PhD Studentship: Modelling lahar hazard and landscape disturbance following a volcanic eruption on the island of Montserrat (BENNETT_UENV17EE)

University of East Anglia

School of: Environmental Sciences
Start Date: October 2017
Supervisor: Dr Georgina Bennett

Project description:  

Scientific background/rationale and significance

Volcanoes deliver large amounts of sediment to their flanks when they erupt, fuelling lahars (flows of volcanic sediment and water) for years after eruption. This project will combine a numerical model of sediment discharge with field-based measurements of lahars around Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat to predict future lahars in a changing climate. Commencing in 1995, volcanic eruptions have resulted in ongoing lahars in several drainages including those traversing the former capital city, Plymouth. This project will help the local volcano observatory to manage risk posed by lahars to local tourism, geothermal energy production and aggregate extraction in and around Plymouth.

Research methodology

The student will first calibrate the model, SedCas, to reconstruct observed lahar activity since 1995, utilizing an archive of available data. They will collect further data in the field and from imagery to further quantify and calibrate hydrological and erosion processes. They will make use of multi-temporal aerial photographs to assess patterns of erosion and sediment transfer following the eruption and will fly additional imagery where needed. Following calibration, the student will use the model to predict future lahars in a changing climate. The project outputs will contribute to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) hazard monitoring program.


The student will join the Earth Science group in the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA. They will receive training in imagery analysis, numerical modelling and field techniques, and become an expert in (volcanic) geomorphology via several field seasons on Montserrat. Supervision from MVO will help with collection of further imagery (via helicopter) and will provide valuable experience in the use of research to inform hazard assessment. Additionally, students have the opportunity to attend at least one international conference as well as national conferences. The interdisciplinary supervisory team will provide strong support in publishing research outputs to suit the interests and research direction of the student.

Person specification: The student should have a Bachelor degree in Physical Geography or a related subject. They should be motivated to conduct fieldwork and to learn and apply new field and computer based techniques.

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

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