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Multi-method characterization of shipwreck sites

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Plets
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a funded PhD studentship tenable in the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at the 
Coleraine Campus. All applicants should hold a first or upper second class honours degree in Geoscience, Environmental Science, Marine Science, Archaeology or related area.

Modern shipwrecks act as a hidden pollution risk, as they may release toxic components (e.g. oil, fuel, antifouling paints) into the environment in variable amounts depending on the state of preservation (Masetti and Calder, 2012).
These sites act as open systems, with the exchange of material (sediment, water, toxic fluids and solids) and energy (wave, tidal, storm) across system boundaries. Formation processes at these sites are therefore driven by a combination of chemical, biological and physical processes, with physical processes dominant in initial phases (Quinn, 2006). Around the coastlines of Europe, numerous WWI and WWII wrecks are slowly corroding, acting as potential nuclei for environmental contamination.

WWI wrecks are also increasingly recognized from an archaeological perspective. The overarching international driving force for the protection of underwater cultural heritage is the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the
Underwater Cultural Heritage. This provides protection for sites over 100 years old and strongly emphasises the use of non-destructive methods and preservation in situ as opposed to recovery. Due to the centenary commemorations of WWI, UNESCO has placed a spotlight on its associated underwater cultural heritage, since from 2014, it will fall under the protection of the Convention.

Whilst 48 states have ratified the UNESCO 2001 Convention, the Republic of Ireland and the UK have not, despite pressure from heritage and academic communities (BA/HFF Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage,
2014). In the Republic of Ireland, this is mitigated by blanket protection of all wrecks over 100 years old under the National Monuments Acts (1987 and 1994). Consequently, approximately 400 wrecks will shortly be protected and require
management by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In contrast, the UK lacks blanket protection legislation, relying on the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) which affords protection only to specific vessels designated on the
basis of their importance. As such, under this legal framework, there is additional pressure to ensure that WWI underwater cultural heritage in UK waters is documented, protected and managed to the best of our abilities, allowing future
generations to access the past.

This PhD project will examine the preservation state and evolution of selected WWI wrecks in the Irish Sea, concentrating on dynamic sites, where scour and depositional signatures have formed in response to hydrodynamic forcing Scour, initiated by the introduction of the shipwrecks to the seafloor, leads to increases in flow velocity and turbulent intensity around the structures, ultimately destabilizing sites. Greater understanding of the physical processes that effect the long term stability and evolution of these sites is paramount in their protection.

Successful candidates will enrol as of September 2016, on a full-time programme of research studies leading to the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The studentship will comprise fees together with an annual stipend of £14,296 and will be awarded for a period of up to three years subject to satisfactory progress.
The closing date for receipt of completed applications is 26th February 2016.
Interviews will be held during March 2016.

Further information may be found at -
if you wish to discuss this topic or receive advice on research please contact
Dr Ruth Plets
Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University 
Tel: +44 (0)28 7012 4961
Email: [Email Address Removed]
For more information on applying go to 
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