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Holocene palaeoseismicity and sea-level change in Chile (RDF17/GEO/HOCKING)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr E Hocking  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project seeks to understand both abrupt and long-term relative sea-level (RSL) change in Chile. Historical and instrumental records provide evidence for multiple great earthquakes along the Chilean megathrust, causing abrupt RSL changes. Palaeoseismic research has advanced significantly in south-central Chile since the 2010 earthquake, but there are still relatively few quantitative reconstructions of deformation for historic earthquakes, and further south records of earthquake occurrence are discontinuous. Such records are essential for providing long-term perspectives on the recurrence, magnitude and variability of earthquakes. This project will focus on geological evidence of late Holocene earthquakes, including stratigraphic evidence preserved in tidal marshes and peat bogs. The aim is to develop detailed chronologies of earthquake recurrence and quantify deformation using microfossil techniques.
The candidate may also choose to focus on the long-term RSL history of Chile, on which there is a paucity of data. Where data do exist there is discrepancy between observations and models. Glacial isostatic adjustment models suggest RSL has been falling along the Pacific coast of South America since the mid-Holocene, but there are field observations to suggest sea-level rise over the last millennium. Further data are necessary to constrain these models and to try to better understand the drivers of Holocene RSL change, which include great earthquakes, ongoing tectonic deformation, isostatic response since the last glacial maximum, neoglacial forebulge migration and collapse, and global eustasy. We have identified sites for sea-level reconstruction that will potentially provide key constraints on models, on the timing and magnitude of the mid-Holocene highstand, as well as directing where evidence for historic great earthquakes may be preserved.

There is flexibility to focus on either the sea-level or palaeoearthquake history. The project will involve fieldwork to Chile; you will be given training in field, laboratory, microfossil (diatoms), dating (radiocarbon and/or OSL), and analytical techniques.

Eligibility and How to Apply
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required (evidence required by 1 August 2017).

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Deadline for applications: 20 January 2017
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is being considered for funding in competition with other projects, through one of two types of funding packages available:
• Fully funded studentships include a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates for 2017/18 (this is yet to be set, in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000 / International Lab-based £16,000), and are available to applicants worldwide.
• As Northumbria celebrates its 25th anniversary as a University and in line with our international outlook, some projects may also be offered to students from outside of the EU supported by a half-fee reduction.


Garrett E, Shennan I, Woodroffe SA, Cisternas M, Hocking EP, Gulliver P. 2015. Reconstructing paleoseismic deformation, 2: 1000 years of great earthquakes at Chucalén, south central Chile. Quaternary Science Reviews 113: 112-122

Shennan I, Barlow N, Carver G, Davies F, Garrett E, Hocking E. 2014. Great tsunamigenic earthquakes during the last 1000 years in the eastern Alaska-Aleutian megathrust. Geology 42: 687-690

Shennan I, Bruhn R, Barlow N, Good K, Hocking E. 2014. Late Holocene great earthquakes in the eastern part of the Aleutian megathrust. Quaternary Science Reviews 84: 86-97

Watcham EP, Shennan I, Barlow NLM. 2013. Scale considerations in using diatoms as indicators of sea level change: lessons from Alaska. Journal of Quaternary Science 28: 165-179

Garrett E, Shennan I, Watcham EP, Woodroffe SA. 2013. Reconstructing paleoseismic deformation, 1: modern analogues from the 1960 and 2010 Chilean great earthquakes. Quaternary Science Reviews 75: 11-21

Watcham EP, Bentley MJ, Hodgson DA, Roberts SJ, Fretwell PT, Lloyd JM, Larter RD, Whitehouse PL, Leng MJ, Monien P, Moreton SG. 2011. A new Holocene relative sea level curve for the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 3152-3170
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