PhD Sought for hydrology and biogeochemistry project - application deadline 26 January 2018

This fully funded PhD is for the project - Going underground: the role of subsurface hydrological and biogeochemical processes in managing flood and diffuse pollution risks.

This project aims to address key knowledge gaps on the role of subsurface water storage and flow processes on catchment water quantity and quality in agricultural landscapes and how might these be best addressed via nature based management strategies. It offers a dynamic training opportunity in academic (Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh) and policy driven (James Hutton Institute) research environments across Scotland.

Nature based solutions (NBS) are increasingly proposed in rural catchments for managing flood and diffuse pollution risks. Ranging from small wetlands to entire river restoration projects, NBS typically involve attenuating surface flows. However, subsurface water flow and storage for NBS functioning and effectiveness is relatively unknown, yet may control important aspects of runoff generation and biogeochemical processes, e.g. nutrient dynamics. Drained agricultural landscapes are of interest due to artificial subsurface drainage and the resulting need to assess spatio-temporal dynamics of subsurface water flow processes for water quantity and quality how might these be best addressed via nature based management strategies. This project aims to contribute to the understanding of multi-purpose functioning and effectiveness of NBS to provide a framework for their design in agricultural landscapes in order to reduce flood and diffuse pollution risks.

The project benefits from extensive ongoing monitoring programmes in various agricultural landscapes across Scotland, but will also involve additional field data collection. Field and lab data analyses will be combined with modelling approaches. The student will be supervised by staff from the University of Aberdeen (Dr Josie Geris), the University of Edinburgh (Prof Kate Heal) and the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen (Dr Marc Stutter).

Candidate Requirements

The successful candidate should have, or expect to receive a 2.1 Honours Degree (or equivalent) in Earth and Environmental Sciences (e.g. Hydrology, Biogeochemistry, Geosciences, Environmental or Soil Sciences, Geography, Environmental Engineering, or any other relevant numerate, scientific discipline). An enthusiasm to carry out field work, laboratory experiments and analysis combined with modelling is required. A driving licence will be necessary. Knowledge of modelling (calibration, testing), programming/coding, and biological or chemical sciences would be advantageous. The successful candidate will be expected to start in October 2018.

Funding Model

This 3.5 year studentship is funded jointly by the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, and SAGES (Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society). The PhD is fully funded and includes an annual stipend for the student commensurate with current RCUK rates, payment of UK/EU tuition fees, and a research training support grant. Applications will be accepted from international students (nationals outside UK/EU) provided that they agree to cover the difference between UK/EU and overseas tuition fees.

Application Procedure

To make an application for the studentship, please send a copy of your curriculum vitae, together with a cover letter, to the project’s lead supervisor (Dr Josie Geris) at the following email address: A more detailed project description is available on request and informal enquiries about the studentship are welcomed in advanced of making a full application. The closing date for applications is 26 January 2018. Applications received after that date will not be considered. Interview dates are 19-21 February 2018.