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QUADRAT DTP CASE: Sustainable Resilience to Coastal Erosion: Innovative Approaches to Protection of Assets Along Coastlines at Risk

Project Description

All coastlines are subject to dynamic change through wave and wind action resulting in significant loss or gain of land through erosion and/or accretion. Many areas around the World are increasingly being exposed to such threats resulting in the partial or complete loss assets in the most severe cases. In the future, climate change will likely accelerate the rate of coastline change with rising sea levels and more frequent and energetic storms.

Evidence of climate change impacts on coasts around the world, the increasing demands being placed on dwindling management budgets, and the growing need to protect valuable coastal assets suggests the need for new and more cost-effective approaches to local coastal management problems. A focus on developing new low-cost environmentally tolerable and sustainable solutions will therefore be important.

This research project will design, model, implement and test a novel coastal engineering solution to facilitate the protection of coastal assets at risk such as golf courses. A hybrid solution using sustainable materials bound into a flexible and tethered structure allowing wind- and water-borne material to penetrate and be captured by the structure will be developed. This will be a low-cost structure that can be easily installed, maintained, and managed at the local community level.

The proposed structure will also need to be tested over time, in different locations, and under different conditions. To achieve this, the structure will first be modelled using mathematical engineering software. This will facilitate refinement of the design and permit testing of the structural integrity of the platform, its flexibility and any stresses exerted, and will help to optimise the physical structure for placement in different coastal locations. The final structure will be constructed using sustainable materials. A tethering system will also be designed to hold the structure in place.

A number of coastal golf course at risk from coastal erosion in Aberdeen(shire) will be used to undertake trialling of the proposed coastal protection structure. Coastal modelling, wave over-topping and wave climate models (SWAN), MIKE21 and Delft 3D software, AI and Deep Learning algorithms will be used to develop a complete environmental characterisation and understanding of the dunes, geology and geomorphology of the sites. GIS will be used to help optimise the positioning of the structure using techniques such as Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA).

Testing of the structure will require in-situ monitoring. The structure will include several onboard sensors to monitor stresses and strains and structural deformation of the platform over time. A drone and camera sensor will be used to fly each of the sites to acquire aerial images, mosaics and 3D models and establish environmental baselines. This will allow spatio-temporal changes to be monitored and derivation of quantitative measurements such as volumetric change. This will be useful to optimise the proposed functioning of the coastal protection structure. Comparison with other coastal protection solutions will be made.

This is an applied research project requiring expertise in modelling/GIS/remote sensing/ and engineering. Practical support and training will be provided by Siskin Asset Management as the CASE partner and collaboration with local authorities.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.


Green Shores Coastal Habitat Restoration:

Fitton, J.M., Hansom, J.D., and Rennie, A.F., 2016. A national coastal erosion susceptibility model for Scotland. Ocean & Coastal Management. Volume 132:80-89.

Masselink, G., and Russell, P., 2013. Impacts of climate change on coastal erosion. MCCIP Science Review. 2013:71-86."

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