This PhD aims to improve our understanding of how street trees influence soil-water capacity in the built environment through the use of geophysical tomography. Trees are a much loved part of the built environment; however, rightly or wrongly, great value is often attributed to their ability to manage urban surface water. But how much can we rely on trees; how effective are they in maintaining the function of urban soils beneath our pavements to store and attenuate water (and pollutant) flow? It is vital that our cities are resilient to the increasing frequency of high intensity rainfall events that can cause devastation to homes, businesses and lives. The use of Green Infrastructure (GI) is increasingly recognised as a sustainable approach to mitigate the risk of flooding. Yet, the root-water uptake behaviour of trees and the implications on soil hydrology are poorly understood in extremely heterogenous urban soils and under ever extreme climatic conditions. Based at the National Green Infrastructure Facility (NGIF), this project will use Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) tools developed by the British Geological Survey (BGS) for volumetric imaging alongside an array of instrumentation from the fields of geotechnics and forestry to investigate moisture dynamics in 4D, beneath representative street tree specimens subject to real and imposed rainfall conditions. The NGIF hosts a range of natural and environmental research activities, benefiting from its extensive soil-plant-atmosphere monitoring capability and associated multi-disciplinary expertise. Detailed understanding gained at the specimen level will contribute to city-scale research data (via the ‘Urban Observatory’) and compliment Newcastle City Council’s street tree survey initiative, to allow the informed assessment of the city’s resilience to extreme events. This project combines world-class facilities with the opportunity to conduct innovative, transdisciplinary research alongside leaders in the field of geophysics, geotechnics and plant physiology. Through an existing and successful NCL-BGS collaboration, the applicant will be equipped with expertise in instrumentation and monitoring, ERT processing and interpretation, and a comprehensive understanding of soil-water physics and ecological applications. This combination will position the candidate well to develop a stimulating and successful career.
Prerequisites: Knowledge in physical geography, environmental or other physical science discipline. For more information, please contact Dr Ross Stirling ([email protected]).
Fully funded (3.5 years) PhD studentship awards available for entry September 2019. Each award includes fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£14,777) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).