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Monitoring and modelling the drivers and responses of permafrost coastal erosion (Ref: OP19_26)

  • Full or part time
    Dr M Lim
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Climatic changes in temperature have been particularly pronounced across Arctic coastlines, reducing the sea-ice season and intensifying storm activity. Analyses of the Western Canadian Arctic coastline have revealed substantial increases (up to 200%) in coastal erosion over the last two decades. Accelerated rates of retreat have been accompanied by higher frequencies and magnitudes of collapse, threatening coastal communities, food security and critical infrastructure. The limited studies of permafrost coast erosion have typically been localised and failure type specific or broad one- to two- dimensional retreat maps at time intervals of annual change at best. We lack understanding of the wide scale volumetric responses and environmental sensitivities of Arctic permafrost coasts and the implications resulting from continued climatic changes.

This PhD research will address critical, longstanding questions over the wide scale sensitivities and impacts of permafrost coast erosion, working closely (including a secondment in Nova Scotia, Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography – Canada’s premier marine and coastal institute) with leading researchers from the CASE partner Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The research will benefit from exposure to innovative new approaches for wide scale volumetric monitoring and temperature mapping, geochemical signature analyses linking material sources to sinks and novel modelling approaches to upscale and predict western Arctic permafrost coast change. The depth and reach of the research will be enhanced through access to NRCan’s extensive repositories of samples and historic datasets, which will be reanalysed to form a complete picture of long-term trends.

The project builds on recent collaborative research (NERC funded) conducted by Northumbria University and NRCan, where proof of concepts and high-resolution datasets have been successfully developed. Working with NRCan will ensure wider project relevance and application through direct co-production and transfer of knowledge to local communities in the western Canadian Arctic.

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

How sensitive are permafrost coasts to environmental drivers of change?

What are the wide scale (regional) responses to key events such as thermal changes and storms and how are these likely to change in the future?


The project would suit a student with a background in fields such as Geomatics or Geosciences. Experience of remote sensing, geophysics, geochemistry or modelling is desirable.

For more information contact Mike Lim ().

Funding Notes

These are (3.5 year) fully funded 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).

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