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OP2336 Climate change impacts on North East spoil beaches: Understanding the impacts of the coal mining legacy

   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

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  Dr Seb Pitman  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The North East of England has an extensive and proud coal mining and industrial heritage. However, those activities have left a clear mark on the environment around us, and one of those signatures is most obvious on the beaches of the Durham and Northumberland coastline. The waste material from the coal mines (colliery spoil), was readily dumped onto the foreshores over the course of 100 years, and it has dramatically changed both the morphology and sedimentology of these beaches. Initially, the tipping of waste material was so vast that it acted as an inadvertent form of coastal defence, prograding the shorelines and protecting the cliff. Since the cessation of tipping, however, the coastlines no longer receive this protection and as a result are eroding back towards the infrastructure and settlements behind.

This project seeks to understand the vulnerability of these deposits in the face of rising sea levels and increased storminess. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to look at the coastal geomorphology of these sites, and will conduct fieldwork to understand the response of these beaches to high energy conditions. The candidate will be trained in the use of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles for survey work, and the deployment of a range of remote sensing (such as LiDAR) and in-situ field techniques in order to measure how these beaches respond to storms. The individual will then use numerical modelling approaches to predict response of these coastlines into the future. Depending on the individual’s interest, there is also opportunity to undertake chemical analysis to understand what harmful waste is potentially being released as the deposits erode.

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

  1. How do beaches containing spoil deposits respond to storms; are they more or less resistant to wave energy than traditional mixed sediment beaches?
  2. How will these beaches respond to rising sea levels and increased storminess predicted under climate change scenarios?


The candidate should have a full driving licence for fieldwork, and a background in Physical Geography, Earth Science, Geology or a related discipline. For more information, please contact Seb Pitman ([Email Address Removed])

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