Evaluating the impact of vegetation characteristics on river channel morphology using SfM photogrammetry

Loughborough University - School of Civil and Building Engineering

Starting: October 1st 2017

Interview date: w/c February 13th 2017

Primary supervisor: Dr Rene Wackrow

Secondary supervisor: Dr Ian Pattison

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by the NERC CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership, starting October 2017. The project will be based in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University. 

Braided rivers are very dynamic systems which have complex controls over their planform and flow dynamics. Vegetation is one variable which influences channel geometry and pattern, through its effect on local flow hydraulics and the process continuum of sediment erosion-transport-deposition.

The aim of this PhD is to develop an advanced understanding of the interaction between vegetation characteristics e.g. density, and river channel morphology, with a focus on the hydraulic and geomorphological processes that explain this relationship. Previous research in this field has been contradictory; with Gran and Paola (2001) finding that increasing vegetation density decreased the number of active channels. In contrast, Coulthard (2005] observed that as vegetation become denser there was an increase in the number of channels. Preliminary experiments by the supervisory team (Pattison and Roucou, 2016) have found that the relationship between vegetation density and the braiding index is more complex than previous thought.

Understanding the effect of vegetation in these highly dynamic systems has multiple consequences for human activity and management. For example, increasing/decreasing channel stability for economic growth/infrastructure on floodplain, flood hazards, and ecological/habitat impacts. This project aims to link small scale vegetation-hydraulics-geomorphology process understanding gained through controlled flume experiments to large scale global braided river systems through using remote sensing methods.

The availability of high resolution low-cost digital cameras is creating new opportunities to reconstruct digital elevation models with high resolution and the dynamic sediment erosional/depositional processes using Structure from Motion (SfM) Photogrtammetry. Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry will be used to measure flow velocity in 3D along with a novel force measuring devise to directly measure the drag force exerted on vegetation and sediment. 

Find out more:
General information about the School of Civil and Building Engineering can be found at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/civil-building/ and more information about the project and CENTA can be found at http://www.centa.org.uk/ or contact  Dr Rene Wackrow (R.Wackrow@lboro.ac.uk) +44 (0) 01509 228525 / Dr Ian Pattison (I.Pattison@lboro.ac.uk). 

Entry requirements:
Applicants will hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Earth Science or Environmental Science.  A Master’s degree and/or experience in a related area associated with the research will be an advantage.

Funding information:
The studentship is for 3.5 years, starting October 2017. It provides a tax-free stipend of £14,296 per annum (2016/17 rate) plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and a research training support grant of £8,000.  Due to funding restrictions, only students with UK/EU fee status will be considered for this opportunity. For further information on studentship eligibility please see RCUK Terms & Conditions.

How to apply:

  • Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format (available from http://www.centa.org.uk/apply/).
  • All applications should be made online at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/. Under programme name, select “Civil and Building Engineering”.  During the online application process, upload the CENTA studentship application form as a supporting document.

Please quote CENTA-LU4 when completing your online application.

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Midlands of England