Dr Sarah J. Boulton (University of Plymouth, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) – Contact me
Dr Martin Stokes, SoGEES; University of Plymouth
Dr Michael Whitworth, AECOM
Dr Joshua Jones, AECOM
Landslides and rock falls are a global hazard, posing significant risk to infrastructure and populations (1). Yet it is still not possible effectively predict the location of future landslides (2). This is especially true in arid desert environments where limited information exists on the frequency and trigger mechanisms of such failures. For example, rock falls have been attributed to both climatic (3) and seismic (4) triggers but in many regions it is not clear what causes slope instability owing to a lack of spatial and temporal control on the deposits. Without such constraints, it is not possible to effectively develop hazard and risk strategies for regions where there is increasing pressure from development and climate change such as in the Middle East and parts of the US. This project will investigate this knowledge gap by comparing the Al Ula (Saudi Arabia) and Wadi Rum regions (Jordan). These are both UNESCO world heritage sites undergoing intense tourism-related development that have significant rock fall hazard, but where the driving mechanism causing observed collapses is unknown (5).
The project will combine remote sensing, field observations and dating methods using cosmogenic isotopes (10Be/14C) and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to build a database of significant rock falls in the study regions. Remotely sensed and field data will determine distributions, volumes, runout distances and timings of rock falls. These data will provide inputs for spatial analysis and modelling rock fall trajectories, identifying areas of particular density and concern. Collectively, data will test hypotheses for the different mechanisms causing rock fall triggering, therefore contributing to global efforts to understand better mass-wasting dynamics in a changing world.
The individual will join a team of international experts who will deliver training in remote sensing and GIS, field geomorphic techniques (geomorphic mapping, TruPulse, DGPS/drone surveys), engineering geology methodologies (slope stability, rock strength assessment, landslide susceptibility), dating (sample collection, preparation and geochemistry) as well as generic research skills.
We are looking for a candidate who is confident in undertaking fieldwork abroad and can integrate data from different geological disciplines. A geoscience degree is desirable.