PhD Studentship – Physical Modelling of Submarine Channel-levee Development

Job Summary

Physical modelling of submarine channel-levee development
Prof. Bill McCaffrey, Dr Gareth Keevil, Dr. Alan Burns
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering, University of Leeds

Fully-funded 3.5 year PhD studentship for UK or EU candidate whose background is in Geology/Earth Sciences with minimum BSc 2.1 or equivalent. The award will pay all tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the UK Research Council rate (currently £13,590).

Submarine fan systems are significant morphological features on continental margins. Aggradational leveed channels comprise a significant morphological element of many fans, with the fan surface being built up in sequence by a series of such channels as they switch course via a process of avulsion. Individual single thread channels commonly develop a characteristic longitudinal profile in which the channel axis gradient decreases progressively basinward, with an associated reduction in the height of the confining levees. The project will look in sequence at 3 linked areas:

1) the processes of self organization that lead to characteristic channel-levee profiles;
2) the conditions necessary for avulsion (and in particular the relative importance of allo- vs. autocyclic forcing), and
3) an analysis of how the avulsion processes contributes to the characteristic forms of submarine fans.

This project would pursue a linked theoretical and physical modelling approach to include:

  • development of scaled physical models of channels to investigate the development of the characteristic long axis profiles of submarine channels
  • evaluation of the avulsion process, with measurement of flow properties associated with incipient to full avulsion, together with changes in associated deposit characteristics. Data collected would include flow velocity, concentration and suspended sediment grain size distribution.
  • theoretical modelling of channel avulsion, including topological analysis of documented patterns of avulsion in modern submarine channel levee systems, including statistical analysis of avulsion node migration pathways and land surface evolution models.The Sorby Experimental Fluid Dynamics University (SEFDL)

The SEFDL is one of the leading environmental fluid dynamics laboratories in Europe, and is amongst the best equipped laboratories of its type globally. Our aim is to undertake ground-breaking research across a wide range of problems within Environmental Fluid Dynamics, and to support researchers from across the University of Leeds, the United Kingdom, and internationally.

Research Environment

The student be a member of the industry-funded Turbidites Research Group (TRG) JIP project. He or she would thus be integrated into a dynamic and active research group, with ongoing research into deep marine clastics via field studies, physical and numerical modelling and seismic studies.

For information about how to apply, visit:

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