High resolution palynology of the London clay formation, and calibration of Near Infrared (NIR) data
PhDs and postgraduate research
Self-funded PhD students only
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Applications accepted all year round
Applications are invited for a self-funded PhD to commence in October or February.
The Eocene London Clay Formation (LCF) underlies large areas of south-east England (in particular underlying much of London itself), and as such is encountered regularly during geotechnical engineering projects.
A detailed understanding of both the engineering properties and precise stratigraphical positioning of the formation (often to the centimetre scale) are required to ensure the safe and efficient completion of such projects. Due to the largely monotonous lithological nature of the LCF, and lateral variation within, it is extremely difficult to be confident that the geotechnical properties at one site can be applied to different locations (see De Freitas & Mannion, 2007, Géotechnique 57, for a useful summary).
A PhD project is already underway at the University of Portsmouth to assess the feasibility of high-resolution NIR spectral scanning as a tool for stratigraphical positioning within the LCF, based upon both borehole and field data. The aim of the new project advertised here is to sample known horizons through key parts of the NIR spectrum produced in the parallel project, in order to provide biostratigraphical data from palynomorphs (organic-walled microfossils) with which to calibrate/ground-truth the NIR data.
Well-preserved palynomorphs, in particular dinoflagellates, have been recorded previously within the LCF by several authors (e.g. Bujak et al., 1980, Sp. Papers in Palaeo. 24), and consequently Knox (1996, GSL Sp. Pub. 101) indicated that dinoflagellates provide the best biostratigraphical means with which to correlate across varying facies within the Palaeogene of NW Europe. As such, this project creates an interesting collaboration between micropalaeontology and engineering geology, with an applied industrial impact in terms of streamlining geotechnical projects by the potential reduction of costly and problematic difficulties associated with working in the LCF (e.g. the Heathrow Tunnel Collapse, see Hight et al. 2003, Charact. & Eng. Prop. of Nat. Soils, 2).
You will gain experience in palynological processing/acid digestion, and both scanning electron and light microscopy for the identification and interpretation of the taxa recovered. The skills and experience gained during this project would prime the applicant for either an academic career, or one as an industrial palynologist.
This project requires a candidate with a background in micropalaeontology, in particular Palaeogene palynology, and previous experience of sample preparation would be advantageous. Full laboratory and analytical training will be provided. The University has an active Graduate School offering general postgraduate training alongside the more specialist subject specific training (via Postgraduate research degree student Moodle site)
Fees and funding
Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only.
PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).
2021/2022 fees (applicable for October 2021 and February 2022 start)
PhD and MPhil
Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,500 p/a**
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,250 p/a**
International full-time students: £17,600 p/a*
International part-time students: £8,800 p/a*
PhD by Publication
External candidates: £4,407*
Members of staff: £1,720
All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.
*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021.
Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.
You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
How to apply
We’d encourage you to contact Anthony Butcher (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code SEES3180217.
When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.
Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.
If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity quote the project code SEES3180217 when applying.