Representing Connection in Hydrological Landscapes (PhD)
Supervised by Dr Louise Bracken & Dr Sim Reaney
Recent years have seen a renewed emphasis upon the importance of hydrological connectivity in landscapes over a wide variety of spatial and temporal scales (e.g. Bracken and Croke, 2007). It has also been subject to mathematical representation, using approaches that vary in sophistication from simple distance weighting through to full evaluation of the effects of topographic structure upon patterns of wetness and hence connectivity (e.g. Lane et al., 2010; http://www.scimap.org.uk/). Thus far, such treatments of hydrological connection have only really begun to capture the range of controls upon the connection process, despite its integral role in the transfer of fine sediment and nutrients from hillslopes to the drainage network. Durham University, with partners at the University of Lancaster, the Environment Agency and the Association of Rivers Trusts, has been pioneering research into hydrological connection using both innovative field instrumentation and mathematical modeling. The latter has included using physically-based distributed hydrological models to explore the information content of simpler determinants of connection. In relation to the latter, there are two particular areas that warrant attention: (1) soil form and function; and (2) controls on connection associated with human artefacts, such as drains and roads. This proposal brings together two Durham scientists to work on these areas to improve representation of connection in hydrological landscapes.
The work will be based upon:
- parameterisation, including uncertainty estimation, of physically-based distributed models of number of representative agricultural catchments;
- the use of these catchments to determine the time-dependent and spatial characteristics of hydrological connection for benchmark comparison against simpler treatments;
- the development of means of combining soil processes into the representation of hydrological connectivity;
- the development of means of identifying human artefactual controls upon connection and their representation in models of hydrological connectivity; and evaluation of (3) and (4) with respect to (2).
This PhD will be suited to a student who is interested in fieldwork and mathematical representation of an important hydrological phenomenon. No prior modeling experience is required, but applicants must be numerate.