Funded PhD Studentship: Characterizing landslide glide plane mechanics by combining high-resolution multi-offset seismic reflection data and numerical modelling



Location:  National Oceanography Centre Southampton
Closing Date:  Wednesday 31 July 2013
Reference: 264013HN

Project Supervisors: Dr Mark Vardy, Dr Tim Henstock, Dr Antonis Zervos

Project: Sediment properties in the shallow subseabed (lithology, grain size, porosity, and fluid saturation) are fundamentally important for a range of seabed and subsurface processes. Of significant current interest is their role in controlling fluid migration and slope stability. In particular, it is poorly understood how stratigraphic changes in depositional history, grain size, and porosity influence the stability of the seafloor, both individually and in combination.

Direct sampling using cores and/or cone penetrometers is expensive, time consuming, and irrecoverably alters key physical properties during the sampling. A more cost-effective alternative is to use seismic methods to remotely determine the sediment properties. These techniques can cover large areas rapidly, and over the last 10-15 years the hydrocarbon exploration industry has successfully combined parameters derived from multi-offset seismic reflection data with empirical relationships to estimate properties of reservoir sediments much deeper beneath the surface.

This project will develop similar techniques using the University of Southampton’s unique multi-channel seismic streamer, which is specifically designed to allow the acquisition high quality data from the shallowest 50-100m beneath the seabed. The student will have the opportunity to analyse existing datasets, but we also expect to collect new data during the project. They will use a range of methods (e.g., amplitude of arrivals with offset and waveform inversion) to determine P-wave and S-wave seismic velocity and density.

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Using these data as constraints on engineering models (finite element method), this project will look to answer fundamental questions regarding the manner in which sediment properties (e.g., different types/rates of deposition, hydraulic boundary conditions, and permeability anisotropies) influence the stability of the seabed. From this it is hoped the project will turn full circle and define properties that can be identified using high-resolution seismic reflection data such that potentially unstable areas of seafloor can be mapped.

The student will be trained in a range of commercial geophysical (e.g., ProMAX, Petrel) and engineering (e.g., Abaqus and similar) software packages as well as gaining experience writing new algorithms (in C++). By the end of the project, the student will be familiar with processing a range of different geotechnical, geological and geophysical data. The training will be suitable for a wide range of careers, including those in the oil and gas industry. All doctoral candidates will have access to a full range of research and generic training opportunities through the GSNOCS and the University of Southampton’s Researcher Development and Graduate Centre.

Entry requirements: Suitable students will have a strong quantitative background in physics, engineering or geophysics. Applicants should have a good Master’s degree in a relevant subject. Due to funding restrictions, this position is available to EU/UK applicants only.

For enquiries related to the project, please contact Dr Mark Vardy [email protected].  

Administrative contact and how to apply: Please complete the University’s online application form, which you can find at

You should enter Dr Mark Vardy as your proposed supervisor and the title of the project as the research area. Please direct any enquiries about this procedure to [email protected]

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