PhD: Evaluating nature based strategies in rural landscapes for
managing low flows and stream temperatures

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate for a NERC funded CASE studentship with our industrial partner from the distillery industry (Chivas Brothers). This project aims to address key knowledge gaps on land management strategies in the context of low flows and temperature and to provide industry, land managers and policy makers with a framework to identify possible nature based mitigation strategies to combat environmental change. It offers a dynamic training opportunity in academic, policy, and industry driven environments.

Background: Recent years have seen an increasing interest in alternative, nature based (as opposed to traditional engineering) solutions (NBS) for risk prevention from extreme hydrometeorological events. This typically focuses on reducing flooding (in this context referred to as natural flood management), yet measures that may affect low flows have received little attention. This project will explore NBS strategies for mitigating low flows and increased water temperatures, which may be associated with scenarios of climate change that suggest prolonged warm and dry periods. By affecting the time-scales of water retention in different parts of the landscape, NBS has the potential to substantially impact on recharge, subsurface storage and flow pathways, which in turn have implications for water quantity, quality and temperature. When designed specifically to promote such functions NBS can potentially be used to the benefit of the Scottish Whisky distillery industry who rely on water quantity, quality and temperature standards. This project will contribute to the knowledge on multi-purpose functioning and the placement of different NBS and provide a framework for an integrated NBS design in UK uplands.

Objectives of the project are: 1) Investigate the sensitivity to change of hydrological functioning and source water temperature dynamics of a range of upland landscapes, 2) Prototype a monitoring and modelling framework for NBS impact assessment on the full spectrum of flow regimes including low flows, 3) Evaluate the effectiveness of a range of NBS approaches in different parts of the landscape under different climate projections, and 4) Conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the scenarios of (3) to inform the development of a business case for NBS approaches.

Research Environment and Training: This PhD project represents an exciting opportunity for someone to join the active and expanding research groups of the Northern Rivers Institute (NRI) at the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen. Both institutes are centres of research excellence in environmental hydrology, delivering internationally leading catchment science to help underpin sustainable water management. Training focusses on monitoring, laboratory, data analyses and modelling techniques, as well as dissemination via academic and policy outlets. The student will also be an integral part of the working group at Chivas Brothers and will have full inductions and access to a range of training opportunities (e.g. a course on distillation processes and their water/energy requirements, training on statistical and cost-benefit analyses, including specialist software, and working towards a business case development for NBS that will also be highly relevant for policy development).

The supervisors on the project are Dr J Geris (University of Aberdeen), Dr M Wilkinson (James Hutton Institute), Professor C Soulsby (University of Aberdeen) and Dr R Daalmans (Chivas Brothers).

Funding and Application Procedure:

This is a fully-funded 4 year studentship providing full UK/EU level fees and a tax-free maintenance stipend (14,296 for 2016/2017). The project is funded by a NERC Industrial CASE award (supplemented by an annual industry contribution) and funding is available for additional project costs (including field and laboratory work, training, conference attendance, etc.). The start date of the project is October 2017. Due to the criteria set out by the funding body, we are unable to accept applications from International Students (i.e. outside of the EU/UK)

The successful candidate should have, or expect to receive a 2.1 Honours Degree (or equivalent) in Earth and Environmental Sciences (eg. Hydrology, Geosciences, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Environmental Engineering, or any other relevant numerate, scientific discipline). An enthusiasm to carry out field work, laboratory experiments and analysis combined with hydrological modelling is required. A driving licence and working in the Scottish Cairngorms for fieldwork will be necessary. Knowledge of modelling (calibration, testing), programming/coding, and environmental sciences would be advantageous.

Please contact Dr Josie Geris (email: ) or Dr Mark Wilkinson (email: ) if you are interested in applying and/or have any informal enquiries about the project.

All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ( ). Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU QUOTE THE FULL TITLE OF THE PROJECT AND THE SUPERVISOR NAME ON YOUR APPLICATION FORM.

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posted: 16 December 2016     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.