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Exploring the influence of trans-crustal magmatic systems on volcano deformation, Geology – PhD (Funded)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Dr James Hickey, University of Exeter
Professor Ben Williamson, University of Exeter
Professor Kathy Cashman, University of Bristol

Geology (Camborne School of Mines), Penryn Campus, Cornwall, University of Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in October 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student will be based in Geology (Camborne School of Mines) in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Volcanic eruptions are some of the most spectacular natural phenomena on the planet, but pose a significant threat to over 10% of the world’s population. To enable eruption forecasting, carry out hazard assessments and mitigate risk, a thorough understanding of eruption precursors and volcanic unrest is essential. Volcano deformation is often a precursor to an eruption, and is one of the main tools used to monitor developing volcanic unrest crises. This project will improve our understanding and interpretation of volcano deformation to facilitate eruption forecasting.

Ground inflation at volcanoes is frequently the result of mass transfer at depth, such as magma intrusion, accumulation and/or migration. Traditionally, interpretation of magmatic volcano deformation is based on the conceptual model of an upper crustal, static, magma reservoir/chamber with a high melt fraction. However, recent observations have led to a new conceptual model, consisting of a dynamic, vertically extensive trans-crustal magmatic system (TCMS) formed of transient high-melt fraction pockets within a low-melt fraction mush column. This presents an excellent opportunity to investigate how volcano deformation can be modelled and interpreted using a trans-crustal magmatic system approach, and whether this alters resultant conclusions. For the first time, the new approach will aim to elucidate the links between magma supply, magma properties, reservoir characteristics, and surface deformation in physically-realistic, numerical, dynamic models that couple solid and fluid mechanics. Such inferences will be used to parameterise the processes of magma supply, accumulation and migration, to facilitate eruption forecasting, hazard assessment and risk mitigation. Global study sites will be selected for a representative analysis of a variety of volcano types, likely including Japan, the Caribbean, Ecuador, and/or Costa Rica.

The successful student will be based on the Cornwall (Penryn) campus of the University of Exeter under the supervision of Dr Hickey, where she or he will develop modelling methods with access to excellent computational geophysical facilities. The project will suit an applicant with experience in one or more of the following: volcano deformation, geodetic data processing, computational modelling or fluid dynamics.

This award provides funding to cover tuition fees in full and a tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 per year. The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in October 2019.

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