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QUADRAT DTP: PALLADIA: Paraíba do Sul Delta Sedimentary Dynamics

School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Reference Number
Application Deadline
22 January 2020
Start Date
1 October 2020


Approximately half a billion people live on or near deltas, often in megacities with deltas understood as sensitive environments under pressure. In addition to the impacts (floods) and different types of marine impacts (waves and storm surges), they are also highly vulnerable to sea level rise and anthropogenic forces. The result of increased human activity has seen these environments and their populations under a growing risk of coastal flooding, wetland loss, shoreline retreat and infrastructure loss. The human influence on deltas has led to greater awareness and commitment for conservation with the goal of preserving and protecting rivers and coasts. The Paraíba do Sul Deltaic Complex (PSDC) is a large Quaternary coastal plain consisting of a wave-dominated delta located along Rio de Janeiro's northern coast and forms part of the onshore portion of Campos Basin. Studies of the PSDC have focussed on paleoenvironmental reconstructions which have led to divergent interpretations of the evolution of the PSDC. Globally deltas are understood to be the most vulnerable coastal sites, with the majority of deltas worldwide undergoing net coastal erosion and retreat; the PSDC is a unique delta environment with active growth in area extent, attributed to reduced anthropogenic activity and the predominantly equatorial-tropical rainforest catchment. In order to improve our knowledge of the evolution of the PSDC, this study aims to characterise sources of sediment and the dominant processes responsible for shaping the PSDC. Changes in the hydrodynamic regime and geomorphology are key factors in the evolution of deltas, and developing a greater understanding of these processes is necessary in order to forecast future changes.

This project will establish the sedimentary provenance, transportation processes, and Holocene evolution of the PSDC. The region's coastal geomorphology will be mapped using remote sensing data and during field-based investigations in the PSDC, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Holocene sedimentary provenance will be carried out from sediment cores collected in the field and analysed using a suite of mineralogical and geochemical approaches including X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Chronology will be established through a combination of luminescence dating (OSL) and 14C radiocarbon. This project will integrate the student with PhD cohorts in both institutions with foci in coastal, fluvial and geomorphological processes, climate change, alongside the opportunity to work with industry and international partners at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. The student will have the opportunity to carry out field and laboratory based work packages at the Instituto de Geociências, Departamento de Geologia e Geofísica Marinha, Universidade Federal Fluminense.

The project seeks a highly motivated student interested in applying a range of diverse and cutting-edge techniques to tackle important environmental issues. The student will be supervised by a team of experts in geomorphology, sedimentology, geochemistry and modelling. Ideal candidates will have a background in at least one of these areas, with prior experience of at least one of the proposed techniques particularly welcome.

The PhD studentship is part of the NERC doctoral training centre "QUADRAT" (Queen's University Belfast and University of Aberdeen). QUADRAT provides high quality training in many aspects essential to future employment, including field-based experience, science communication skills and a Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership.


Besset, M., Anthony, E.J., Bouchette, F., 2019. Multi-decadal variations in delta shorelines and their relationship to river sediment supply: An assessment and review. Earth-Science Reviews 193, 199-219.

Carvalho, M. de A., Plantz, J.B., Carelli, T.G., Santiago, G., Trindade, V.S.F., Borghi, L., 2019. The impact of Quaternary sea-level changes on the sedimentary organic matter of the Paraíba do Sul Deltaic Complex area, southeastern Brazil. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 95, 102274.

Flood, R.P., Barr, I.D., Weltje, G.J., Roberson, S., Russell, M.I., Meneely, J., Orford, J.D., 2018. Provenance and depositional variability of the Thin Mud Facies in the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, West Bengal Sundarbans, India. Marine Geology 395, 198-218.

Funding Information

This project is in competition for funding.

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.

Project Summary
Dr Rory Flood
Mode of Study

Full-time: 3.5 years

Funding Body
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Geography overview

The research undertaken within Geography falls under two interdisciplinary Research Clusters; Environmental Change & Resilience (ECR) and Culture & Society (C&S).

Physical Geography-related projects focus on themes such as long-term landscape and environmental change, resilience of ecosystems, environmental change impacts on heritage structures, and analysis of contaminated lands. Investigative approaches include a range of geo-spatial technologies such as remote sensing, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), big data analysis and spatial and temporal modelling. Much of our research spans several disciplines, for example projects on the hydrogeology and restoration of bogs, climate change implications for resilience and stability of soil, geoforensics and coastal geomorphology. Funding opportunities to pursue these lines of research are available, including the doctoral training partnership, QUADRAT. Further details are available here:

The C&S cluster focuses on a number of themes, both historical and contemporary, which consider the relationships between human society, spatiality and culture. Two doctoral training partnerships provide relevant funding opportunities for research in these areas: NINE-DTP and Northern Bridge Consortium Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to make contact with potential supervisors during the autumn semester.

The four main research themes are:

The Geographies of Knowledge:
Research is focused on the geographies of knowledge, with particular emphasis on the cultures of science. The cluster has expertise on the relationships between science, race and religion since 1650; the historical geographies of scientific knowledge; the cultures of botanic gardens in the age of empire; the reception of Darwinism; the role of climate in debates about human cultures; the geopolitics of apocalyptic thought, and the ways in which cultures of science, technology and outer space are connected to questions of place, landscape and identity in the twentieth century.

Landscapes, Critical Cartography and GIS:
Research consists of quantitative spatial analyses of socio-economic data and qualitative cultural analyses of landscapes and cartographic knowledge from the medieval to the modern period. Critical cartographic/GIS techniques have been deployed to interrogate the veracity of the knowledge universe of the map, while digitally-translated documentary data have been used to re-configure our understanding of medieval urbanism and agrarian economies, as well as the spatial dynamics of religion and the politics of cartographic rhetoric.

Political Geography:
Research is focused on nationalism and regional conflict; critical geopolitics of religion; monumental landscapes and the politics of memory; international relations in a globalised world; colonial and postcolonial geographies of India; the processes of border making, geographies of embodiment and the securitisation of public spaces. This work has been carried out from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The Population Dynamics of Contemporary Societies:
Research is focused on the population dynamics of contemporary societies and includes census analysis; research on travel to work; employability and labour markets; as well as social and religious segregation particularly in divided cities such as Belfast; the study of borders and external migration.

Mode of study / duration
Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the University. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD (or part-time equivalent).

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Research Information

Associated Research
Both research clusters attract funding from a range of sources including; NERC, EPSRC, ESRC; AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, and JISC. The clusters have developed an international reputation in the themes identified in the overview as demonstrated by an impressive record of scholarly monographs and publishing agenda-setting articles that have informed and influenced research directions within the wider discipline of Geography. The cluster's research themes are carried out over a wide range of different geographical contexts and from the Medieval period to the present. Current research is focused on the UK, Ireland, Israel/Palestine, the Balkans, USA, Canada, Burma and India.
Strong connections exist with cognate disciplines in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and with the School of Biological Sciences. Several staff are involved in cross-faculty supervision of a number of PhD projects.
The cluster's research themes are carried out over a wide range of different geographical contexts and from the Medieval period to the present. Current research is focused on the UK, Ireland, Korea, Italy, Israel/Palestine, the Balkans, USA, Canada, Burma, and India.
Strong connections with cognate disciplines in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and is involved in cross-faculty supervision of a number of PhD projects.

Career Prospects

For further information on career opportunities at PhD level please contact the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Student Recruitment Team on Our advisors - in consultation with the School - will be happy to provide further information on your research area, possible career prospects and your research application.

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Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

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For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
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Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) £4,407
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) £4,407
Other (non-UK) EU £4,407
International £21,300

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

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There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

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