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QUADRAT DTP CASE: Novel Assessment Tools for Wave Dampening by Marine and Coastal Vegetation

   School of Natural and Built Environment

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  Dr Pal Schmitt, Dr David Green  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Coastal vegetation plays an important role in creating habitats, as a carbon sink and by dampening the waves as a natural form of coastal protection.  

This project aims to improve the understanding of wave dampening and related changes to boundary layers by vegetation through the use of novel simulation methods.

Resolving many relatively small details like 100-1000s of plant stems in the same simulation framework as several wavelengths across the computational domain is still too computationally demanding using conventional geometry-resolving computational fluid dynamics methods. ALFEA, a recently created tool based on Actuator Line Theory coupled with a Finite Element Structural Solver, shows promise in not only resolving the effect of large numbers of fixed stems, but also offers opportunities to investigate the effect of plant rigidity and deformation under fluid loading.

This project will firstly assess the accuracy and suitability of ALFEA for such simulations by performing validation studies against published data for static and flexible stems.

Based on these initial proof-of-concept results, methods will be developed to further enhance the accuracy and applicability to different coastal and marine plant species and environmental conditions. For this second stage, computational methods will be complemented with experimental investigations in the field or using QUB’s tank testing facilities.

The successful candidate will be supported by training in the use of high- performance computing facilities (QUB’s Tier 2 Kelvin2 facility) and computational fluid dynamics (OpenFOAM) and experimental tank or field-testing methods (Turbulence Probes, Active Acoustic Sensors).

Candidate Background: The successful candidate should have a strong interest and experience in fluid dynamics. Previous experience of OpenFOAM, C++, programming, Linux, HPC, experimental field and tank testing, Active Acoustic Sensors, remote sensing, spatial modelling and GIS is desirable, but not essential.

More project details are available here:

How to apply: 

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and overseas candidates. Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (currently £17,668 pa for 2022/23, updated annually)
• Fees (home rate tuition fees and/or fee waiver for overseas fees, where applicable)
• Research and training costs
For further information before applying please check full funding and eligibility information:


Schmitt, P., & Robinson, D. (2022). A Coupled Actuator Line and Finite Element Analysis Tool. OpenFOAM® Journal, 2, 81–93.
Abdolahpour, M., Ghisalberti, M., McMahon, K. and Lavery, P.S. (2018), The impact of flexibility on flow, turbulence, and vertical mixing in coastal canopies. Limnol Oceanogr, 63: 2777-2792.
Millar, R., Houghton, J.D.R., Kregting, L. (2021),
The stress and strain of life – how differences in the mechanical properties and cellular composition enable the kelp Laminaria digitata to thrive in different hydrodynamic environments, Marine Environmental Research, Volume 169, 105330,

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