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PhD: Understanding mobility of sediment waves

Project title: Understanding mobility of sediment waves in complex marine environments (Movement)

Supervision team: Mark Coughlan (UCD), Jennifer Keenahan (UCD) & Katrien Van Landeghem (Bangor University)

Project advisors: John O'Sullivan (UCD)

Project collaborators: Shauna Creane (Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions)

Project description: The on-going need for offshore renewable energy and communications means increasing amounts of engineering infrastructure being placed at the seafloor, including foundations and cables. The seafloor can be a dynamic environment consisting of sediment in transport and mobile bedforms, such as sediment waves. Understanding the nature of these dynamics, and their potential interaction with anthropogenic seafloor infrastructure, is critical in siting and mitigating against engineering failure. However, this understanding is far from complete and accurately predicting bedform dynamics and sediment transport rates involves a complex study of seafloor sediment characteristics, morphology and hydrodynamics. The Movement PhD Project will seek to better understand these dynamics through a multidisciplinary approach utilising geophysical data analysis, numerical modelling and laboratory testing. The project will build on substantial previous research carried out by the project supervisors and collaborators on bedform dynamics (e.g. Creane et al., 2022) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling (e.g. Littler et al., 2022) in the Irish Sea, and will look to utilise flume tank testing facilities at University College Dublin. The Candidate will collaborate with subject experts under a number of proposed work packages/research areas:

  • Processing and GIS based analysis of geophysical (e.g. multibeam echosounder) and geological (e.g. grab sample) datasets to improve real world characterising of mobile seafloor bedforms;

  • Developing hydrodynamic models (e.g. CFD in OpenFOAM) for target areas to study bedform related flow dynamics and sediment transport.

  • Physical modelling of bedform mobility.

Position Description: This four-year full-time PhD position is part of the Ad Astra Fellowship Programme of Dr. Mark Coughlan. The successful candidate will be registered at University College Dublin, starting at the beginning of September 2023. The stipend is currently €18,000 per annum, with an additional research budget. As part of this position the candidate can expect to gain employable skills such as:

  • Knowledge of industry-standard software;

  • State-of-the art modelling for industry applications;

  • Numerical and analytical skills currently in huge demand;

  • Working as part of a multidisciplinary team to solve complex problems.

Candidate Experience: The candidate should have a minimum 2.1 in an Honours Bachelor's degree in Geoscience, Earth Science, Engineering Geology or Civil Engineering, or an equivalent. Prior knowledge of the following would be beneficial but is not essential: hydrodynamic (e.g. CFD) modelling; laboratory measurements in fluid mechanics; sediment transport and bedform dynamics mechanisms; GIS.

Application: Please e-mail a CV (2-page preferable) and a cover letter outlining your experience and motivation to Mark Coughlan ( Closing date for application is 28th April 2023.


Creane, S., Coughlan, M., O'Shea, M., Murphy, J., 2022. Development and Dynamics of Sediment Waves in a Complex Morphological and Tidal Dominant System: Southern Irish Sea. Geosciences.

Littler, G., Coughlan, M., Majcher, J., Keenahan, J., 2022. Understanding Sediment Dynamics at a Shipwreck Site Using CFD Modelling. Geosciences.

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