PhD Studentship: Geophysical Modelling of Fluid Movement at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii (HERD_UENV18EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Dr Richard Herd

Project description: Geophysical observations and gas emission monitoring are some of the most useful tools for forecasting the behaviour of active volcanoes. However, the disciplines, while linked qualitatively, are rarely analysed together, even though they have profound effects on each other. Several studies have observed that fluid movement alters the properties of the surrounding rock. These changes include seismic velocities and ground deformation. The quantification of the effects of fluid movement will not only assist volcano observatories to discriminate between the signals of gas and magma movement, but also has the potential to improve monitoring of remote volcanoes.

The student will use computer models to calculate seismic velocity variation, strain and stress due to pressurised fluid-filled cracks in the medium. The project will be divided into two parts. The first part will be the development of the models for a target volcano. The 2008 summit eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii will be the main focus of the project through collaboration with Dr. Poland at the US Geological Survey. The student will visit Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) to work with Dr. Poland on the deformation data, and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to gain experience monitoring one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. The second part will be to test the theories that the student has developed in the first part on other target volcanoes to evaluate the global applicability of the models.

The project will be conducted primarily in the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, where the background and existing knowledge to support this project are excellent. Training will be given where necessary in seismic and other geophysical methods, general computing skills and specific MATLAB and COMSOL use. The other institutions involved in this project are HVO and CVO, where Dr Poland is the research scientist in volcano geodesy. Training will be given in geodetic analysis and interpretation.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit

Person specification: Applicants must hold, or expect to receive, a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant engineering, mathematical, or physical sciences discipline. Expertise in geophysics or volcanology and strong computing and mathematical skills are desirable.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Funding notes: Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources. 

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