Project Description

A full project description can be found on Find a PhD. Please see below for additional information about this project:

The PhD student will develop skills in microgravity and hydrogeological data analyses, including data acquisition, processing and interpretation, field hydrogeology and geophysics, numerical modelling, research presentation as well as critical reading and writing. Ulrich Ofterdinger and Jean-Christoph Comte will jointly lead the project as 1st and 2nd supervisor, respectively in close collaboration with Giles Hammond at the University of Glasgow. This collaboration provides key technical expertise in hydrogeology and hydrogeophysics, microgravity sensor technology and numerical groundwater flow modelling as well as comprehensive field datasets for targeted study sites from previous joint research projects.

 

Photo by Glasgow University.

Supervisors

Jean-Christophe Comte

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Jean-Christophe Comte
Email: jc.comte@abdn.ac.uk
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Ulrich Ofterdinger

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Ulrich Ofterdinger
Email: U.Ofterdinger@qub.ac.uk
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Natural and Built Environment

Rory Doherty

Additional Supervisor:

Profile: Rory Doherty
Email: r.doherty@qub.ac.uk
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Natural and Built Environment

Additional Supervisor:

Prof. Giles Hammond University of Glasgow School of Physics and Astronomy Institute for Gravitational Research, Kelvin Building University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ

Impact

Groundwater plays a major role in supplying water to millions of people globally. Across the UK and Ireland, groundwater provides significant contributions to water supplies and provides crucial baseflow contributions to streams and wetlands, thereby sustaining flow regimes and ecosystem health, respectively. At the same time as water resources are threatened by climate extremes, water demand continues to increase with competing demands from domestic, industrial, and agricultural sectors. Thus, sustainable management of groundwater resources is crucial for communities’ resilience and economic development. Cost-effective groundwater monitoring is a key challenge. Installing and maintaining monitoring borehole networks is often costly and impractical due to lack of land access. The recent breakthrough invention of a ‘gravimeter-on-a-chip’ using a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) provides an exciting new sensor to overcome these limitations at a fraction of cost. The project will evaluate the feasibility of new MEMS gravimeter technology as a low-cost non-intrusive method for monitoring groundwater storage fluctuations and for determining key aquifer parameters on a relevant scale for catchment-scale water resource management. In evaluating the application of the new gravimeter technology in combination with previously completed hydrogeophysical surveys (ERT & MRS) and previously collected traditional hydrogeological data for the evaluation of aquifer parameters, the project will advance the generic scientific understanding regarding the hydrogeological application of microgravity methods across different aquifer types and establish a new low-cost sensor technology in the field of hydrogeological/catchment studies for the first time. Furthermore, the integration of microgravity data into numerical groundwater models will help to demonstrate new approaches to better constrain modelling efforts for catchment scale water resource managemen

Proposed Timetable

The timetable for the research project will be adapted in line with the background and expertise of the incoming research students. Nominally, the schedule for the project will include: Year 1: Background study on microgravity field techniques and MEMS sensor technology; Initial Reconnaissance visits to field study sites, Review and Analysis of existing geological and hdyrogeological datasets for case study sites; training of gravity field application (traditional and MEMS sensor technology); Year 2: Field application of microgravity sensors at case study sites; Trial of different data acquisition techniques (single point vs. array) and monitoring programmes (controlled water level fluctuations through pumping vs. natural fluctuations); derivation of aquifer parameters from microgravity data; presentations of initial findings at UK/international conference, drafting of manuscript of first paper publication, development of suitable data processing techniques Year 3: Field application of microgravity sensors at case study sites; Trial of different data acquisition techniques (single point vs. array) and monitoring programmes (controlled water level fluctuations through pumping vs. natural fluctuations); Integration of microgravity data into numerical groundwater flow models for the study sites; presentations of findings at international conference, drafting of manuscript of second paper publication Year 4: Refinement of numerical groundwater modelling studies; evaluation of contribution of new sensor technology for catchment / groundwater resources management; presentation of findings at international conference, drafting of third paper publication Throughout the project, the research student will spend time working with the research groups at Queen’s University Belfast, University of Aberdeen and University of Glasgow to develop skills across the areas of hydrogeophysics, hydrogeology and MEMS sensor technology.

QUADRAT Themes

  • biodiversity
  • environmental-management

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