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Numerical modelling of the Congo River's complex braided channel hydraulics and remote sensing of its bathymetry, University of Leeds, UK

Large scale hydraulic modelling of global rivers has become an important tool in assessing environmental issues such as flood risk, navigation and hydroelectric power. Due to the huge scale of the modelling task and limited bathymetric data available for most of the globe, these models employ approximations in their representations of the river channels. However, the applicability and usefulness of these approximations has not yet been demonstrated and are known to be oversimplified.

This PhD will focus on identifying better representations for complex braided channels in these large scale, simple geometry based models, by investigating the detailed hydraulics of navigable reaches of the Congo River through 2D or 3D computational fluid dynamics. Detailed modelling will be undertaken for short representative reaches where bathymetry data is available from an existing Royal Society-DFID project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Experiments with targeted simplifications of the channel representation and flow physics can then be compared to the detailed modelling in order to identify useful model approximations at larger scales and the cost of these in terms of model accuracy. These approximations can then applied by other modellers building navigation models for RS-DFID project and also by global river modellers.

As well as the numerical modelling of river channels, there will be an opportunity to study the derivation of approximate river bathymetry from optical remote sensing. The feasibility of applying this approach to the Congo River has been demonstrated in a pilot project for an area where initial field measured bathymetry is already available. As more bathymetry data becomes available to calibrate the method through the RS-DFID project, it will be possible to apply this to a larger reach and use the detailed numerical models developed for this PhD to understand how this approximate bathymetry affects model accuracy.

While some limited field work experience on the Congo River would be possible through the RS-DFID project if desired, it is not essential to the completion of this PhD.

By the end of the PhD, the student will have strong skills in numerical modelling, remote sensing, and analysis. These skills are highly sought after in both academic and commercial sectors and the project has the potential to make a significant difference to a growing and important field of global river modelling.

Value: This studentship, which is open to UK, EU and international students, will cover academic fees and a maintenance grant matching the Research Council UK rate (£14,296 for session 2016/17). 

Number of awards: 1 

Entry requirements: Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in a relevant engineering or science degree such as (but not limited to) chemical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, geography and earth sciences.

If English is not the applicant’s first language, they must provide evidence that they meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Main contact: Contact Dr Mark Trigg to discuss this project further informally.

Application deadline: 1 June 2016.

How to Apply: 
To apply for a Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship, you must submit two separate applications forms:

  • Research degree application: first of all you, you must apply for a research degree online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the 'Numerical modelling of the Congo River’s complex braided channel hydraulics and remote sensing of its bathymetry’ as well as Dr Mark Trigg as your proposed supervisor. You will receive an acknowledgement email which will include your Student ID Number within 24 hours of submitting your application.   
  • Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship application: once you are in receipt of a Student ID Number, you must then apply for funding by the deadline by completing the Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarships form. Applications for this scheme are now open. Please download the application form for further details.

For enquires about the application process please contact the Graduate School Officephd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000. 
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