Weekly PhD Newsletter | SIGN UP NOW Weekly PhD Newsletter | SIGN UP NOW

Coastal evolution under climate change: historical and geophysical investigation into the Norfolk coast, UK (SPOONER_HIS23CDCC)

   School of History

This project is no longer listed on FindAPhD.com and may not be available.

Click here to search FindAPhD.com for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Sarah Spooner, Dr J Johnson, Dr Jon Gregory, Dr Lidong Bie  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


The 2020s are a critical time for the management of coastlines, when decisions about management and mitigating risks will affect communities and ecosystems for decades to come. A key part of planning for coastal erosion is to learn from the past – this interdisciplinary project will bring together historians and environmental scientists to address this critical issue. 

Coastal erosion is widespread; around 28% of the English and Welsh coastline experiences erosion rates of at least 10 cm/year. These averages mask considerable annual variation as the receding coast responds to interactions between storms, sea and man-made interventions. The impacts of climate change will almost certainly lead to a significant increase in both rate but also annualised variability.  

  • How has the rate of erosion changed throughout history? 
  • Can variations in erosion rates be linked to natural or anthropogenic events? 
  • Can erosion rates be forecast for different climate scenarios? 

Research Methodology 

This project will address these questions by placing current and future coastal change within a broader historic context. The student will undertake qualitative data gathering, analysis and synthesis of relevant historic material. High-resolution photos will be acquired using drone photogrammetry, combined with geophysical monitoring data from an existing collaborative project at UEA. 

Historical research and modern data gathering will be combined to build a detailed model in GIS of coastal change over the last 200 years, which will be interrogated for correlations and trends. This model will allow the student to address questions about what the future holds and the best mitigation strategies. 


As part of this dynamic and multidisciplinary group, the student will be trained in the identification, use and analysis of historical sources, and in the use of GIS for modelling historic landscapes. They will also be trained in modern physical data analysis (photogrammetry, LiDAR, strain). 

Person Specification 

Applicants must have a degree in a relevant environmental science or history discipline, with a willingness to engage with both the historical and scientific context. The student should be scientifically and numerically literate. Experience in GIS is desirable. Understanding of historical geography and/or landscape history is advantageous. 

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme. For more information about the programme and details of how to apply, please visit https://www.uea.ac.uk/climate/show-and-tell/leverhulme-doctoral-scholars-applicant-information. 

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please visit the UEA website www.uea.ac.uk 

This project starts on 1st October 2023.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme, which will award PhD studentship funding from the Leverhulme Trust and UEA’s Faculties of Social Sciences and Science.

Successful candidates will be awarded a PhD studentship that pays tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23), and funding to support research costs. Studentship funding is only available to applicants eligible for ‘Home’ fees status, including UK nationals and most EU nationals with ‘settled’ and ‘pre-settled’ status.

Further details of the Critical Decade programme can be found at: https://www.uea.ac.uk/climate/show-and-tell.


Ohl, C., Frew, P., Sayers, P., Watson, G., Lawton, P., Farrow, B.,
Walkden, M. & Hall, J. 2003. North Norfolk - a regional approach to coastal erosion management and sustainability practice. In: McInnes, R.G. (Ed.), International Conference on Coastal Management 2003. Thomas Telford, Brighton, 226-240.

Frietsch, M., Bie, L., Ritter, J., Rietbrock, A. and Schmitt, B., 2022. Current crustal movement in the East Eifel Volcanic Field–anthropogenic or volcanic? (No. EGU22-9479). Copernicus Meetings.

Johnson, J. H., Poland, M. P., Anderson, K., & Biggs, J. (2019). A cautionary tale of topography and tilt from Kīlauea Caldera. Geophysical Research Letters, 46. https://doi.org/10. 1029/2018GL081757

Gregory, J. and Spooner, S. 2020. Mapping a Changing Landscape: Breckland 1750-1820, Journal of Breckland Studies.

Gregory J. and Spooner S. 2021. Public Rights of Way and Countryside Access in Norfolk 1870-1960, Journal of Historical Geography, 74, pp10-27.
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs