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New approaches to restoration of aquatic ecosystems – Integrating catchment and coastal processes to increase flood protection in tidally influenced rivers and estuaries


About This PhD Project

Project Description

Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health – School of Geography

Location: University of Lincoln, UK
Funding: £14,553 per annum stipend, plus all tuition fees covered
Applications accepted until 30th November 2018 or until the post is filled
Reference: COS-SOG-2018-01

Applications are invited for fully funded PhD studentship in “New approaches to restoration of aquatic ecosystems – Integrating catchment and coastal processes to increase flood protection in tidally influenced rivers and estuaries”.

Under the influence of climate change and sea-level rise, flooding is increasingly identified as one of the major threats to coastal communities, particularly in some of the most densely populated estuaries and deltas around the globe. Flood frequencies and intensities, particularly in large river mouth systems are not only controlled by marine drivers, such as sea level rise and storm activity, but equally important by extreme precipitation and river floods. While extreme storm surges or river floods may have severe consequences for local communities, an even more severe threat results from the combined occurrence of extreme storm surges, river flood and precipitation events, so-called compound events.

Climate change is projected to further increase the frequency and intensity of both coastal and river floods, therefore posing a serious risk to coastal communities. In recent decades aquatic restoration projects, both in a river and coastal context, have been identified as a potential tool to reduce flood risks during extreme events. Many studies suggest that a long-term reduction in flood risks can only be achieved by restoring natural dynamics in the river and coastal system.

To date, natural dynamics in many river-coastal systems are impeded by anthropogenic interventions, such as river straightening, dam building, embankment or the construction of flood protection infrastructure. This is despite an increasing number of aquatic ecosystem restoration sites being established, both in river and coastal environments. These restoration projects, however, are often conceived and implemented at the reach scale, and tend to provide small-scale local benefits. Fragmented small-scale projects are not necessarily effective at providing positive effects at the larger scale of the basin, and the overall effects on the catchment-coastal system as a whole are neglected. As a result, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of restoration efforts at the catchment scale, including the coastal region that is additionally exposed to the marine drivers.

This research project will address this topic by:

(1) investigating how fragmentation of river and coastal restoration sites impacts flooding, erosion and sedimentation during compound events;
(2) developing a new management approach to increase the effectivity of aquatic habitat restoration to reduce the risk of compound flooding events in tidally-influenced rivers and estuaries;
(3) studying institutional decision-making and the effectiveness of restoration efforts and the underlying institutional causes of fragmentation;
(4) exploring the ontological/philosophical consequences of treating coastal and riverine spaces as separate ‘projects’.

As such, this project challenges accepted narratives about the purpose of restoration, and reframes floodrisk assessment within landscapes to emphasize connectivity between, a) coastal and riverine processes, and b) institutional decision-making and the effectiveness of restoration efforts.
In order to achieve the above objectives this PhD shall apply a combination of regional- to global scale spatial analyses and numerical modelling approaches as well as a primary data collection to be conducted at an appropriate study site in the UK.

The project will be hosted in the School of Geography’s flagship research centre, the Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health (LCWPH). The candidate will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of internationally leading experts in river system science (Professor Mark Macklin, Head of School of Geography, Director of LCWPH), coastal processes (Dr Mark Schuerch, Deputy director of LCWPH), river gemorphology (Dr Luca Mao), catchment systems and environmental decision making (Dr Harriet Moore). Information about the University’s studentship program, the School of Geography and the LCWPH can be found at the following links:

http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/studentships
http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/geography/
https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/geography/research/lincolncentreforwaterandplanetaryhealth/

Living allowance: £14,553 per annum and all tuition fees covered (via College fee Waiver scheme).
Research expenses: Paid up to £1,500
Start date: 1st February 2019
Duration: 36 months
Reference: COS-SOG-2018-01

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or higher upper second-class honours degree, and preferably a relevant Master’s degree (or equivalent experience) in Geography, Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, or any related discipline, with excellent report-writing and English language communication skills and ability to work to deadlines.

Applicants should demonstrate a good understanding of hydrological and sediment transport and depositional processes in the riverine and/or coastal context and should be proficient GIS users (ArcGIS or other software). Coding skills and previous experience in Big Data analysis would be beneficial to the project.

How to apply

Applications must comprise: 1-page covering letter, 2-page research proposal, 2-page CV, and be e-mailed to Mrs Fiona Burstow: . Please also complete an on-line application form, which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/studywithus/postgraduatestudy/howtoapply/

Applications accepted until 30th November 2018 or until the post is filled

Interviews are due to be held during December 2018.

Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Mark Schuerch:

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