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QUADRAT DTP: Monitoring environmental change with ambient seismic noise

Project Description

Measuring changes in large-scale natural phenomena in high resolution is difficult, particularly in remote or hazardous locations. Large-scale processes such as ice sheet mass loss, tectonic plate deformation, glacial rebound and extreme atmospheric pressure (i.e. storms) induce strain in the Earth’s crust, and these strains then result in small seismic velocity changes due to poro-elastic processes.

This PhD project will use continuous measurements of the Earth’s natural seismic field (i.e. ambient seismic noise) to determine the small velocity changes associated with different natural processes. Through correlation of Earth’s ambient seismic noise recorded by networks of seismometers, a technique originally developed to monitor active volcanoes and fault zones, the student will measure the Earth’s response to these natural processes by constraining velocity variations in space and time.

In addition to publicly available seismological datasets, the student will have access to datasets collected by Aberdeen scientists in the Faroe Islands, the North Sea, Turkey, Ethiopia and North Borneo to further develop the existing methodology of ambient noise cross-correlation to assess different dynamic processes across the globe. It may be also possible for the student to assist in fieldwork campaigns to deploy seismometers to collect additional data.

Depending on the student’s background and preference, some potential components to this PhD project could include: 1) Earth response to glacial rebound and hurricanes in the Faroe Islands, North Atlantic; 2) ice mass variations in eastern Greenland; 3) volcano monitoring in Campi Flegrei; 4) ongoing extension in the Ethiopian rift; 5) tectonic deformation across North Borneo; 6) North Anatolian fault hazard assessment in northern Turkey.

The project would suit a numerate physical scientist with a first degree in Earth Sciences, Physics or a related discipline. The student will be a member of a vibrant team of PhD researchers at the University of Aberdeen and will become part of an active geophysics research group. They will gain seismic data analysis skills, relevant for industry or academic careers, and have the opportunity to present their research at national and international conferences and workshops.

The project should give the student a broad understanding of seismology and Earth physics, coding with Python and Matlab, and large dataset time series processing. It should also train the student in understanding the complex interplay of dynamic processes at the Earth’s surface


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 the https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php 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.


Mordret, A., T. D. Mikesell, C. Harig, B. P. Lipovsky, and G. A. Prieto (2016), Monitoring southwest Greenland's ice sheet melt with ambient seismic noise, Sci. Adv., 2, 5, doi:10.1126/sciadv.1501538.

Pilia, S., N. Rawlinson, A. Gilligan, and F. Tongkul (2019), Deciphering the fate of plunging tectonic plates in Borneo, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO123475

F. Brenguier, M. Campillo, C. Hadziioannou, N. M. Shapiro, R. M. Nadeau, E. Larose, Post-seismic relaxation along the San Andreas fault at Parkfield from continuous seismological observations. Science 321, 1478-1481 (2008).

F. Brenguier, M. Campillo, T. Takeda, Y. Aoki, N. M. Shapiro, X. Briand, K. Emoto, H. Miyake, Mapping pressurized volcanic fluids from induced crustal seismic velocity drops. Science 345, 80-82 (2014).

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