dan Lapworth

University Supervisor: Mike Rivett

DTP: CENTA, Birmingham

Overview: Emerging organic contaminants (EC) are 'microorganics' of anthropogenic origin and encompass a large array of compounds including pharmaceuticals and personal care products, pesticide degradates and veterinary products. They pose a growing threat to both surface and groundwater quality and there is an urgent need to better understand their environmental behaviour. This PhD aims to assess EC fate at the transient groundwater–surface-water interface (GSI), the key controlling processes that may naturally attenuate ECs, and the wider significance of findings to protection of the environment. Case support to the University of Birmingham (UoB) lead PhD will be provided by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Environment Agency (EA). The approach will be field lead, using the BGS peri-urban floodplain site near Oxford to evaluate EC fate under flood/post-flood conditions and the UoB River Tame site to assess EC fate in the riverbed-hyporheic zone. The research will obtain data to allow the assessment of EC natural attenuation at the GSI and establish the relative significance of flow and biogeochemistry. It will utilise the innovative 1000-compound EC screening methods developed by the EA National Laboratory. Interpretation of the field datasets will be supported by a flexible choice of modelling or focused laboratory studies. The EA and BGS will assist in the translation of research findings to improve prediction of EC fate by practitioners. An exceptional training opportunity is offered via the national expertise and facilities at the BGS and EA and access to UoB's renowned MSc Hydrogeology and MSc Rivers Management programmes.

Methodology: ECs that are often found in rivers due to wastewater discharges have potential to be attenuated in the floodplain and riverbed-hyporheic zone. The field-lead PhD will utilise the BGS peri-urban floodplain site on the Thames to evaluate EC fate under flood/post-flood conditions and the University’s River Tame site to assess fate in the dynamic riverbed-hyporheic zone. Field data will allow the transient natural attenuation of ECs to be assessed and relative significance of flow and biogeochemical controls to be established. This is challenged by the dynamic flow conditions and probable spatial heterogeneity in processes. The PhD will use and develop novel techniques including integrated-time passive EC sampling, fibre-optic distributed temperature sensor, isotope, and smart-tracer methods. It will utilise the innovative 1000-compound EC screening methods developed by the Environment Agency. Interpretation of the field data will be supported by a flexible choice of modelling (flow/geochemical) or focused laboratory studies (column/batch tests).

Training and skills: The student will receive an exceptional training opportunity in environmental and hydrogeological field, laboratory and modelling techniques pertinent to the project and future professional employment in these fields. Specifically they will

  1. be able to attend modules on the University’s renowned MSc Hydrogeology and MSc Rivers Management programmes,
  2. receive hands-on training in a wide range of advanced field and laboratory analysis techniques during placement at the BGS in Wallingford who have extensive facilities
  3. obtain specialised training in emerging contaminant analysis through project collaboration with the Environment Agency National Laboratories who are the European leaders in this field.

CENTA students will attend 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to the student's projects and themes.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE): This study will be supported by a CASE award from BGS and will include a placement at BGS Wallingford, as well as in-kind assistance and hands on experience at the Environment Agency (EA) state-of-art National Laboratory facility at Starcross, Exeter. Fieldwork will be based at the BGS Oxford observatory (as well as the R. Tame UoB research site), a research site with a range of relevant and active projects focused at understanding flooding processes and hydrochemical functioning within peri-urban floodplains. Translation of research findings to allow more ready prediction of EC fate by practitioners will be faciliated through input by EA and BGS.

Timeline: Year 1: Project mobilisation including literature study, field site(s) programme design, hands-on training in lab and field methods; Installation of field site infrastructure and development of novel technologies (e.g. EC passive samplers); Initiation of field site monitoring and supporting lab analysis programmes. Characterisation of flow regimes and ECs of concern. Year 2: Continuation of field site monitoring and supporting lab analysis programmes. The focus will be Year 3: Completion of field monitoring programmes and progression of data analysis and interpretation through quantiative and modelling analysis. Translation of research to the user community. Thesis and journal papers write up. Identification of follow up projects / knowledge exchange opportunities.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Application of novel field sensors for tracking pathogens in drinking water supplies in Africa

BGS Supervisor: Dan Lapworth

University Supervisor: Steve Pedley

DTP: SCENARIO, Surrey University

Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing unprecedented changes. Rapid projected population growth, pressures on land-use, growing climate variability, and often poor environmental hygiene are threatening the long-term sustainability of clean sources of water. The problem is particularly acute in heavily populated low-income peri-urban areas of major cities where faecal contamination of water supplies can be widespread. Bacteria and viruses found in wastewater and sewage cause diarrheal diseases, such as cholera, which kill 1.8 million people every year, 90% of whom are children under 5 years . Here, poor health from drinking contaminated water has a huge impact on the livelihoods of millions of people, reducing life expectancy, their ability to generate income and ultimately their ability to improve their economic prospects. Sustainable Development Goal 6 sets a challenge to eliminate these conditions by 2030 by "[achieving] universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all." Monitoring water to confirm safety is going to be an important task. Waterborne pathogens are typically inferred from the presence of surrogate indicator organisms such as thermo-tolerant coliforms. However, analysis requires access to suitable laboratories, specialist trained personnel, and is time-consuming: typically 24 - 48 hours to get a result. This can limit sampling resolution, particularly during critical pollution events or for intervention monitoring. Given the limited capability of many laboratories in Sub-Saharan Africa and the growing pressure on water resources, it is vital to research the potential for quick, cheap, accurate ways of measuring faecal pollution in the field to guide efforts to provide safe and affordable drinking water for all.

This research project will focus on the application of novel field-based sensors for tracking faecal contamination in drinking water supplies (e.g. Sorensen et al 2015) in East Africa (Uganda and Kenya). These methods will be reviewed and tested alongside a suite of tools, which will include: molecular DNA (qPCR, High throughput sequencing) techniques to quantify pathogenic strains of bacteria and viruses; mapping, characterizing and quantifying the risks posed by water-borne pathogens in both urban and rural communities. In partnership with NGOs (including Oxfam and Practical Action) and local ministries, the project will generate much-needed process understanding about the fate a dispersal of pathogens in shallow groundwater in Africa. Equally important, it will increase the capacity of local actors to collect real-time information about the quality of sources and the need for interventions.

Sorensen, J P R, Lapworth, D J, Marchant, B P, Nkhuwa, D C W, Pedley, S, Stuart, M E, Bell, R A, Chirwa, M, Kabika, J, Liemisa, M, Chibesa, M. 2015. In-situ tryptophan-like fluorescence: a real-time indicator of faecal contamination in drinking water supplies. Water Research, 81. 38-46

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: contact Dan Lapworth.

Minerals and Waste
Crustal recycling in the magmatic evolution of gold telluride districts

BGS Supervisor: Jon Naden

University Supervisor: Dan Smith

DTP: CENTA, Leicester University

Project Highlights:

  • Challenge longstanding ideas of how magmatic activity relates to ore formation
  • Join a multinational research team studying tellurium in geochemical and ore forming processes
  • Develop opportunities for career paths in academic and industry

Overview: Some of the world's most significant gold deposits are rich in tellurium, and are hosted in atypical igneous host rocks (alkalic or adakite-like compositions). Despite the economic importance of Au-Te ore deposits, the underlying processes which link them to particular types of magmas are poorly understood. This project will seek to address this important knowledge gap and will utilise fieldwork coupled with state-of-the-art analytical techniques.

The study area will be Metaliferi Mountains (part of the Apuseni Mountains) of Romania and the research will focus on its magmatic history. The area hosts world–class examples of Au-Ag-Te epithermal and porphyry mineralisation (Cioacă et al. 2014). Previous studies on the region indicate that the magmatism is not directly related to subduction, despite being predominantly calc-alkaline in nature and bearing the geochemical hallmarks of subduction. Instead, various groups have argued that the magmas are produced by partially melting metasomatised mantle during crustal extension (Harris et al. 2013; Seghedi et al. 2007).

Metaliferi shares many characteristics with Cripple Creek, Colorado, which we are currently studying as part of a large project on tellurium geochemistry. Here, prolonged calc-alkaline magmatism was followed by post-subduction, alkaline magmas that produced world-class Au-Ag-Te ores. The PhD will extend the study to Metaliferi, and work with the research team to compare and contrast the magmatic evolution of the ore-forming systems in both regions.

Our novelty will be through determining how Te behaves, and whether the ore-stage magmatism did indeed originate in the metasomatised mantle. The extended magmatic histories of both regions mean that there will be a cumulate pile in the lower crust, which is likely to be hydrous (Davidson et al. 2007; Smith 2014) and ore-element bearing (Jenner et al. 2010). Dehydration melting of this assemblage during extension would generate calk-alkaline to alkaline magmas, and the fractionation of the precursor magmas may serve as a pre-concentration step for Au and Te in particular. Such a process has been suggested for Cripple Creek (Kelley et al 2002), and we are currently investigating how Te in particular would behave during such a series of events.

This project thus contributes to a growing body of work around the world, across multiple institutions that the lower crust is an active, dynamic part of magmatism at arcs during and after subduction, and not just an inert fractionated phase.

Methodology: Fieldwork will comprise detailed sampling at key sites.. The successful candidate will be expected to build and maintain a GIS database to support and record fieldwork.

Laboratory studies will focus on unaltered igneous lithologies, but may extend to some mineralised suites in support of the wider science goals. Techniques include petrography, mineralogical analysis (SEM, XRD), and geochemical analysis (XRF, EPMA, ICPMS). Geochemical modelling will establish or test theoretical frameworks for magmatic processes in the Metaliferi Mountains.

Geochronology will be used to support and advance the petrogenetic models, and provide direct evidence of crustal reworking (e.g. Tapster et al. 2015). The supervisory team will prepare a bid for NERC Isotope Geoscience Facility funds. As NIGL and BGS are involved at the outset it is not anticipated that securing access will be a problem. The PhD candidate will be involved in this process to gain experience in preparing research proposals.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: Contact Jon Naden

Geothermal Energy from Upscaling of Shale Gas Wells (GUSh)

BGS Supervisor: Jon Busby

University Supervisor: Gavin Bridge

DTP: IAPETUS, Durham University

The UK government has a remit to maintain secure and continuous supplies of energy whilst lowering UK carbon emissions by 80% in 2050. With increasing reliance on imported energy, the subsurface of the UK is of increasing interest both for future energy supply (conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons; geothermal energy) and mitigation options (carbon capture and storage). Currently, the UK government is actively supporting the development of a shale gas industry to provide an indigenous gas resource. In the absence of production data, the true extent of UK shale gas reserves is uncertain. However, based on US data, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 wells would be needed in order to produce 10 years UK gas supply, a target which the government is pursuing. The aim of this project is to determine whether shale gas wells can be used as a long-term source of geothermal energy for direct heat.

The average UK geothermal gradient means that temperatures increase by around 26oC per kilometre and a typical shale gas well extends to depths of 1 - 3km with associated lateral sections of up to 2km. For 15,000 wells, this represents around 30,000 km of horizontal well infrastructure sitting at temperatures between 30 and 90 oC. Once drilled and developed, shale gas wells have an anticipated operational lifespan of less than a decade but theoretically could supply geothermal heat thereafter. The key questions to be addressed in this project relate to identifying the technical, regulatory, legal and socio-political factors that govern the operation of shale gas and geothermal systems to determine whether well function could change to produce geothermal heat as the gas resource is depleted. Since geothermal wells can operate for decades, the use of shale gas wells for geothermal energy production will extend the timescale for the delivery of energy from the well whilst taking advantage of a low carbon resource.

Shale gas wells may be drilled to depths within the same realm as geothermal wells, but seek different targets. The former generally comprise single wells (that may be clustered at one well pad) that target low permeability shale formations stimulated by hydro-fracturing to facilitate gas flow. Conversely, wells drilled for geothermal energy target thick, high permeability strata or buried radiothermal granites whose permeability has been increased by thermal-fracturing. Geothermal energy systems are commonly configured as doublets comprising two wells, one for extracting warm water and one for returning geothermal fluid underground following heat extraction. Ensuring the necessary water flow for energy extraction from target formations is a key challenge for geothermal energy exploitation. This is a fundamental consideration for the suitability of shale gas wells for geothermal energy because of the low permeability of the host rocks. However, the risk of insufficient fluid flow can be counteracted using a single well, closed loop (pipe in pipe or standing column) system (the single well acting as both flow and return).

Technical challenges form only one element of this study and opportunities exist to examine the institutional and regulatory structures associated with accessing the subsurface for the production of shale gas and then reusing this infrastructure for heat. The fact that geothermal energy production has a potential role in reducing the carbon footprint of a well drilled to deliver gas also offers an interesting opportunity to investigate public attitudes to well re-use, and the harnessing of different subterranean resource potentials.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Magmatic to hydrothermal semi-metal fluxes in the Caledonides of the British Isles

BGS Supervisor: Paul Lusty

University Supervisor: Kathryn Moore

DTP: GW4Plus, Exeter University

This project interrogates the relative roles of disparate sources and processes in the concentration of potential by- or co-product critical metals, vital for many emerging high- and green energy technologies, in precious and base metal mineralisation in the Caledonian Terranes of Scotland, Northern Ireland and western Ireland.

The semi-metals tellurium (Te) and selenium (Se) are largely recovered during electrolytic refining of copper but they also contribute to the economic potential of gold and silver deposits. Some mesothermal and epithermal Au-Te deposits have ore fluids and Te sourced from the mantle and the geochemical map of Te distribution across Northern Ireland shows that Te in deep soils broadly correlates with minor intrusions, principally mantle-derived lamprophyres. The gold in these deposits is controversially considered to have a mantle origin, potentially being associated with lamprophyric magmas (Rock and Groves, 1988; Kerrich and Wyman, 1994). Lamprophyres are spatially related to gold deposits in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, are abundant in contiguous terranes hosting gold mineralisation in Northern Ireland, and provide an under-utilised means to interrogate the flux of critical metals from the mantle.

Firstly, this project will interrogate the nature of the lamprophyres and the spatially associated mineralisation across the terranes to determine the mantle influence and the magmatic + magmatic fluid controls on semi-metal enrichment. Secondly, this project will seek to elucidate whether the mantle source is dominant or subordinate to the crustal source. Pilot investigations using the Tellus Northern Ireland data set indicate that the sedimentary succession in the Southern Uplands Terrane has elevated background Te and Se concentrations, and possibly represents a geological reservoir for these and related metals. The degree of concentration of critical metals in large basins, potentially as a result of multiple processes, will be investigated using the G-Base data for the Southern Uplands, Grampian and Highland Terranes where alluvial gold is known to have significant Te and Bi content (Chapman et al, 2000). The critical metal concentrations in sedimentary rocks and lamprophyres of the Southern Uplands Terrane will also be compared with those of the Grampian and Highland Terranes, to further examine metal fluxes and co-variation in the critical metal budget as a function of geological environment. Ultimately, the project will generate a petrogenetic model for the fluxes of semi-metals from the mantle through the crust.

Chapman, R J, Leake, R C, Moles, N R, Earls, G, Cooper, C, Harrington, K, Berzins, R. 2000. The application of microchemical analysis of alluvial gold grains to the understanding of complex local and regional gold mineralization: A case study in the Irish and Scottish caledonides. Economic Geology 95, 1753-1773

Kerrich, R, Wyman, D, 1994. The mesothermal gold-lamprophyre association: significance for an accretionary geodynamic setting, supercontinent cycles, and metallogenic processes. Mineralogy and Petrology 51, 147-172

Rock, N M S, Groves, D I. 1988. Do lamprophyres carry gold as well as diamonds? Nature 332, 253-255

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: Contact Dr Kathryn Moore. Contact number: +44 (0) 01326 255693.

Developing clumped isotopes in witherite (BaCO3) as a tool for investigating ore genesis

BGS Supervisor: Andrew Kilpatrick

University Supervisor: John MacDonald

DTP: IAPETUS, Glasgow University

Overview The recently-developed carbonate clumped isotope palaeothermometer has great potential as a proxy for reconstructing past temperatures in a range of geological settings. This method is based on the temperature dependence of bonds between heavy carbon (13C) and oxygen (18O) isotopes in the carbonate mineral lattice1. It has successfully been used as a temperature proxy in palaeoclimate studies using the common carbonate mineral calcite2-4 but is also attracting increasing interest as a method for determining temperatures of geological processes in the subsurface 5-7. One potential application of the clumped isotope method, which is in its infancy, is in characterising the genesis of ore mineral deposits. Carbonate minerals are common in many ore mineral systems both as ore and gangue minerals. The common barium carbonate mineral, witherite (Fig. 1), has yet to be investigated with clumped isotopes but forms a key part in understanding the formation of many ore deposits, such as the North Pennine Orefield (NPO) of Northern England. Traditionally, witherite has been viewed as a gangue mineral in Pb-Zn deposits, but there is now interest in it as an ore mineral itself, e.g. in China. The aim of this project will be to develop a temperature calibration for clumped isotopes in witherite and use it to characterise natural examples in ore deposits.

Methodology The primary method used in this project will be clumped isotope analysis. Clumped isotope thermometry utilises the temperature dependence of the formation of the bond between two rare heavy isotopes (13C and 18O) within the carbonate molecule; the abundance of molecules with 13C-18O bonds is proportional to mineral precipitation temperature1,8. Clumped isotope values are expressed using Δ47 notation which can be calibrated against temperature using carbonate precipitated at known temperatures. Clumped isotope measurements will be made using gas extraction lines and a Thermo MAT253 isotope ratio mass spectrometer, hosted at SUERC.

As clumped isotopes have not been measured in witherite before, the first step is to calibrate Δ47 values to temperature, following the workflow of Kluge et al.,9 (Fig. 2). This calibration involves synthetically precipitating witherite using the facilities of the BGS Hydrothermal laboratory, over a range of accurately known temperatures. The precipitates are then analysed for clumped isotopes to determine the correspondence of measured Δ47 to the actual temperature of precipitation. The resulting calibration will then allow formation temperatures to be calculated from Δ47 measured in natural samples where the formation temperature is poorly known.

Samples of natural witherite from classic ore localities, e.g. from the NPO, will be provided John Faithfull at the Hunterian Museum and Mr. Brian Young, renowned mineral collector (retired from BGS and honorary fellow at Durham). In parallel with this, clumped isotope temperatures will be compared to temperatures derived from fluid inclusion microthermometry10, further testing the accuracy of the clumped isotope method. Fluid inclusion analysis will be conducted at BGS.


Year 1: literature review on synthetic precipitation, clumped isotope and fluid inclusion methodologies, and on the formation and significance of witherite in ore deposits; synthetic precipitation experiments at BGS, with training; clumped isotope measurement of synthetic precipitates at SUERC, with training.

Year 2: selection and characterisation of natural witherite samples; clumped isotope analysis of natural witherite samples; preparation of paper on witherite clumped isotope calibration.

Year 3: clumped isotope analysis of natural witherite samples; fluid inclusion paleothermometry on natural witherite samples at BGS, with training; preparation of paper on application of clumped isotope method to natural witherite.

Year 4: completion of thesis and outstanding analytical work.

The schedule will also include presentation at UK and international conferences. The timeline is subject to variation, and we anticipate significant input from the student as the project evolves.

Training and Skills

This project will equip the student a range of analytical and transferable skills which are desirable for careers in research or industry.

Analytical Techniques

The student will be trained in synthetic mineral precipitation and fluid inclusion microthermometry at BGS. Full training will be given in clumped isotope analysis at SUERC. Once accustomed to the sample preparation and analysis methodology, the student will play a role in the everyday running of the clumped isotope lab including preparation and analysis of standards; this will give the student experience of responsibility in a scientific environment. By conducting analysis in the SUERC facility, the student will have the opportunity to engage with a multidisciplinary range of researchers and potentially gain experience in other stable isotope techniques.

Researcher Development

Technical and personal skills development will be undertaken with guidance from doctoral advisors and within the framework of the DTP Researcher Development Statement. Researcher developmental training will be provided by IAPETUS and supplemented by the University of Glasgow. The School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow (GES) has a large research student cohort that will provide peer-support throughout the research program. The scholar will participate in the annual post-graduate research conference within GES, providing an opportunity to present their research to postgraduates and staff within the School, and to also learn about the research conducted by their fellow postgraduate peers. Additionally, skills in NERC's 'most wanted' list for PhD student training11 that will be developed include multi-disciplinarity, data management, numeracy, and potentially fieldwork in addition to principles and practice of stable isotope geochemistry, including use of vacuum extraction systems and dual inlet mass spectrometry. Training and experience in national and international conference presentations, and preparation and submission of papers to international peer-reviewed journals will also be provided.

References and Further Reading

1 Eiler, J M.(2007). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 262, 309-327, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.08.020.

2 Affek, H P, Bar-Matthews, M, Ayalon, A, Matthews, A & Eiler, J M.(2008). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72, 5 351-5360, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2008.06.031.

3 Eiler, J M.(2011). Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 3575-3588, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.09.001.

4 Quade, J, Eiler, J, Daëron, M. & Achyuthan, H.(2013). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 105, 92-107, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2012.11.031.

5 Dale, A, John, C M, Mozley, P S, Smalley, P C & Muggeridge, A H.(2014). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 394, 30-37, doi:Doi 10.1016/J.Epsl.2014.03.004.

6 Huntington, K W, Budd, D A, Wernicke, B P & Eiler, J M.(2011). Journal of Sedimentary Research 81, 656-669, doi:10.2110/jsr.2011.51.

7 Huntington, K W & Lechler, A R.(2015). Tectonophysics 647, 1-20, doi:DOI 10.1016/j.tecto.2015.02.019.

8 Ghosh, P. et al.(2006). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70, 1439-1456, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2005.11.014.

9 Kluge, T, John, C M, Jourdan, A L, Davis, S & Crawshaw, J.(2015). Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta 157, 213-227, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2015.02.028.

10 Wilkinson, J J.(2001). Lithos 55, 229-272, doi:Doi 10.1016/S0024-4937(00)00047-5.

11 Most Wanted Postgraduate Skills.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: Contact John Macdonald, or Adrian Boyce. Contact number: +44 (0) 01326 255693.

Understanding the origin of alkaline igneous provinces and associated critical metal mineralisation: the Chilwa Alkaline Province, Malawi

BGS Supervisor: Kathryn Goodenough

University Supervisor: Frances Wall

DTP: GW4Plus, Exeter University

The Chilwa Alkaline Province (CAP), in southern Malawi, is one of the 'classic' areas of carbonatite and alkaline magmatism. It comprises large alkaline intrusions ranging from Mlanje, at approximately 640 km2 and rising to 3000 m, to smaller intrusions and minor plugs and dykes. These intrusive centres, mainly early Jurassic, are remarkable for their lithological diversity, including granites, quartz syenites, syenites and trachytes, nepheline syenites and phonolites, ijolites and nephelinites, and a plethora of dykes and carbonatites with associated fenites. They are characteristically associated with critical metals deposits, including especially REE and Nb and also phosphate. Critical metals are essential for a range of essentials technologies, difficult to substitute but at risk of supply disruption because of their limited number of sources.

The genesis of such alkaline provinces is contentious, with two main controls advocated: a structural control, in the lithosphere (Woolley, 1987); and a mantle plume derived control (e.g. Bell, 2001). The CAP is an example of a province considered to be emplaced through structural control in the lithosphere, with up-doming, lithospheric focussing and rifting ascribed to an early stage of the East African Rift (Woolley, 1987). However, this hypothesis is supported by geochemical analyses from only a few intrusions in the north of the province, and limited Ar-Ar and fission track data. There is no holistic model for critical metal mineralisation.

The project objectives are to revise the petrogenetic model for the CAP and relate the model to the processes that concentrate the resources, especially REE, P and Nb in certain intrusions. The project partner, Mkango Resources, operates in Malawi and can support fieldwork to obtain samples from the under-studied intrusions of the southern CAP (Fig 1). Furthermore, project partners at the Natural History Museum (NHM) are able to facilitate access to collections of material from the northern CAP and to aid whole-rock geochemical analyses. The project will be an important step in the development of a mineral deposit model for this area, which can be applied to other alkaline igneous provinces globally.

The project will run alongside two large consortia research programmes: SoS RARE ( researching mobility and concentration of REE and a new European level project to develop exploration geomodels for alkaline rocks and carbonatites.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information: Contact Professor Frances Wall. Contact number: +44(0) 01326 371831.

BGS Joint opportunities

Climate and Landscape Change
Deglaciation of the Irish Sea basin

BGS Supervisor: Claire Mellett, Energy and Marine Geoscience and Tom Bradwell, Climate and landscape change

University Supervisor: Richard Chiverrell

DTP: TGNES, University of Liverpool

Introduction: The last British – Irish Ice Sheet declined rapidly after 24,000 years ago, with the Irish Sea home to one of the largest ice streams draining this former ice mass. Geochronological modelling constrains the decline of this ice mass to 24,000 to 19,000 years ago (Chiverrell et al., 2013; Mccarroll et al., 2010). The sea floor geomorphology (e.g. van Landeghem et al., 2009) shows the evidence for subglacial landforms and a sedimentary record for this deglaciation. Britice-Chrono is a 5 year NERC Consortium Project running 2012-2018 for which the explicit aim is constrain the rates and styles of ice stream retreat during the last deglaciation. The motivation is that better data are needed by the ice sheet modelling community to test and validate their simulations to increase confidence in future scenarios for Antarctica and Greenland. The recent Britice-Chrono cruise of the RRS James Cook obtained >40 cores and 100's km of geophysical (seismic) and multibeam morphological data for the Irish Sea. This coupled with >270 cores and a comprehensive survey dataset for the High Voltage Direct Link (HVDL) that crosses the Irish Sea from the Wirral to the Firth of Clyde provides an unrivalled opportunity to test hypotheses about rates and styles of deglaciation.

Project Summary: This project will use an unrivalled geophysical data archive and comprehensive collection of core materials to explore the environments and ice marginal retreat sequence in the Irish Sea broadly north from the Llyn Peninsula to SW Scotland and Cumbria. Focusing almost entirely on the offshore record the project will test hypotheses about: nature and influence of grounded ice, the extent and ice flow indications in the subglacial landforms, the sediment signature across the subglacial to proglacial transition, the extent and degree of marine influence (the glacimarine debate), sediment provenance and ice source / flow paths. The overarching aim is to reconstruct the environmental changes in the basin across this deglaciation. The research will benefit from a comprehensive marine and land-based geochronology developed in parallel through the proposed PhD research (Britice-Chrono) and the PhD candidate would benefit from the connections and research environment of the Britice-Chrono research community (Field and Annual Meetings, and Conferences). The lead supervisor (Chiverrell) is the Terrestrial Lead for Britice-Chrono and Transect Lead for Irish Sea East.

Training: The student will receive training in the use of an array of sediment description and analysis, geophysical data and accompanying software. It will be expected that the student will participate in workshops that provide additional training in research skills, GIS and experimental design. The School of Environmental Sciences requires that the student participate in a comprehensive postgraduate research programme. The British Geological Survey (BGS) is a CASE partner and so though based at Liverpool the student will spend between 3 and 12 months at the BGS during the 3-4 years of your research training. Tom Bradwell and Claire Mellett will be a key part of the supervisory team and contribute to the training programme that will include technical training (e.g. Kingdom and Fledermaus software).

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Life and death in ancient oceans: understanding the Toarcian (early Jurassic) ocean anoxic event (~180 ma)

BGS Supervisor: Dr James Riding

University Supervisor: Prof Alan Haywood, Dr Stephen Hunter and Dr Aisling Dolan


Further information: Contact Prof Alan Haywood, email:

Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAEs) occur when oceans become depleted in oxygen. The geological record shows that OAEs have occurred many times in the past, and have often been associated with mass extinction events. Understanding previous warm periods and intervals of ocean anoxia is important in light of human-induced climate change and evidence of locally decreasing oceanic oxygen levels.

OAEs are well documented in the Mesozoic (largely in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods). It has been proposed that OAEs are linked to a strong greenhouse gas-induced climate warming leading to reduced equator–to-pole temperature gradients, weaker atmospheric and ocean circulation, and ocean ventilation.

Whilst data on past atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration is limited, multiple geological datasets for CO2 suggest that a sudden climate threshold (or tipping point) favouring the establishment of an OAE occurs at an atmospheric CO2 concentration in excess of four times the Earth's current atmospheric CO2 level (i.e. ~400 ppm). The sedimentological expression of an OAE is an unusually high accumulation of organic matter and normally the formation of carbon-rich shale.

A single major OAE documented in the Early Jurassic took place during the early Toarcian (~180 Ma). Toarcian black shales are well known and studied in Europe but little is known about the characteristics of this OAE elsewhere in the world, which make the application of global climate modelling to the Toarcian particularly exciting and useful in understanding how climate and environments in regions outside Europe responded during this event.

Entry requirements: A good first degree (1 or high 2i), or a good Master's degree in a physical or mathematical discipline, such as mathematics, physics, geophysics, engineering or meteorology. Experience in programming (e.g. Fortran, Matlab, R) and Unix is an advantage.

Further Reading:

Van de Schootbrugge et al. (2013). Palaeontology 56, 685–709.

Lyons et al. (2009). Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37, 507–53.

Wignall et al. (1996). Science, 272, 1155–1158.

Meyer & Kump (2008). Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 36, 251–288.

Aquatic Dead Zones NASA Earth Observatory

Diaz & Rosenberg (2008). Science 321, 926-929.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Earth Hazards & Observatories
Coalfield Rebound: Environmental Threat or Energy Opportunity?

BGS Supervisor: Luke Bateson

University Supervisor: Professor Jon Gluyas, Durham University


Further information: Professor Jon Gluyas

Overview: The deep coal mining history of the UK flourished for around 300 years until its demise in the 1980s. In the last 100 years of the industry some 15 billion m3 of coal had been removed. Collapse of the overburden was inevitable part of the mining process. We estimate some 2 billion m3 of void space remains and the most of this is now saturated with water. Working collieries were formerly dewatered by pumping in order to access coal reserves. At abandonment, pumps were switched off and water levels began to recover to pre-mining levels. The Coal Authority re-instated pumping at several sites to control regional mine water levels and prevent emergence of unwanted discharge to controlled waters. Rebound of water levels in many former mining areas has taken place in tandem with ground level movements associated with regional settlement beneath mined "panels" and uplift caused by increased water levels. Methane released from coal mines when water levels were at their lowest is generally quenched as water levels rise but is being vented in some areas know to have recovered, the reasons for this are poorly understood. The combined processes are both a hazard and an opportunity; hazard because of possible induced seismicity and because the green house and potentially explosive methane is being vented and opportunity because the inflowing water represents a low enthalpy geothermal resource and the released methane could be used to upgrade that resource. An understanding of rates of process will allow the geothermal and gas resource to be evaluated as well as understand the consequent hazards of coalfield rebound.

Methodology: InSAR data will be used to assess uplift rate and locations. An airborne methane survey will allow a wide area to be screened for gas release, this then can be followed up with ground based detection for high graded areas. Many abandoned mines are subject to continuous water level monitoring and when combined with the satellite data will enable calculation of water inflow rates and hence transmissivity. Coupled with temperature analysis it will then be possible to evaluate the geothermal resource and supplementary upgrade potential from the vented methane. This will significantly reduce the risk associated with development of district heating schemes. The unique aspect to this research project will be the cross disciplinary nature of the project which combines data and skills from remote earth observation with geochemical surveys and point source water inflow data to mines.

We intend to use the recently-launched Sentinel-1 data for the InSAR analysis. Sentinel-1 is part of the Copernicus programme of the European Space Agency and data is provided free to users. It will view any site in Europe twice in any 12-day cycle, providing ascending and descending passes which will allow the separation of horizontal and vertical components of the mining deformation to be resolved and provide further insight into the geological process. The project will also explore the use of multiple aperture InSAR (MAI) to try to resolve the full 3D vector of displacement.


Year 1: acquisition of InSAR satellite data, processing and interpretation, high grading of areas for airborne survey.

Year 2: airborne survey followed up with ground survey to evaluate methane venting. Acquisition of water inflow data from mine records.

Year 3: integration of all data sets and writing up of thesis. We anticipate this project to deliver 3 detailed papers on the results of the different techniques followed by one covering the integration of all the data. There is further spin out possibilities in terms of geohazard forecasting.

Training & Skills: The student will participate in the Iapetus doctoral training process in addition to the following bespoke training. InSAR data analysis and manipulation, GIS, low temperature water rock interaction and geochemistry, fluid flow in porous media.

References & Further Reading:

Sowter, A., Bateson, L., Strange, P., Ambrose, K. and Syafiudin, M.F., "DInSAR estimation of land motion using intermittent coherence with application to the South Derbyshire and Leicestershire coalfields," Remote Sensing Letters, Vol. 4, Issue 3, 2013, DOI: 10.1080/2150704X.2013.823673

Bateson, L., Cigna, F., Boon, D. and Sowter, A., "The application of the SBAS (ISBAS) InSAR method to the South Wales Coalfield," International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 34, pp.249-257, 2014.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Investigating landslide hazards using multi-wavelength satellite and ground-based radar images in the Three Gorges, China

BGS Supervisor: Dr Francesca Cigna

University Supervisor: Professor Zhenhong Li and Professor Quihua Liang, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

DTP: IAPETUS, Newcastle University

Further Information:

Professor Zhenhong Li,, 0191 208 5704

Dr Francesca Cigna, Email, 0115 936 3551

Professor Qiuhua Liang,, 0191 208 6413

Controlled by geology, climate and land-use, landslides are the most widespread geohazard on Earth and cause billions of dollars worth of damage and thousands of deaths each year. During the first 7 months of 2014, 222 fatal landslides were recorded with a total of 1466 deaths [Petley, 2014], a statistic that has once again demonstrated the importance of understanding landslide hazards and developing early-warning systems.

When occurring near to large water bodies, e.g. reservoirs and lakes, landslides falling into water may generate large waves, and subsequently lead to flooding over the banks or overtopping the dam crest. The flood event caused by landslide induced wave overtopping of Vajont Dam in northeast Italy caused over 2000 deaths in the towns downstream in 1963. Therefore, there is an apparent need to better understand the coupling effects of landslides and the large surface waves they generate and quantify the subsequent impact on the safety of large man-made dams.

The ultimate goal of this studentship is to determine the mechanisms controlling landslide motion. Specific objectives of this proposed research include:

  • to combine multi-wavelength (X-, C-, S- and L-band) satellite radar data to detect active landslides and monitor their dynamics with unprecedented details;
  • to characterise landslide mechanisms and explore the associated triggering factors (e.g. rainfall, water level and seismicity);
  • to determine the dominant geotechnical parameters controlling slope instability, and assess landslide hazards in the near future;
  • to quantify the impact of landslide induced waves on large dams and assess dam safety.

The study will focus on the Three Gorges, in the middle reach of the Yangtze River in China, where landslides represent a major hazard due to the extremely steep slopes on the gorges and erosion of riverbanks. Furthermore, the Three Gorges Dam Project has recently increased landslide hazards in the region following the impoundment from the Dam and consequent water level rise to 175 metres above sea level in 2010.

A wealth of satellite radar data, including X-band TerraSAR-X, C-band Envisat, and L-band ALOS has been collected in this site by the German, European and Japanese Space Agencies, thus creating a rich data reservoir of historical information on this dynamic region. Two data grants have been awarded to the supervisory team to acquire new Kompsat (S-band) and ALOS-2 (L-band) images over the region. Special arrangements are also in place to access ground observations and other geodetic monitoring and topographic data (e.g. GNSS and Laser Scanning) to integrate satellite information and for validation purposes.

Methodology: The PhD student will first exploit conventional Interferometric SAR (InSAR) to detect active landslides at the regional scale. Analysis of the performances of L-, S-, C- and X-band data with respect to surface motion velocity, local topography and land cover (e.g. presence of dense vegetation) will be undertaken, building upon the methodological approach developed at BGS [Cigna et al., 2014]. InSAR time series (e.g. Persistent Scatterer and Small Baseline InSAR) will be utilised at the local scale to monitor extremely slow landslides affecting the steep slopes of the gorges, whilst the SAR Pixel Offset Time-series (SPOT) technique will be employed to monitor the development of fast-moving landslides [Singleton et al. 2014]. GNSS and Terrestrial Laser Scanning will further illustrate details of the spatial and temporal distributions of landslide motion. In situ measurements of rainfall, river water level, and water pressure in the sub-surface will allow the PhD student to directly relate these parameters to the resulting landslide deformation. Results from the detailed geodetic imaging of landslide deformation will improve the understanding of how landslides mobilize in response to changing environmental and hydrological conditions.

To investigate the destructive impacts of landslides that occur in the reservoir, an hydrodynamic model developed at Newcastle University [Smith and Liang, 2013; Amouzgar et al. 2014] will be used to simulate the propagation of the surface waves generated by a landslide and their interaction with the Three Gorges Dam followed by an assessment of dam safety.


Year 1: Training in space geodesy and remote sensing techniques, in particular the handling of satellite radar data, with the aim of detecting and monitoring active landslides in the study sites. In parallel, training will be provided on the mechanics of landslides.

Year 2: The time series of surface displacement maps will be built using the available multi-wavelength satellite radar data, and the impacts of environmental/geotechnical parameters on landslide motion will be assessed. Field work in the Three Gorges region will be carried out to collect field evidence and validate satellite observations. It is envisioned that the combined work of Years 1 and 2 should lead to at least one published output.

Year 3: Modelling surface displacement time series to understand the mechanisms of landslides and simulating landslide induced wave propagation and interaction with the Three Gorges Dam. This should lead to the second and third publications, and presentation at international conferences (e.g. AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, USA).

Year 4: The final year of the studentship will be focussed on combining the published outputs and associated material into the PhD thesis. The summary of landslide hazards in the Three Gorges region may lead to the fourth publication.


Cigna F, Bateson L, Jordan C, Dashwood C. 2014. Simulating SAR geometric distortions and predicting Persistent Scatterer densities for ERS-1/2 and ENVISAT C-band SAR and InSAR applications: Nationwide feasibility assessment to monitor the landmass of Great Britain with SAR imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment, 152, 441-466.

Petley, 2014. The landslide blog, Singleton A, Li Z, Hoey T, Muller J-P. Evaluating sub-pixel offset techniques as an alternative to D-InSAR for monitoring episodic landslide movements in vegetated terrain. Remote Sensing of Environment 2014, 147, 133-144.

Smith LS, Liang Q. Towards a generalised GPU/CPU shallow-flow modelling tool. Computers & Fluids 2013, 88, 334-343.

Amouzgar R, Liang Q, Smith L. A GPU-accelerated shallow flow model for tsunami simulations. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering and Computational Mechanics 2014, 167(3), 117-125.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Environmental Modelling
Interacting UK Hazards – Impacts and Origins

BGS Supervisor: Kate Royse

University Supervisor: John Hillier, Loughborough and Gregor Leckebusch, Birmingham

DTP: CENTA, Loughborough University

Further information: For information about this project, please contact Dr John Hillier. For enquiries about the application process, contact Mrs Susan Clarke. Deadline for applications is 31 January 2015 and interviews will be in February 2015. Please quote CENTA when completing the application form, which can be found via the Loughborough CENTA webpages.

Overview: The UK is affected by several natural hazards (e.g., winter storms). These cause severe disruption and financial losses, such as in the summer floods in 2007. The hazards are currently considered independently of each other, but they could interact [e.g., Gill, 2014]. Severe summer floods, for instance, could be more likely in years that are also stormy. By using UK houses as 'sensors' recorded in insurance losses, this project will better understand extreme events (e.g., flood, storm) and their mutual underlying drivers. A pilot study, using a novel statistical way of examining past loss data, has robustly shown that interactions can alter likely 'worst case' losses to domestic property by ~£50 million. This is of immediate interest to insurance companies (Zurich Plc is a project partner) and with much potential to contribute to policy making about the resilience of the UK as climate changes.

'Catastrophe modelling' is an industry-based GIS methodology that links physical models of hazards to financial loses; effectively 'Monte Carlo' simulation, it uses many (e.g., 10,000) events and their damage 'footprints' to simplify risk modelling of complex systems. It allows a probabilistic assessment of losses in order to plan ahead and minimise likely worst-case scenarios. The approach is relatively little used in academia, giving potential for exciting new developments (e.g., hazard inter-dependency). This project will involve a new use for the technique, using it to work backwards from observed losses to highlight and quantitatively understand the interacting climatic behaviours that impact us.

Methodology: A core of the work is low risk, but scope exists for a student to innovate and excel (e.g., incorporating the effects of future climate change to 2100 with global climate models such as ECHAM5/OM1).

Specific objectives are:

O1 - Quantify the impact of hazard interactions in the UK. This will be done by using Zurich’s loss data and extending the pilot study to all hazards that cause UK losses (e.g., subsidence, flood, storm).

O2 - Understand the origin of the interaction between shrink-swell subsidence losses for clay soils and weather-driven risks. This will be done by correlating loss data for domestic property (Zurich Insurance) with recorded weather patterns, and start by developing the analysis of Harrison et al [2012] linking subsidence and climate using British Geological Survey (BGS) data (e.g., GeoSure).

O3 - Quantify the strength of interaction between physical processes required to explain the observed losses. This will be done by inverse modelling, creating event footprints from climate models [e.g., Donat & Leckebusch, 2011] to generate illustrative catastrophe models that contain interactions of variable strength [e.g., Royse & Hillier, 2014] (new QuickCat code). It will also highlight the areas of the UK most affected. Throughout, error assessment and sensitivity will be determined by simulation (e.g., Latin Hypercube).

Training and skills: CENTA students will attend 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to the student's projects and themes.

Specifically for this project, the PhD student will gain state-of-the-art skills to analyse financial loss and meteorological data; such large datasets are sometimes referred to as 'Big Data'. This training will be in modelling, planning for resilience, and understanding environmental systems: In particular in:

  • catastrophe models and their specific features to model hazards, vulnerabilities and exposure
  • fieldwork, integrated modelling,
  • GIS, and relevant programming e.g., SQL, R, python.
  • extreme value and multi-variate analytical statistics

As well as uniquely valuable direct industry experience the student will gains strength in skills identified by NERC as 'most wanted' for jobs in the environment sector; 'modelling', 'multi-disciplinarity', 'numeracy', 'risk and uncertainty'.

This is excellent employment market preparation as scientific research skills, technical analysis and industry related model skills will be practiced and gained. Catastrophe modelling underpins all financial risk assessment due to natural hazards, and will soon become critical in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and humanitarian efforts, ideally placing the student with respect to a range of careers upon completion of the project.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE): Secondments to Zurich Insurance Plc. (3-6 months) and at the BGS (2-3 weeks) have been negotiated. The placements will be at, and sitting within, these partners and involve working directly with highly valuable data, both of industry quality and national datasets. This experience will lead to direct commercial interaction and impacts, giving a unique opportunity to gain CV relevant experience in insurance.

Possible timeline:

Year 1: Firstly, the student will focus on collating and analysing financial loss data from Zurich Insurance and other sources, and learning skills in extreme value analysis. After simple statistical comparison to climate data publishing an industry white paper is envisaged.

The basics concepts of relating to catastrophe models will be understood and tests run with a basic version of a model.

Year 2: In this year, the student will focus on understanding the environmental processes driving relationships, and work in detail with meteorological data, understanding impacts across the UK and regionally. Catastrophe modelling will be used to integrate weather and loss data.

Year 3: Finally, the student will develop catastrophe models in order to extrapolate and test the processes investigated, and ideally to predict future impacts under a changing climate. This includes resilience assessment through portfolio analysis (e.g, for a company or local council).

Further reading:

Donat, M.G., G.C. Leckebusch, S. Wild, and U. Ulbrich, 2011: Future changes in European winter storm losses and extreme wind speeds inferred from GCM and RCM multi-model simulations. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1351-1370.

Gill, J., Malamud, B. ( 2014) Reviewing and visualizing the interactions of natural hazards. Reviews of Geophysics 52 doi: 10.1002/2013RG000445

Harrison, A. M., et al (2012) The relationship between shrink-swell occurrence and climate in south-east England. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 123 556-575.

MacDonald, N. (2013) Reassessing flood frequency for the River Trent, Central England, since AD 1320. Hydrological Research 44(2) 215-233.

Leckebusch, G.C., U. Ulbrich, L. Fröhlich, J.G. Pinto, (2007) Property loss potentials for European mid-latitude storms in a changing climate. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, doi:10.1029/2006GL027663.

Royse. K., Hillier, J. K., Wang, L., Lee, T. F., O’Neil, J., Kingdon, A., Hughes, A. (2014) The application of componentised modelling techniques to catastrophe model generation. Environ. Model. Softw. 61 65-77. doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2014.07.005.

Royse, K. R., Hillier, J. K., Hughes, A., Kingdon, A., Singh, A., Wang, L. (In press) The potential for the use of model fusion techniques in building and developing catastrophe models Geol. Soc. Special Publication.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Environmental Monitoring
Impact of multi-scale heterogeneity on sustainable integrated catchment yield in permeable catchments under climate change

BGS Supervisor: Chris Jackson

University Supervisor: Adrian Butler

DTP: SSCP, Imperial College London

Background: A major challenge facing the UK is the impact climate change is likely to have on water resources and river ecosystems. This is of particular concern in SE England, where climate projections1 indicate drought becoming more frequent and intense. This will impose critical constraints on the ability of water companies, reliant on groundwater sources during drought, to meet future demands. It also creates pressures on vital environmental flows to sustain river ecosystems. Calculating an integrated surface water – groundwater yield using continuous simulation would be a way forward for suppliers and regulators. However, heterogeneity in rock properties affects individual groundwater sources, particularly under extreme conditions. These, in turn, are affected by larger scale variability. Therefore, catchment simulations must represent individual groundwater source yields as well as available catchment resource and the interaction between these. Assessing how yields might be impacted by climate change is also important. No methodology for achieving these requirements currently exists.

Aim and objectives: The aim of this project is to investigate how catchment processes, in particular multi-scale heterogeneity, affect groundwater abstraction at the borehole scale. Whilst groundwater models incorporate heterogeneity at the regional scale, heterogeneity at the local scale is not currently represented. However, this is crucial in determining borehole yield under extremes, particularly in Chalk catchments. This will be achieved through 3 objectives.

  1. Characterisation of heterogeneity at the borehole scale;
  2. Incorporation of local scale heterogeneity into regional scale models;
  3. Quantification of the effect of extremes, including climate change, on borehole yield.


O1 Stochastic realisations of spatial variability in rock hydraulic properties2 conditioned on local information (e.g. geophysical logs and pumping tests)3 will be used to represent effects of local scale heterogeneity in the vicinity of an abstraction well. A key aspect of this work will be representing the variation in vertical hydraulic conductivity3, as this has a crucial role in controlling well yield, particularly during drought. O2 allows the effects of local scale heterogeneity to be assessed in a regional context. This will be achieved by extending a new method for coupling a radial-Cartesian flow model of well abstraction with a regional groundwater model. The basic methodology has been developed by a previous PhD student4 but additional work is required to apply this at the catchment scale. This requires reduced borehole yields (from pump performance and fracture dewatering) being passed, via OpenMI, to the regional model. O3 will build on work from the HydEF Changing Water Cycle project and will utilise the CEH CHESS dataset for historic model simulations and a new methodology in climate downscaling1, developed with UCL, using Generalised Linear Modelling, to give spatially coherent downscaled representations of climate change scenarios. The focus will be a major outcrop of the Chalk that includes part of the Rivers Thames and Kennet.


1Maraun, et al, 2010,Rev Geophys,48,RG3003.

2van Leeuwen et al, 2000,WRR, 36,949.

3Butler et al., Hydrogeol J,2009,17,1849.

4Upton, et al. 2013. Modflow & More, Golden USA, June 2013.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the last greenhouse

BGS Supervisor: Prof Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Dr Barry Lomax

DTP: ENVISION, Nottingham University

Further information: For further details please contact Dr Barry Lomax.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that evidence for global warming is unequivocal and is very likely anthropogenic in origin. However, climate change is not solely anthropogenic and throughout the majority of the Phanerozoic the Earth has been a greenhouse world. Deciphering the climate system and the first order relationship between climate and CO2 during recent greenhouses climate periods is thus crucial to understanding predicted warming. Plants as sessile organisms must acclimate to meet the challenges imposed by climate change; this when coupled with the occurrence of "living fossils" make them ideal basis for the development of quantitative palaeoproxies.

The overarching aim of this fully funded studentship PhD programme is to: 1) develop and refine the methods underpinning the generation of palaeo CO2 estimates from fossil leaves; 2) apply this methodology to deliver estimates of atmospheric CO2 through the Eocene, the last time when the Earth was in a full greenhouse climate.

The student will receive advanced training in palaeoclimate reconstruction, plant ecophysiology, plant taxonomy, biostratigraphy, palynology and statistical modelling.

Field work in both America and Europe to collect fossil material is expected.

Eligibility: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Environmental Science, Earth Sciences, Biology Plant Sciences,or Natural Sciences. For further details please contact Dr Barry Lomax.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Birth & rise of the continents through time: new insights from accessory minerals

BGS Supervisor: Dr Nick Roberts

University Supervisor: Dr Bruno Dhuime and Prof. Tim Elliott

DTP: GW4-Plus, Bristol University

Further information: Dr Bruno Dhuime. Contact number: +44 (0) 7848 103978

The continental crust is the archive of conditions on the Earth for the last 4 billion years, and it has evolved to form the environment we live in and the resources we depend on. Its formation modified the composition of the mantle and the atmosphere, it supports life, and it remains a sink for carbon dioxide through weathering and erosion. Understanding the crust and its record is therefore fundamental to resolving questions on the origin of life, the evolution and oxygenation of our atmosphere, past climates, mass extinctions, the thermal evolution of the Earth, and the interactions between the surficial and deep Earth.

The mineral zircon constitutes a key record of the evolution of the continental crust through time, and detrital zircons remain one of the very few archives of geological processes in the first 500 Ma of Earth's history. Most zircons crystallise from relatively evolved (i.e. more felsic) magmas, and these magmas tend to have been derived from pre-existing crust. An issue of considerable current interest is the nature of these magmas and their geodynamical setting(s), and how those can be inferred from the chemistry of zircons and the mineral inclusions within them.

I-, S-, and A-type granites are thought to be derived from different source rocks and they are distinguished by the occurrence of specific mineral phases: e.g., hornblende and sphene for I-type; cordierite, muscovite, biotite, monazite, alumino-silicates and garnet for S-type; and annite-rich biotite, alkali amphiboles and sodic pyroxene in A-type granites. Different granite types may therefore be identified from key minerals trapped as inclusions in zircon, and from trace element ratios in zircons (Wang et al. 2012) and their mineral inclusions (e.g. Jennings et al. 2011).

This project is to ground truth estimates of magma composition and hence models for the geodynamical setting of granitoid magmatism, from the mineral assemblages present in different granite types (i.e. I-, S-, and A-types) and the trace element contents of zircons and their mineral inclusions. Three granitoid suites from the Phanerozoic Lachlan Fold Belt - a classic area where the I-, S- and A-type granite system was first developed - will be investigated: the Cobargo Suite (I-Type), the Bullenbalong Supersuite (S-type), and the Gabo Suite (A-Type). A 2 weeks fieldwork in Eastern Australia is associated to this project.

  1. Wang et al., 2012. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 53, 59-66.
  2. Jennings et al., 2011. Geology 39, 863-866.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Cenozoic evolution of the Asian Monsoon: tectonic-climate interactions

BGS collaborator: Prof Melanie Leng

University supervisors: James Bendle, Pallavi Anand (Open University), Tom Dunkley-Jones, (University of Birmingham) and Phil Sexton (Open University)

Other collaborators: Dr M. Yamamoto and Dr O. Seki (Hokkaido University), Dr Rob Berstan (Isoprime), Prof. P. Clift(LSU), Dr A. Henderson (Newcastle), Prof. Melanie Leng (BGS).

DTP: CENTA, University of Birmingham

Overview: Profound, but unanswered, questions regarding links between the Asian Monsoon, global climate and the solid Earth prompted the scheduling of four new pan-Asian IODP expeditions: 346 (East Asian), 353 (Indian Monsoon), 354 (Bengal Fan) and 355 (Arabian Sea) in 2013-15.

Integration of the resultant Cenozoic records will yield the first detailed synthesis comparing monsoon intensity (including 'core' and far field regions) with Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau (HTP) elevation and reconstructions of global temperatures1 and pCO2 (ref:2). This will allow scientists to address questions over the response of the Monsoon to Greenhouse conditions in the Cenozoic and to test proposed links between climate and Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau evolution. For example, alternative models propose that the retreat of shallow seas from Central Asia is a crucial boundary condition influence3 others have argued that strengthening of the monsoon is linked to opening of the South China Sea4 and/or to formation of the Western Pacific Warm Pool5. Furthermore, the monsoon may have a wider influence on global climate6, and may even control the tectonic evolution of mountains in Asia, via its effect on continental erosion7. Finally, chemical weathering of the HTP, which is thought to have drawn down atmospheric CO2, may have affected global climate since the Eocene8.

This project will give the Doctoral Researcher exceptional access to new sedimentary sequences from recent IODP Asian Monsoon expeditions. The primary focus will be on producing Cenozoic spanning (Eocene to present) records from IODP Expedition 355 (Arabian Sea) on which supervisor Bendle will participate (April-May 2015). Additional samples from other recent (IODP 353, 346) expeditions or legacy samples will also be provided by co-supervisors and project partners, as required, to answer key scientific questions. The student will be trained in multiple techniques (see Methodology and Training).

Methodology: The proposed project will focus on the following parameters and proxy data:

  • Paleo-altitude and the hydrological cycle (biomarkers: leaf-wax δD, MBT-CBT);
  • SST: UK37’, TEX86, foraminiferal Mg/Ca, nannofossils;
  • Changes in the terrestrial environment, C3/C4 plants (leaf-wax δ13C; palynology);
  • Seawater salinity and water-mass changes using foraminifera and organic biomarkers (alkenones and compound specific δD measurements);

The samples will be processed for parallel organic and inorganic geochemical work. The fine-fraction will be collected from the preparation of the foraminífera and will be processed for organic geochemistry using standard protocols at UoB. GDGTs (for TEX86 and MBT-CBT) will be measured at Hokkaido University, Japan in the lab of Dr Masunobu Yamamoto (a visit by the doctoral researcher will be planned). The student will visit CENTA partners at the OU (Pallavi Anand and Phil Sexton) for a 6 month laboratory visit where the washed deep-sea mud samples will be picked for planktonic foraminiferal species which will be crushed and split for (a) δ18O and (b) Trace element measurements. Parallel data-sets (nannofossils, diatom geochemistry etc) will be generated by other project partners for synthesis with doctoral researcher's data.

Training and skills: This project will provide detailed training in the geochemical methods necessary for multi-proxy environmental reconstructions, including organic geochemistry provided at the Birmingham and, during a 6 month visit to the OU, stable isotope and trace metal analyses. The DR will also receive excellent training in the collection and interpretation of micropalaeontological data, focusing on the foraminiferal taxonomy, but also integrating paleoenvironmental interpretations from both calcareous nannofossil, diatom and palynological assemblages. This project will inevitably offer extensive networking opportunities with international scientists involved in IODP Expedition 355, 353 and 346 in addition to data handling and interpretation and scientific communication through writing, poster and oral presentations to academic and non-academic audiences.

Partners and collaboration: An advantage of this project is a CASE placement with Isoprime. Compound specific (δD and δ13C) and carbonate (δ18O) stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) based analyses are the key analytical approaches for this project. Based in Manchester, Isoprime is solely dedicated to producing the most sophisticated IRMS systems in the world. The DR will work with Isoprime applications scientist Dr Rob Berstan to gain training, insights and experience of cutting edge IRMS capabilities, with the opportunity to apply the latest techniques to targeted samples from the project. The DR will also gain a broader appreciation of how their analytical skills can be relevant to a range of research or employment areas in geology, hydrology, food authentication, forensics, medicine and environmental sciences.

Furthermore, close collaboration between CENTA partners (UoB and OU) is integral to this project and is reflected in the requirement for a 6 month visit to the OU. This project also benefits from external collaborations with scientists working on IODP expeditions 355, 353 and 346 and due to the international nature of the IODP the DR will have excellent opportunities to collaborate internationally including a short visit to Hokkaido University, Japan. Beyond the Supervisory team, key project collaborators are:

- Prof. P. Clift (Co-chief 355, LSU, USA);

- Dr A. Henderson (Diatom Geochemistry, Newcastle);

- Prof. Melanie Leng (Diatom Geochemistry, BGS);

- Dr M. Yamamoto (Organic Geochemistry, Hokkaido University);

- Dr O. Seki (Organic Geochemistry, Hokkaido University).

Possible timeline:

Year 1: Obtain training in sample processing of core material, organic and inorganic geochemical techniques and microfossils. Generate paleoenvironmental records from sites 355, 353 and 346 and legacy sites on tectonic time scales.

Year 2: Present results at a domestic (BOGS) or smaller international meeting (Gordon conference) and prepare manuscript. Prepare samples for higher resolution work and for foraminiferal work on targeted samples at the OU. Undertake CASE placement with Isoprime.

Year 3&4: Finish remaining analytical work, present results at an international conference. Write up results for final thesis and additional papers. Contribute to wider IODP synthesis efforts.

Further reading:

Clift, P. D. & Plumb, R. A. The Asian Monsoon. (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

In text references:

1) Zachos, J., et al. Science 292, 686-693, (2001).

2) Beerling, D. J. & Royer, D. L. Nature Geoscience 4, 418-420, (2011).

3) Ramstein, G., et al. Nature 386, 788-795 (1997).

4) Zhang, Z., et al. EPSL, 257, 622-634 (2007).

5) Li, Q. et al. PPP, 237, 465-482, (2006).

6) Wang, B. et al., Marine Geology 201, (2003).

7) Clift, P. D. & Plumb, R. A. The Asian Monsoon, (2008).

8) Raymo, M. E. & Ruddiman, Nature 359, 117-122 (1992).

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Development of Reference Doses for Mixtures: Risk Assessment of Cadmium, Iron and Zinc Interactions

BGS supervisor: Dr Louise Ander

University supervisors: Dr Luke Beesley and Dr Rupert Hough, The James Hutton Institute

Professor Neil Crout, University of Nottingham


The risk assessment paradigm traditionally assesses the potential effects of single chemicals or toxicants in isolation of others. In recent years, there has been some movement towards assessing the compound toxicity arising from combinations of potentially toxic chemicals. While good progress has been made, these approaches are, by their nature, constrained to assuming static mixture exposure scenarios (i.e. specified ratios of different PTEs) as representative of reasonable worst-case scenarios in prospective chemical assessment. For site- or population-specific situations this is clearly unsatisfactory. Process-based models have been suggested as a way forward, but these are computationally intensive and require significant data resources beyond the scope of most risk assessments. As an alternative, Hough et al. (in press), suggested a simpler, more pragmatic way forward in which the reference dose (or "safe dose") for a specific toxicant may be adjusted based on knowledge of interactions with other chemicals and/or nutrients that alter bioavailability. This approach is currently theoretical, and it is important to now validate the theory with experimental evidence.

Aims & Potential Outcomes

This study will develop a practicable approach to assessing compounded risks posed by concurrent exposure to multiple PTEs. This is one of the main challenges in human health risk assessment, and any progress in this area has potentially wide-reaching outcomes. This project could pave the way to a whole new way of assessing health risks from potentially toxic elements.


This project will build on previous theoretical work (Hough et al. in press) that investigated a new way to define reference doses for cadmium (Cd) that was dependent on iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) status. The work will have three main activity strands:

Activity 1. Experimental studies to evaluate bioavailability/accessibility and absorption of Cd given different levels of dietary Fe and Zn.

Activity 2. A critical evaluation of the current Cd reference doses (RfDCD) for oral intake of water and food, based partly on the results from Activity 1.

Activity 3. Application of new Cd risk assessment models to test/validate the refined approach in a range of situations.


1.Beesley, L., Inneh, O.S., Norton, G., Moreno-Jimenez, E., Pardo, T., Clemente, R., Dawson, J.J.C. 2014. Assessing the influence of compost and biochar amendments on the mobility and toxicity of metals and arsenic in a naturally contaminated mine soil. Environmental Pollution 186, 195-202.

2.Moreno-Jimenez, E., Beesley, L., Lepp, N.W., Dickinson, N.M., Hartley, W. & Clemente, R. 2011. Field sampling of soil pore water to evaluate trace element mobility and associated environmental risk. Environmental Pollution 159, 3078-3085.

3.Beesley, L., Moreno-Jimenez, E., Clemente, R., Lepp, N. & Dickinson, N. 2010. Mobility of arsenic, cadmium and zinc in a multi-element contaminated soil profile assessed by in-situ soil pore water sampling, column leaching and sequential extraction. Environmental Pollution 158, 155-160.

Funding Notes:

The studentship is funded under the James Hutton Institute/University Joint PhD programme, in this case with the University of Nottingham and Prof. Neil Crout of the School of Biosciences as the primary university supervisor. Candidates are urged strongly to apply as soon as possible so as to stand the best chance of success. A more detailed plan of the studentship is available to suitable candidates upon application. Funding is available for European applications, but Worldwide applicants who possess suitable self-funding are also invited to apply. The deadline for applications is 2 January 2015. Interviews will be held between mid-January and early February 2015 and positions will start on 1 October 2015.

Application procedure

You can apply online through or alternatively request an application form from Laura Logie.

Fingerprinting accessory mineral reactions during continental collision

BGS Supervisor: Dr Nick Roberts

University Supervisor: Dr Clare Warren; Prof Nigel Harris and Dr Tom Argles

DTP: CENTA, Open University

Further information: Please contact Dr Clare Warren for further information.

Metamorphic rock ages are commonly determined from accessory minerals such as zircon and monazite, which host the majority of the rock trace-element budget. Metamorphic pressure-temperature information, however, is usually determined from the major rock-forming minerals. In order to determine rates of tectonic processes, the crystallisation and destruction of the accessory minerals needs to be chemically linked to the evolution of the major rock forming minerals. Trace-element chemical 'fingerprints' in minerals such as garnet may record accessory mineral reactions, and these fingerprints have the potential to provide a critical link between metamorphic 'ages' and 'stages' e.g.1 and Fig 1. The reactions that form or destroy different accessory minerals, the bulk composition and pressure/temperature controls on these reactions, and the trace-element fingerprints that these reactions leave in coexisting major metamorphic phases, are, however, still poorly known, especially in high-grade metamorphic terranes1-3.

The aims of this project are to:

  • Investigate the petrological and chemical evolution of reactions involving different accessory phases.
  • Quantify the trace-element 'fingerprints' that different accessory minerals leave in different co-crystallising major mineral assemblages in rocks of varying bulk composition,
  • Combine these data and trace-element diffusion profile data to calculate rates of high-temperature metamorphic processes (eg rate of prograde heating, rate of melting, rate of melt extraction4) in two continental-collisional orogens: the high-pressure Caledonide orogen in Norway and the high-temperature Sveco-Norwegian orogen in Sweden.

Methodology: The samples investigated in this project will be collected from Norway and Sweden. Petrographic analysis will be used to identify major and accessory phases and reactions at different metamorphic grades (OU), electron microscope analysis will be used to determine major mineral chemistry (OU) and laser ablation mass spectrometry to determine trace element concentrations and ages (OU and NIGL). Metamorphic modelling of reactions using thermobarometry packages such as THERMOCALC or PERPLEX will be used to interpret the data.

Training and skills: CENTA students will attend 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to the student's projects and themes.

The successful student will also be trained in a wide variety of analytical techniques including electron microprobe analysis, laser ablation mass spectrometry and in-situ U-Pb geochronology. In addition the student will gain advanced training in fieldwork, optical petrology and numerical pressure-temperature-time path modelling. Online teaching opportunities via the Open University Virtual Learning Environment are also available, including teaching on the new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

This project will allow the successful candidate to receive training through data collection at the world-renowned NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratories in Keyworth (CASE partner), and the Edinburgh Ionprobe facility. In addition, the successful student will have the opportunity to gain work experience at the Geological Survey of Sweden.

Possible timeline:

Year 1: Literature review and initial work on pre-existing samples. Fieldwork in early summer to Scandinavia. Sample preparation, optical petrography, EMP analysis and thermobarometry. Initial LA-ICP-MS analyses. CENTA skills training.

Year 2: Work placement for 10 days (potentially at Swedish Geological Survey). Sample preparation, optical petrography, EMP analysis. LA-ICP-MS analyses and U-Pb geochronology.

Year 3-3.5: Presentation of results at the Goldschmidt conference. Consolidation of data collection, interpretation and preparation of thesis.

Further reading:

1 Mottram et al., 2014, EPSL 403, 418-431. DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.07.006

2 Rubatto et al., 2013, CMP 165, 349-372. DOI: 10.1007/s00410-012-0812-y

3 Janots et al., 2008, JMG 26, 509-526 DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1314.2008.00774.x

4 Harris et al., 2000, Chem Geol., 162, 155-167. DOI: 10.1016/S0009-2541(99)00121-7

Further details: Students should have a strong background in, and enthusiasm for geochemistry and metamorphic petrology and must enjoy working in remote field areas. The student will join a well-established team of Earth scientists at the Open University and NIGL working in mountain-building processes.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Reconstructing the Indian monsoon response to global climate change

BGS Supervisor: Prof Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Pallavi Anand and Phil Sexton

DTP: CENTA, The Open University

Further information: Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Phil Sexton for further information. The lead supervisor will be away on IODP Exp 353 at the time of the advertisement.

Overview: The northern Indian Ocean constitutes Earth's strongest hydrological region involving large inter-hemispheric exchanges of mass and energy between the ocean, atmosphere and continents which has direct impact on billions of people [1]. The exchange results in seasonal monsoon winds in the Arabian Sea, and precipitation in India and surrounding areas. The monsoon ultimately delivers surface runoff in the Bay of Bengal (BoB) which results in changing seasonal surface salinity and ocean current due to wind forcing [2].

The overall aim of the proposed project is to reconstruct the seasonal change in the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) precipitation for the past 100 kyr and quantify its relative sensitivity to external (e.g., insolation) and internal climate forcings such as global ice volume, southern hemisphere temperature change and greenhouse gas concentrations. The specific project objectives are to:

  • quantify effect of seasonal salinity on planktonic foraminifera calcification and geochemical tracers (trace elements and oxygen isotope, δ8O ) using sediment trap and recent surface sediments from BoB.
  • reconstruct palaeo seasonal temperature and salinity gradient from north to south in BoB using multi-proxy approach [3] (coupled δ8O and trace element and transfer function using planktonic foraminifera assemblage data).
  • quantify relative sensitivity of the ISM precipitation to external and interhemispheric climate forcings [4-5].

This project will investigate planktonic foraminifera species from one of the core regions of Monsoon precipitation. The student will have first access to samples from International Ocean Discovery Programme (IODP) expedition 353 (from sites BB in the Mahanadi Basin and AA in the Andaman Sea) of recent past (0-100 kyr) in the BoB. Additional legacy samples may also be included if required to address key objectives.

Methodology: The washed deep-sea mud samples will be picked for two seasonally abundant planktonic foraminiferal species. Shell mass and size of the foraminifera will be measured to determine changes in calcification (shell size and mass measurements). Further foraminnifera from these samples will be crushed and split for (a) δ18O and (b) trace element/Ca (e.g., Li/Ca, Mg/Ca, Ba/Ca, Cd/Ca) measurements. Coupled δ8O and trace element data from surface samples will provide an opportunity to test the effect of salinity on trace element and oxygen isotope incorporation into the foraminiferal tests. Similar data from down-core samples (past 100 kyr) will provide calcification temperature and δ8O seawater (salinity) records in the recent past. Additional seasonal temperature data will be available through collaboration to compare multi-proxy estimates to assess the uncertainity of the estimates. The samples will also utilise unique combination of microanalytical technique for single shell measurements of δ8O at BGS after obtaining laser ablation trace element data on same specimens.

Training and skills: The student will have opportunity to visit Kochi (Japan) core-repository for sampling and will have the potential to be involved in a field trip to Kashmir (India) to sample Indian monsoon cave record with Prof. Harris (OU) and a team from Royal Holloway University London. In addition, there is a possibility to participate in IODP expedition in the Indian Ocean.

CENTA students will attend 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10-day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to the student's projects and themes.

Laboratory training on deep-sea sample processing, microfossils identification and geochemical techniques will be provided at the state of the art facilities at the Open University. Geochemical measurements include bulk and mico-analytical techniques of stable isotopes and trace elements. Training and analyses of single shell oxygen isotope will be carried out at BGS/NIGL (co-supervisor Prof. Leng).

This project will offer extensive networking opportunities with international scientists involved in IODP Expedition 353. Through the CENTA partnership training will be provided in two labs. Specific skills that will be acquired during this project:

  • Conducting research on newly discovered deep-sea sediments (IODP Exp. 353) and working with an international team
  • Micropalaeontological and geochemical analyses
  • Data handling and interpretation from a wide variety of sources
  • Scientific communication through writing, poster and oral presentations to academic and non-academic audiences
  • Online teaching opportunities via the Open University Virtual Learning Environment are also available, including teaching on the new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Partners and collaboration: There is a possibility of this project being a CASE studentship (tbc). This project benefits from external collaborations with IODP expedition 353 scientists including co-chief scientists Steve Clemens (USA) and Wolfgang Kuhnt (Germany) and Prof. Bjorn A. Malmgren (Sweden) with faunal transfer function (ANN). In addition, collaborator Dr. Diwakar P. Naidu (NIO, India) has provided samples (core-top and sediment trap) for the project. Laser ablation work will be carried out at University of Cambridge in collaboration with Dr. Aleksey Sadekov.

Possible timeline:

Year 1: Possible visit to Kochi (Japan) core-repository for sampling and/or fieldtrip in Kashmir, India. Obtain training in sample processing of core materials, microfossils identification and analytical techniques. Collect data on shell size and mass, trace elements and oxygen isotopes in modern samples (sediment trap and core-tops).

Year 2: Present results at Geochemistry Research in Progress meeting. Visit BGS/NIGL for single shell oxygen isotope work from site BB. Generate records of temperature and salinity gradients from north to south on millennial and orbital time scales based on sample resolution from sites BB and AA (IODP 353 expedition). Prepare manuscript on salinity controls on shell calcification and trace element and oxygen isotope incorporation in planktonic foraminifer species.

Year 3-3.5: Finish remaining analytical work, data analyses, prepare manuscripts and present results at an international conference. Write up final thesis and additional manuscripts.

Further reading:

[1] Wang, P., et al., 2005. Quaternary Science Reviews 24, 595-629.

[2] Antonov, J. I. et al. (2010) World Ocean Atlas 2009 Volume 2: Salinity. S. Levitus, Ed., NOAA Atlas NESDIS 69.

[3] Saraswat, Rajeev, et al. (2013) Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375, 166-175.

[4] Zhisheng, An, et al. (2011). Science, 719-723.

[5] Bolton, Clara T., et al, (2013) Quaternary Science Reviews 77, 167-180.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Understanding shale gas formation and storage

BGS supervisor: Chris Vane

University supervisors: Colin Snape, University of Nottingham, Energy and Sustainability

Further information For further information and to apply, please contact and send your CV to: Prof. Colin E. Snape, University of Nottingham, Faculty of Engineering,The Energy Technologies Building, Jubilee Campus, Triumph Road, Nottingham, NG7 2TU, Tel: 0115 951 4166

Exploitation of shale gas has transformed the energy resources of the USA, and a recent study by the British Geological Survey (BGS) for the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) estimates that such resources in the UK are significant. The exploitation of shale gas in the UK is at an early stage, and the shale gas reservoirs in the UK are not well understood, and also the quantities of gas stored in these systems are yet to be better estimated. Shale gas is mainly composed of methane, suggesting that it is largely generated at relatively high maturity. To provide a greater understanding of shale gas reservoirs, it is important to relate the timing of gas generation as a function of the source rock thermal maturity over geological timescales, to the holding capacity of the rock. Also to properly estimate the UK shale gas reserve it is important to understand how gas is stored within the shale, i.e. by adsorption on the kerogen and shale rock, and the factors influencing shale rocks storage capacity.

The overall goal of the proposed research is to improve the knowledge of gas retention and storage in the UK shale gas systems, to aid a better estimation of the UK shale gas reserve. The factors influencing gas storage capacity in unconventional shale gas systems includes; maturity, porosity, inorganic content, and total organic content (TOC) of shale rocks. These factors will be investigated by characterising natural core samples from the UK Bowland shale unit of different levels of thermal maturity using analytical techniques/instruments (BET surface area measurement, high pressure methane adsorption isotherm, optical microscopy, Rock Eval pyrolysis, elemental analysis, gas chromatography, gas chromatography mass spectrometry) to investigate shale gas retention and storage as a function of shale rock thermal maturity over geological timescale.

The project is best suited for M.Sci Chemistry graduates with a strong interest in analytical techniques. It will involve working at the BGS, Keyworth and the University of Nottingham based in the Energy Technologies Building. The studentship is available to UK and EU nationals (due to funding restrictions). The annual stipend will be £13,863.

Application procedure: Application is via the host university and the closing date is Friday 8th May 2015. Please check the relevant DTP website.

What is driving glacial–interglacial ocean change in the subpolar North Atlantic?

BGS supervisor: Prof Melanie Leng

University supervisors: Dr Jennifer Pike, Cardiff University and Prof Daniela Schmidt, University of Bristol

DTP: GW4-Plus, Cardiff University

Project enquiries - Email: Contact number: +44 (0) 2920875181

Project description:

The North Atlantic region is an important moderator of NW European climate and both deep and surface ocean hydrography have varied dramatically over the past 20,000 years (e.g. Thornalley et al. 2009). Eirik Drift, south of Greenland, is a sensitive recorder of these hydrographic changes and variation between warm and cold surface water masses, the extent of sea ice cover and deep water flow have occurred on multi-millennial timescales in response to the termination of the last ice age; but have also occurred on abrupt, more societally-relevant millennial to sub-millennial timescales. This project will take advantage of relatively rare, marine diatom-rich North Atlantic sediment cores from Eirik Drift (collected during the 2009 Maria S. Merian Expedition MSM 12/2) to investigate changes in the surface ocean over the last 20 kyr.

Planktonic polar marine diatom assemblages are ecologically diverse and individual species are very sensitive to changes in their environment. Specifically, diatom taxa are excellent indicators of changes in sea ice conditions that may not be recorded by relatively species-poor foraminiferal assemblages, hence, you will use diatom assemblages to investigate variations in sea ice cover through the late glacial and Holocene. Further, oxygen isotopes measured on diatom frustule silica (e.g. Pike et al. 2013) can be used to investigate changes in surface water masses and freshwater budgets (e.g. temperature and salinity), hence, will be used to investigate movements of the Polar Front during the late glacial and Holocene. This will represent the first application of diatom silica oxygen isotopes in the North Atlantic Ocean. You will combine your diatom assemblage and oxygen isotope proxies with records of foraminiferal and sedimentological environmental proxies (developed from the same suite of cores; M.C. Williams and D.N. Schmidt, unpublished data ), to investigate changes in surface and deep water coupling during the last glacial maximum and the Holocene.

Pike, J. et al. 2013. Glacial discharge along the west Antarctic Peninsula during the Holocene. Nature Geoscience 6, 199-202.

Thornalley, D. J. R. et al. 2009. Holocene oscillations in temperature and salinity of the surface subpolar North Atlantic. Nature 457, 711-714.

Research and training: The student will be trained in: (1) core sampling methods and sedimentology (JP, DS), diatom taxonomy (JP) and North Atlantic (palaeo)oceanography (DS); (2) diatom sampling and quantitative assemblage analysis (JP), including laboratory methods, optical and scanning electron microscopy; (3) cleaning and purification methods for diatom silica oxygen isotope analysis (JP/ML); (4) stable isotope geochemistry and mass spectrometry (ML); and (5) data analysis, including investigating coupling between surface and deep water signals (all supervisory team). This project will combine micropalaeontology and geochemistry to understand the late glacial and Holocene surface ocean, hence, will provide the opportunity for a diverse range of training. The student will be encouraged to attend institution-based and DTP training events/courses (including science communication as well as science-based), international training workshops and summer schools (e.g. Polar Marine Diatom Workshops, Isotopes in Biogenic Silica (IBiS) meetings) and relevant scientific meetings where they can showcase their research in poster and oral presentations.

As a CASE student, you will benefit from extended visits to the British Geological Survey. As well as being strongly encouraged to participate in the more general training opportunities provided by the GW4+ DTP, you will be trained in marine sediment core sampling (visiting the core repository in Germany), diatom and geochemical sample preparation, diatom taxonomy and ecology (taking advantage of the biennial Polar Marine Diatom Workshops) and isotope geochemistry (taking advantage of the annual Isotopes in Biogenic Silica (IBiS meetings) and palaeoclimatology.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.

Minerals and Waste
Gold mineralisation and tectonomagmatic evolution of the Yalgoo-Singleton Greenstone Belt, Western Australia

BGS Supervisor: Kathryn Goodenough

University Supervisor: Andrew Kerr

DTP: GW4+, Cardiff University

The Murchison Province in the Archaean Yilgarn Craton is comprised of greenstone belts surrounded by several generations of granitoid intrusions. The 190 km-long Yalgoo-Singleton greenstone belt (YSGB), extends in a NNW direction from Mount Gibson in the south, to north of Yalgootown and hosts significant gold deposits. The project partner, Minjar Gold, owns the mineral rights to much of the belt, which can be divided into a lower ˜10 km thick, 3.0 Ga Group (Luke Creek) and an overlying ˜5 km thick, 2.8 Ga Group (Mount Farmer) (Watkins & Hickman, 1990). Both successions contain mostly mafic volcanic and intrusive rocks, with minor ultramafic and felsic rocks and the belt is characterised by heterogeneous deformation, with narrow high-strain zones separating more weakly deformed zones.

The YSGB hosts world-class Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits, including the Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag-Au Golden Grove mine. The belt also contains extensive gold mineralisation, thought to post-date the VMS mineralising event. The Minjar Project tenements, which host 1.1 million ounces of gold resource, cover ˜70% of the YSGB. The source(s) and timing of the mineralising fluids are still poorly understood in the YSGB and initial SEM-work indicates multiple overprinting mineralisation events.

Using detailed structural mapping, along with petrography, SEM, XRD, ICP-MS and fluid inclusion work, the project will study the paragenesis of the various mineral assemblages associated with Au mineralisation and will assess the composition and origin (deep vs. shallow) of the mineralising fluids along the main shear zones within the YSGB. Radiometric dating of the mineralisation events will also shed more light on their origin and formation.

Little is known about the geochemistry of the meta-igneous rocks in this belt and the project will also involve the systematic collection and (elemental and isotopic) analysis of a suite of samples in order to determine the petrogenesis, tectonomagmatic evolution and more-precise age of these rocks. This part of the project will also inform our understanding of the province's mineralisation events. The working hypothesis is that the Luke Creek and Mount Farmer groups represent the remnants of several Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs). The geochemical framework produced for these postulated LIPs will be compared with geochemistry of similar age LIP magmatism elsewhere in the Yilgarn Craton and on other cratons.

In short, this project represents an exciting opportunity to study both the nature of the gold mineralisation in, and the tectonomagmatic evolution of, a relatively unknown greenstone belt.

Application procedure: Application is usually via the host university. Please check the relevant DTP website.