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QUADRAT DTP: Properties of Glacial Tills: Engineering, Environmental and Glaciological Applications

School of Natural and Built Environment

Monday, January 18, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In the UK, glacial till is the most widespread surface deposit, but it is hugely heterogeneous and poorly characterised in terms of engineering and chemical properties. The geotechnical properties of a substrate (e.g. grain-size, permeability, shear strength, stiffness) determine how it responds to natural (for example glacier or ice sheet induced shear stress) and anthropogenic processes (for example slope loading or unloading in excavations and water extraction). This has widespread engineering, environmental and glaciological implications, for example; prediction of ground conditions, groundwater resource protection, hazard risk management, ice dynamics. Recent advances have recognised specific bedrock controlled till domains (Roberson and Pellicer 2017) across the island of Ireland, providing a national framework within which to undertake this project.

The primary aim will be to gather and assess the engineering and chemical properties of tills from geologically defined bedrock domains across Northern Ireland (Davies et al 2015). The study will utilise information held by supporting organisations, including the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) who host a large repository of site investigation information. Also available through GSNI are high resolution soil geochemistry and radiometric datasets. Where physical property data are missing these will be augmented with new geotechnical data generated in the QUB testing facilities such as effective stress testing to gain an understanding of the variability of strength, permeability testing and geophysical testing (seismic or electrical resistivity) to generate data on the variation of till stiffness and moisture content. The datasets generated by the project will be unique and will then be used to generate three deliverables.
D1 - statistical analysis of the datasets will identify relationships between the bedrock domain and till properties, for example particle size, geochemistry and engineering properties such as shear strength or stiffness (MacDonald et al 2012).

The next part of the project will be to generate spatial distributions of recorded environmental hazards (e.g. embankment failures, groundwater contamination). Statically analyses will again identify relationships between the till properties and various engineering and environmental hazards:
D2 - will provide a bedrock domain-based zonation of till properties and hazards which can be utilised for planning/assessing future construction, extraction infrastructure developments.

Till properties provide a first order control on their response to deviatoric stresses and this is well understood in the engineering world, although empirical data are often lacking. The dataset generated by D1 provides a unique opportunity to undertake an analysis linking subglacial landform assemblages and till properties:
D3 - a bedrock domain-based zonation of till properties and subglacial landforms providing a new insights into ice sheet-bed coupling and landform genesis.

More project details are available here:

How to apply:

Please note: applications should be submitted directly to QUADRAT and not to Queen’s University Belfast.

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and international candidates (EU and non-EU). Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: View Website

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