PhD Studentship: Landsliding in Nepal: exploring the role of earthquakes, rivers and roads (BOULTON_UPLYM17EE) - CASE studentship with AECOM

University of East Anglia

School of: Environmental Sciences
Start Date: October 2017
No. of positions available: 1
Supervisor: Dr Sarah J Boulton

Project description:  

Landslides are a global hazard occurring in many countries and landscapes, posing significant risk to infrastructure and populations. Yet many questions and challenges remain before landslide occurrence and distribution can be effectively modelled, especially in areas where multiple triggers for landsliding exist. For example, observations have shown that rainfall triggered landslides are more common after large earthquakes suggesting that hillslopes retain damage from previous earthquakes making them more susceptible to future events – a concept referred to as preconditioning. This project will investigate the role of landscape preconditioning resulting from earthquake damage in the Nepal Himalaya, as well as the impact of natural and man-made incision (i.e., road building) on landslide distribution and frequency in the region. The study will focus on regions effected by three large (Mw>6.6) earthquakes (1988, 2011, 2015). 

The project will combine remote sensing techniques and field observations to build a rigorous database of landslide events in the study region. A range of remotely sensed and field data will be used to determine ground movement, volumes and runout distances of landslides. These data will provide inputs for spatial analysis of earthquake and monsoon-generated landslides, and the impact of road-building on earthquake frequency. Collectively, data will then be used to test and refine models of hillslope sensitivity to landslide triggering, therefore contributing to global efforts to understand better landslide dynamics in a changing world.

Two field seasons to Nepal will be undertaken to ground-truth, measure and assess the impact of landslides. Furthermore, this studentship is a collaborative project between Plymouth University, University of East Anglia and the CASE partner AECOM ( so will require travel between Plymouth and Norwich. 3-5 months will be spent working with AECOM in Plymouth or Nepal.

The student will receive training in remote sensing and GIS, field geomorphic techniques (geomorphic mapping, TruPulse, DGPS surveys) and engineering geology methodologies (slope stability, soil penetration), as well as generic research skills. 

Person specification: We are looking for a candidate who is confident in carrying out fieldwork abroad and can integrate data from different geological disciplines. A first degree in a geoscience discipline, GIS/Remote sensing or similar is desirable.

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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