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Advancing spatially distributed hydrological models to understand water storage, flux and age dynamics

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  • Full or part time
    Prof D Tetzlaff
    Prof C Soulsby
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

We are seeking dynamic and motivated applicants for a PhD studentship which aims to use use spatially semi-distributed tracer-aided rainfall-runoff models for different experimental sites in different hydroclimatic regions to estimate water storage, fluxes and water ages. We would expect a first class or 2.1 BSc in hydrology, environmental sciences, ecology, environmental engineering, or a related field from the successful candidate. Fluency in English is a requirement. Experience in statistical and/or numerical analyses, GIS analyses, and/ or environmental tracer applications would be advantageous.

Scientific rationale: Many hydrological models only focus on the simulation of the hydrograph. However, this often gives little information about the actual processes within a catchment. Tracers can have an important role in constraining models and estimating travel times; thus, tracer data have been increasingly integrated into models. Within rainfall-runoff models, it is important to appropriately conceptualise the key spatial controls on the fluxes of water and tracers, such as how distributed storage dynamics drive non-linearities in connectivity, as well as the associated mixing relationships in order to estimate the age of stream flow. Spatially distributed tracer-aided models help capture these interactions more successfully. We will use a spatially semi-distributed tracer-aided rainfall-runoff model for different experimental sites in different hydroclimatic regions. The main research aims of this project are to: 1) develop spatially explicit representations of water and tracer fluxes at the catchment scale using a conceptual spatially-distributed, tracer-aided runoff model, 2) understand how landscape structure affects the routing and mixing of water, 3) characterise how these interactions affect the evolution of water ages in different components of the system and how this affects the non-stationarity in stream water ages.

Training: This is a major opportunity for a student interested in working at the cutting edge of hydrology and ecology. The student will join a successful research group and a lively graduate training community at the University of Aberdeen and will participate in the formal training programmes. The candidate will also receive training in other aspects of scientific working such as scientific result dissemination, writing journal articles for publication and conference presentations.

Essential Background: Equivalent of 2.1 Honours Degree in Environmental Sciences; Hydrology; Earth Sciences, Ecology, Environmental engineering

Knowledge of: Modelling, environmental sciences, Programming and coding; model calibration and testing

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting www.abdn.ac.uk. There is NO funding attached to this project. You can find details of living costs and the like by visiting http://www.abdn.ac.uk/international/finance.php.


This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Hydrology/Earth Sciences. Formal applications can be completed online: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply. You should apply for PhD in Geography, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Prof D Tetzlaff ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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