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Geotechnical Properties of Glacial Tills: Engineering and Environmental Applications


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Dr D Hughes , Prof B Rea No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

"The geotechnical properties of a substrate (e.g. grain-size, permeability, shear strength) determines how it responds to natural and anthropogenic processes. In the UK glacial till is the most widespread deposit, but is hugely heterogeneous and poorly characterised in terms of physical and chemical properties. This has widespread environmental and engineering implications, for example for groundwater resource protection and hazard risk management. Recent advances have recognised specific bedrock controlled till domains (Roberson and Pellicer 2017) across the island of Ireland, providing a national framework within which to undertake this project.

The primary aim will be to gather and assess physical and chemical properties of tills from geologically defined bedrock domains across Northern Ireland in order to identify linkages between bedrock and till (Davies et al 2015).
The study will utilise information held by the supporting organisations, including the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) who host a repository of site investigation information in excess of 100K records. Also available through GSNI are the regional, high resolution Tellus Project soil geochemistry and radiometric datasets. Access to QUB geotechnical testing facilities will facilitate acquisition of new and bespoke information specific to bedrock till domains.

An important outcome will be to provide for each bedrock domain a suite of properties that allow for modelling of the engineering and environmental behaviour of till across the region. Statistical analysis and comparison of datasets reveal relationships between variables, e.g. particle size distribution and permeability (MacDonald et al 2012), and it is envisaged that further associations will be discovered at the domain and regional scales.

Research training
Research training through the project partners (QUB, Aberdeen, GSNI and Arup) will provide the student with a suite of analytical skills relevant to both the project and professional development in the fields of geology and environmental engineering. In addition to the named lead supervisors, Dr Rory Flood (QUB), Professor Mark Cooper and Dr Sam Roberson (GSNI) will provide supervision and training. These will include: GIS-based remote sensing techniques, data mining, field-based geological site description and sampling, lab-based geotechnical testing, quantitative data analysis and geostatistical techniques. The student will be encouraged to acquire literacy in a scientific programming language.

MacDonald, A. M., Maurice, L., Dobbs, M. R., Reeves, H. J., & Auton, C. A. 2012. Relating in situ hydraulic conductivity, particle size and relative density of superficial deposits in a heterogeneous catchment. Journal of Hydrology, 434, 130-141.

Roberson, S. and Pellicer, X. 2017. An All Ireland Quaternary Map: Final Report. Geological Survey of Ireland, Dublin. 27 pp.

Davies, B., Roberson, S., Hughes, D.,B., Cooper, M.R. 2015. Physical properties of tills deriving from contrasting parent lithologies. GSNI Internal Report. 24 pp."

Funding Notes

This studentship is available to UK and other EU nationals and provides funding for tuition fees and stipend, subject to eligibility.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject.


Application Procedure:

(1) Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences;
(2) State name of the lead supervisor as the name of proposed supervisor;
(3) State QUADRAT DTP as intended source of funding;
(4) State the exact project title on the application form.

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