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Projects and funding opportunities Sept 21

UCD School of Earth Sciences invites potential PhD students to make contact with the academic staff contacts listed below as soon as possible to discuss projects and funding opportunities within the following research themes (September 2021)


Understanding glaciated highlands

This research seeks to examine glacial landforms and sediments in highland areas, with the goal of gaining understanding of conditions at the base of former ice sheets and the pattern of ice sheet thinning during deglaciation. This work relies on a combination of field and laboratory work to understand past ice sheets, an important benchmark for forecasting future ice sheet reactions to climate change.

Contact Dr Sam Kelley (sam.kelley@ucd.ie)

Enhanced weathering to capture atmospheric CO2

This research theme involves the investigation of basalt quarry waste and several industrial silicate wastes as soil amendments to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Silicate weathering consumes atmospheric CO2 by neutralising carbonic acid, storing the carbon as dissolved bicarbonate and ultimately as marine carbonates. 

Contact Prof. Frank McDermott (frank.mcdermott@ucd.ie)

Basin Analysis 

Research examines large scale basin tectonics and exhumation, and its impact on sedimentology, late-stage basin scale fluid flow, diagenesis and stress fields particularly in NW Europe and North Africa.

Contact Dr Kara English (kara.english@ucd.ie)

Energy transition 

Research projects include reservoir characterization, diagenesis, geochemistry and hydrodynamics related to CO2 storage in the subsurface.

Contact Dr Kara English (kara.english@ucd.ie)

Interactions between faults from earthquake to geological timescales

The deformation of the crust that occurs due to slip on faults can be observed on the short timescales associated with earthquakes and on long-timescales  as recorded by deformation of geological horizons. This research combines these observations to better understand how faults interact with one another as they grow.

Contact Dr Conrad Childs (conrad.childs@ucd.ie)

Numerical modelling of the impact of faults on the integrity of geological storage sites

As long-lived weaknesses in the crust, geological faults may be prone to reactivation when sub-surface fluid pressures change. This deformation can have major implications for the integrity of geological storage facilities, including reservoirs for sequestering CO2. This research uses advanced numerical modelling  to constrain the conditions under which fault reactivation may occur.

Contact Dr Conrad Childs (conrad.childs@ucd.ie

Structural controls on deep geothermal systems

The ability of geothermal resources to provide heat in urban areas has the potential to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and to support the sourcing of sustainable energy. Faults and fractures often exercise a major control on the structural configuration and energy potential of deep geothermal resources, issues which are investigated in this research.

Contact Prof. John Walsh (john.walsh@ucd.ie

Fault- and fracture-controlled groundwater flow

Groundwater flow within otherwise impermeable rocks are controlled by fractures, and in the case of limestones fracture-related karst. This research investigates the impact of different types of fault and fracture systems, and related karst, on groundwater flow using a variety of techniques, from outcrop studies through to the numerical modelling of flow.

Contact Prof. John Walsh (john.walsh@ucd.ie)

Understanding the evolution of faulted margins of rift basins

Many societally critical earth resources and reservoirs occur along large and complex geological faults systems, at the edge of sedimentary basins. This research project investigates the evolution of these basin-bounding fault systems, and how they influence the distribution of suitable host rocks for earth resources (such as base metal mineralisation, geothermal, groundwater). This is a multidisciplinary project across multiple scales of observation, with study areas for example in Central and Southern Africa, Queensland in Australia and Ireland.

Contact Dr Koen Torremans (koen.torremans@ucd.ie)

How do fluids influence rock deformation in the upper to middle crust?

Fluids are often intimately involved in the rock deformation process. Such ‘hydrotectonic’ processes can lead to seismicity, in the form of earthquakes. And they can also form mineralised bodies such as veins, or even economic ore bodies. This research analyses mineralised veins as ‘fossil analogues’ for the ambient conditions in rocks, to better understand how fluids influence rock deformation in the upper to middle crust. This work combines (1) field studies, with (2) 3D analysis of digital outcrops and underground mines and (3) microstructural and micro-geochemical analysis on mineralised veins.

Contact Dr Koen Torremans (koen.torremans@ucd.ie)

Caldera ring fault systems

Calderas are topographic depressions formed by subsidence during major volcanic eruptions. Ancient calderas commonly host major mineral deposits, while modern calderas present major geohazards and geothermal energy resources. Calderas are defined structurally by ring fault systems, the characteristics, development and impact of which are weakly understood in three dimensions. This theme may be addressed by a combination of field, laboratory and advanced numerical modelling approaches.

Contact: Dr Eoghan Holohan (eoghan.holohan@ucd.ie)

Peatland monitoring with satellite radar data 

Peatlands are major long-term carbon sinks, but when degraded are significant carbon emitters. Climate action requires assessment of peatland condition and restoration at very large scales. For Ireland, satellite-based radar has the distinct advantage of being able to penetrate cloud cover, year round, day or night. This research theme involves using satellite radar data to map peatland condition and subsidence in Ireland, with the aim of upscaling ground control data to a national monitoring system.

Contact: Dr Eoghan Holohan (eoghan.holohan@ucd.ie)

Subsurface geological characterization using multiphysics geophysical inversions and petrophysics

The main objective of the proposed research is providing better subsurface geological control for mineral exploration through utilizing inversions of multiple geophysical datasets, including 2D active seismic data, and petrophysical data. Integration of in situ petrophysical and geological data with magnetic, gravity, electromagnetic, and seismic measurements will enable construction of more accurate 3D models. The project will build Common Earth Models consistent with all available geophysical and geological data, including existing and newly acquired petrophysical data in areas in the Irish Orefields.

Contact Dr. Aline Melo (aline.melo@ucd.ie).

Sediment transport and stratigraphic architecture

Dr Lawrence Amy (lawrence.amy@ucd.ie) welcomes discussion with applicants with an interest in sediment transport and stratigraphic architecture, including but not exclusively, related to fluvial and deepwater systems. 

Transport of microplastics

Under what conditions are microplastics moved and deposited in rivers and oceans? This research will apply a new sediment transport model to predict the erosion, transport and deposition of microplastics.

Contact Dr Lawrence Amy (lawrence.amy@ucd.ie)

Climate change and coastal erosion in Ireland

How will rising sea level impact coastal communities in Ireland over the next century? This project will use process-based models to explore this important issue.

Contact Dr Lawrence Amy (lawrence.amy@ucd.ie)

The role of salt-tectonics in the structural evolution of Alpine Foreland Basin

Is the Eo-Oligocene Alpine Foreland Basin a salt tectonic basin or a piggy-back foreland basin? Fieldwork will involve structural-stratigraphic evaluation of classic localities in SE France to understand the answer to this question.

Contact Dr Lawrence Amy (lawrence.amy@ucd.ie)

Characterising uncertainty in seismic interpretation

Can we believe what we see in seismic images? Understanding how stratigraphic architecture is recorded in seismic images is essential to the correct prediction of the subsurface and appropriate risking. This project will use synthetic seismic modelling to characterise the expected response given a stratigraphic architecture (“Earth model”) and fluid-rock properties.

Contact Dr Lawrence Amy (lawrence.amy@ucd.ie)

Understanding the carbon cycle evolution during hothouse climates

This research aims to constrain the carbon cycle perturbations during major hothouse climates of the early Palaeogene and their causal relationships with the emplacement of the North Atlantic Igneous Province. Sedimentary records from the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) will be utilized and geochemical analysis including but not limited to stable carbon isotope analysis and geochemical fingerprinting of volcanism on terrestrial organic matter will be applied.

Contact Dr Weimu Xu (weimu.xu1@ucd.ie)


Application of machine learning methodology to numerical simulations and seismological data inversions

The project will aim to examine the feasibility of replacing physics-based numerical simulations, required for both source and medium inversions, with neural networks (using Fourier Neural operators). This could have a large impact on both global and local-scale inversion efforts, especially in reducing the time required for such inversions. In the second part of the project, the machine learning approach would be applied directly to source inversions on volcanoes where the real-time assessment of the state of a volcano is crucial for hazard management. 

Contact: Dr Ivan Lokmer (ivan.lokmer@ucd.ie)  

Geomechanical characterisation of rocks across Ireland

Using new rock deformation equipment at UCD, projects under this theme would aim to characterise the main geological units across Ireland. Outputs would include a database of mechanical properties highly relevant to potential industry partners, as well as modelling of geotechnical scenarios that could include: slope stability, excavation potential, and tunneling.

Contact: Dr Claire Harnett (claire.harnett@ucd.ie)

Volcano stability due to hydrothermal alteration

Volcanic environments lend themselves to inherently unstable structures, that can be further destabilised by weakening of volcanic rock due to circulation of hydrothermal fluids along complex fracture networks and fluid pathways. Projects under this theme would employ methodologies such as laboratory rock testing and advanced numerical modelling to explore possible deformation and mitigation of volcanic collapse.

Contact: Dr Claire Harnett (claire.harnett@ucd.ie