Undergraduate research bursary for Emma Jolly

David Graham has received a grant for £1440 from the Nuffield Foundation/Geological Society to fund an undergraduate research bursary to Emma Jolly.

The project will use the 3D X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) scanning facilities at the Manchester X-Ray Imaging Facility to explore the internal structure of subglacially deformed sediments. Grain orientation measurements are a standard technique in glacial sedimentology – and a relatively straightforward means of gaining significant insight into past glacial processes and environments. However, there are considerable uncertainties about the reliability of such measurements. The aim of this project is to assess the reliability of conventional field-based measurements of grain orientations by comparing them with measurements made using a CT scanner.

Emma Jolly is an undergraduate on the BSc Geography programme at Loughborough University. She is specialising in glacial geomorphology and GIS, and plans to pursue a career in environmental research or consultancy.


2 PhD studentships at Loughborough University, UK

The Department of Geography has secured 2 PhD studentships aligned with Loughborough University’s strategic research investment in ‘Water Resources’ and ‘Autonomous Vehicles’. Applications are now invited from exceptionally well qualified students who wish to embark on a full-time research degree programme commencing in Autumn Term 2013.

Project 1: Managing flood risks in an uncertain future

Flood risk is one of the major natural disasters globally and its management in an uncertain climatic future is becoming increasingly important. This PhD studentship welcomes proposals along the line of managing flood risk in an uncertain climatic future. The research proposal can focus on one or a combination of the following aspects: (i) modelling the physical characteristics of flood risk; (ii) evaluating its impacts; and (iii) adaptation measures. We are particularly interested in innovative research ideas that utilize novel modelling (e.g. high resolution modelling of fluvial and pluvial flooding), experimental (e.g. laboratory or field) and observational (e.g. using UASs and sensors) methods.

This PhD project will link with existing research projects on flood risks in Loughborough University. The PhD student will be jointly supervised by Dr Dapeng Yu and one or more academics from Geography or other departments in Loughborough, depending on the research direction. Please direct any questions to Dr Dapeng Yu (D.Yu2@lboro.ac.uk).

Project 2: Geo-spatial mapping using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

This project will focus on the use of UAS for the collection of geospatial data and their use in physical geography research. We encourage potential students to approach us with project ideas in any area of physical geography, or who wish to work on technical aspects of UAS development in the context of geospatial imaging/mapping. Potential projects might lie in the area of glaciology/glacial geomorphology (e.g. the distribution dust on glacier surfaces and the effect on albedo/ablation), ecology (e.g. monitoring of forest health in the light of ash dieback), fluvial geomorphology (e.g. reach-scale sediment budgeting), or other areas in which Loughborough has expertise (see http://www.lboro.ac.uk/geography/research/).

The supervisory team will include Dr David Graham (Geography) and Dr Rene Wackrow (Civil Engineering). Other staff appropriate to the project will also be involved. Please direct enquires about this project to Dr David Graham (D.J.Graham@lboro.ac.uk).


Both projects will utilise the Department’s autonomous Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). This is a GPS-controlled fixed wing surveying platform with integrated camera system, developed in association with colleagues in Aeronautical and Civil Engineering. Data processing will utilise the Department’s high-performance PC (equipped with dual Xeon E5 8-core processors, each with 64Gb memory).

They will also benefit from close collaboration with colleagues in the ‘Earth and Planetary Observation and Monitoring’ team at the British Geological Survey (including access to their rotary wing UAS).

About Loughborough University

Internationally renowned for its research excellence, Loughborough University has a vibrant research student community of around 1200 students supported by a £6 million annual investment. Comfortably ranked in the top 20 of all major UK university league tables, the University was awarded The Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-2009 and was voted The Times Higher Education ‘Best Student Experience’ in England for the past six years.

Further Information

Each studentship is valued at £13,726 per year plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and will run for 3 years. Applicants must be eligible to pay tuition fees at UK/EU rates.

For general information about PhD research in Geography at Loughborough and to apply, please contact Sue Clarke (S.N.Clarke@lboro.ac.uk). Please contact the individually named staff for information about the specific research projects.

General information about Department of Geography is available on our website (http://www.lboro.ac.uk/geography).

The closing date for applications is 15 March 2013.

New publication: Conversions of surface grain-size samples collected and recorded using different procedures

Abstract: Information about the grain-size distribution of the surface layer of sediment exposed on river beds is often critical in studies of fluvial hydraulics, geomorphology and ecology. A variety of sampling and analysis techniques are in common usage which produce grain-size distributions that are not directly comparable. This paper seeks to explore the appropriate conversions between different types of surface grain-size sampling methods. This is particularly timely in the light of increasingly widespread use of automatic and semi-automatic image-based measurement methods, the comparability of which with conventional measurement methods is relatively poorly constrained. For conversions between area-by-number (paint-and-pick) and grid-by-number (pebble count) samples, the empirically-derived conversion factor (±2.2) was found to be greater than that predicted by the Kellerhals and Bray model (±2), but the errors associated with using the value predicted by the model were small (3.8% in mm). For conversions between areal samples recorded by count and weight, the empirically-derived conversion factor was approximately ±2.9, but the use of the value predicted by the Kellerhals and Bray model (±3) resulted in only small errors (5.2% in mm). Similarly, for conversions between image-based grain-size distributions recorded in area-by-number and grid-by-number form, the empirically-derived conversion factor was ±1.9, but the using the model value of ±2 resulted in only small errors (4.1% in mm). Although these results are specific to the datasets analysed, the variety of sedimentary conditions included gives us confidence that the results are representative.

Graham, D.J., Rollet, A.-J., Rice, S. and Piégay, H. (2012). Conversions of surface grain-size samples collected and recorded using different procedures. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 138(10), 839-849.

Publisher link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0000595 (subscription required)

Preprint: http://hdl.handle.net/2134/9874 (no subscription required)

New publication: Origin and significance of ‘dispersed facies’ basal ice: Svinafellsjokull, Iceland

Abstract: Dispersed facies basal ice – massive (i.e. structureless) ice with dispersed debris aggregates – is present at the margins of many glaciers and, as a product of internal glacial processes, has the potential to provide important information about the mechanisms of glacier flow and the nature of the subglacial environment. The origin of dispersed facies is poorly understood, with several hypotheses having been advanced for its formation, and there is disagreement as to whether it is largely a sedimentary or a tectonic feature. We test these established hypotheses at the temperate glacier Svínafellsjökull, Iceland, and find that none fully account for dispersed facies characteristics at this location. Instead, dispersed facies physical, sedimentological and stable-isotope (δ18O, δD) characteristics favour a predominantly tectonic origin that we suggest comprises the regelation and strain-induced metamorphism of debris-rich basal ice that has been entrained into an englacial position by tectonic processes operating at the base of an icefall. Further thickening of the resultant dispersed facies may also occur tectonically as a result of ice flow against the reverse bed slope of a terminal overdeepening. Lack of efficient subglacial drainage in the region of the overdeepening may limit basal melting and thus favour basal ice preservation, including the preservation of dispersed facies. Despite the relatively low sediment content of dispersed facies (∼1.6% by volume), its thickness (up to 25 m) and ubiquity at Svínafellsjökull results in a significant contribution to annual sediment discharge (1635-3270 m3 a−1) that is ∼6.5 times that contributed by debris-rich stratified facies basal ice.

Cook, S.J., Swift, D.A., Graham, D.J. and Midgley, N.G. (2011). Origin and significance of ‘dispersed facies’ basal ice: Svinafellsjokull, Iceland. Journal of Glaciology, 57 (204), pp. 710-720.

Publisher link: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/002214311797409703 (subscription required)