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A new monitoring tool for Coastal Landslide Observatories (JOHNSONUENV20ARIES)

Project Description

In the face of climate change, our coasts are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to more extreme weather events as well as sea-level rise. Coastal defences are often unsustainable and will ultimately be removed in places, allowing greater erosion and loss of cliff-top infrastructure. To manage this erosion, further research is needed on how cliff slopes are weakened and the mechanism of failure to identify areas prone to collapse and provide early warning for coastal landslides, including addressing risk to life.

Through collaboration with BGS and their existing Landslide Observatories, this project will introduce new technology to monitor cracking of coastal cliffs to identify areas of weakness, and to investigate the initiation of failure.

This project will address three fundamental questions related to coastal landslides in the UK:

• How does the removal of sea defences affect rock mechanics and platform lowering in the context of landslides?

• How do storm conditions and drought pre-condition slopes to fail?

• Can coastal landslides be forecast using geophysical methods?

The student will conduct geophysical fieldwork on coast lines with varying typology to collect data relating to subsurface cracks and platform lowering. Seismic monitoring equipment will capture ground vibrations from cracking. Electric Resistivity Tomography will be periodically carried out to assess the rate of platform lowering in the upper shore face. The student will process the seismic data to identify areas of weakness and analyse the subsurface throughout variable environmental conditions to answer these questions. Ultimately, this project will contribute to the arsenal of monitoring methods at BGS landslide observatories.

The project will be conducted primarily in the UEA School of ENV, where the background and existing knowledge to support this project are excellent.

Training will be given where necessary in geoscientific methods, general computing skills and specific software. The other institution involved in this project is BGS, where Dr Payo Garcia is a leading coastal geomorphologist. The student will spend at least 3 months hosted at BGS.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Eligibility requirements: First degree in relevant Geoscience or Physical Sciences

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website


Payo, A., Walkden, M., Ellis, M., Barkwith, A., Favis-Mortlock, D., Kessler, H., ... & Lee, J. (2018). A quantitative assessment of the annual contribution of platform downwearing to beach sediment budget: Happisburgh, England, UK. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 6(4), 113.

Brown, S., Barton, M. E., & Nicholls, R. J. (2014). Shoreline response of eroding soft cliffs due to hard defences. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers -Maritime Engineering, 167(1), 3-14. DOI: 10.1680/maen.11.00026

Nicholls, R. J., Townend, I. H., Bradbury, A., Ramsbottom, D., & Day, S. (2013). Planning for long-term coastal change: experiences from England and Wales. Ocean Engineering, 71, 3-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.oceaneng.2013.01.025

Johnson, J. H., & Savage, M. K. (2012). Tracking volcanic and geothermal activity in the Tongariro Volcanic Centre, New Zealand, with shear wave splitting tomography. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 223, 1-10.

Senfaute, G., Duperret, A., & Lawrence, J. A. (2009). Micro-seismic precursory cracks prior to rock-fall on coastal chalk cliffs: a case study at Mesnil-Val, Normandie, NW France. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 9(5), 1625-1641.

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