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Understanding the role of individual storms characteristics in coastal erosion of a soft cliff and shore platform open coast environment: the case of Happisburgh, U.K

Lead supervisor: Dr Riccardo Briganti (

Location: University of Nottingham (UoN) and British Geological Survey (BGS)

Duration: Approximately 10 weeks (depending on age and experience)


Paid summer research placement opportunity. Are you interested in coastal erosion problems? Are you looking for an opportunity to apply your knowledge to modelling the impact of severe storms on coastal areas?

A funded opportunity is available for an undergraduate student in disciplines such as geography, mathematics, computing or physics (subject to eligibility criteria below) to form part of an ongoing study on understanding the role of individual storms characteristics in coastal erosion of the soft cliff and shore platform open coast at Happisburgh, U.K. You will work within a team from the University of Nottingham (UoN) and British Geological Survey (BGS). Work will begin from the week commencing on 28th June 2021 and will run until September (approximately 10 weeks of flexible working). You will be supported by a student stipend which will be National Living Wage from the Envision NERC scheme. This paid research placement is an exciting opportunity to gain experience in environmental data analysis and computational beach morphodynamics, while developing your CV.


The coastal area of interest around Happisburgh stretches along 3 km of coast in Norfolk, 2 km of which is protected by coastal structures, while 1 km of defences have been removed since 1991, triggering an acceleration of coastal erosion. The rapidity of such erosion is thought to be due to the presence of a discontinuity in the beach platform in correspondence of the removed structure. The specific characteristics of individual severe storms (e.g., combinations of significant wave height, wave periods and sea level) might further exacerbate the erosion. However, this is not yet understood and quantified. The project aims at understanding the role of individual severe storms in this process.

In order to fulfil this aim, this project has two specific objectives:


  • Characterise the most erosive storms occurred since the removal of the coastal defences by analysing the numerically time series of sea states obtained at an offshore location by the NOAA Wavewatch III global wave model and the tidal gauge at the nearby location of Cromer. You will analyse the available data using time series analysis methodologies and software developed at UoN and select a limited number of significant storms based on the erosion produced,
  • Model the selected storms using the Coastal Modelling Environment (CoastalME) framework developed by BGS. You will use its component CSHORE, a numerical model that simulates the beach and platform evolution in response to the hydrodynamic (sea level and waves) conditions. The results will help in identifying the role of these events in the general erosive process observed.


The placement will provide training in environmental data analysis, specifically on time series analysis with an emphasis on extreme value and climatic trends analysis. You will spend some time familiarizing yourself with existing methodologies and explore emerging new ones developed by the research team.

We hope that your final report can form the basis of a future high quality peer reviewed publication. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this project will be run either in person or remotely depending on the regulations in place at the time.


To apply, send a short (maximum one A4 page) letter of motivation and your CV to Dr Riccardo Briganti ( by 7th June 2021. Applicants must also complete the online EDI form (this form is a mandatory part of the application process, but contains ‘prefer not to say’ options for all questions asked). Please feel free to contact Dr Briganti if you have any further enquiries or wish to discuss the opportunity further.

We particularly welcome applications from students from under-represented backgrounds and those with non-traditional routes to university.

Please note the eligibility criteria, selected students must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for a REP. The students must:

  • Be undertaking your first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters).
  • Be applying for a placement in a different department to your undergraduate degree
  • Be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (PhD studentships eligibility criteria)