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Delta dynamics: lessons from the Chao Phraya

River deltas occupy about 0.6% of the Earth’s surface area, but contain 4% of the world’s population (about 300,000,000 people). They are also frequently highly fertile, due to the capture of sediment from upstream, and are unique environments that are important for species biodiversity. At the same time they are peculiarly at risk to man-made (sea level rise from climate change, groundwater extraction, removal of stabilising vegetation due to agri- and aquaculture, and sediment loss upstream due to dams); and natural hazards (storm surges and tsunamis). How vulnerable individual deltas are depends on the balance of these processes.

In this project, you will examine in detail one such delta: the Chao Phraya delta in the Gulf of Thailand. Historical data indicates that that delta is in retreat, primarily due to groundwater extraction, but with other man-made processes contributing significantly. An existing numerical model wil be used to simulate what is happening in the Chao Phraya. This will entail a visit to the project partners at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, to gather new data—at the delta itself–and to acquire historical records. The model will be used to examine sensitivities of this environment to, e.g., sea level rise and groundwater extraction, and to determine how much these effects can be offset by improved sediment supply and re-seeding of mangrove vegetation. Ultimately, the idea is to infer fundamental knowledge about this delta, and then to draw conclusions that pertain more widely.

You will join an international team focusing on better understanding the interplay between natural and man-made processes in highly sensitive environments. Your pioneering work will contribute towards the shift to a working-with-nature approach to management in these regions. Students will receive training at the University of Nottingham in all the modelling techniques, data analysis, and any programming skills; and from Chulalongkorn University in surveying and sediment sampling. Students will also parrticipate in the structured NERC Envision training programme.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at a good 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Engineering, Mathematics, Environmental Science, Earth Science or Natural Sciences.

For further details please contact Prof. Nicholas Dodd,, or Dr Riccardo Briganti,