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Postgraduate research project

Desert dune avalanche processes in modern and ancient environments

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

This project will examine how wind-blown avalanches are imprinted on aeolian dune stratigraphy on Earth and Mars. It involves laboratory experiments, field work and planetary remote sensing. Ultimately the research outcomes will provide unique, cutting-edge insight into the influence of avalanche dynamics on aeolian dune migration, both modern and ancient.

Avalanching is responsible for wind-blown dune migration on Earth and Mars and because avalanches are preserved in dune stratigraphy, they are the most direct way that we can interpret past wind-climate conditions. 

Recent evidence suggested avalanche magnitude is driven by grainfall dynamics which link to wind speed and observations of avalanches have been made on a Martian. 

However, without a better grasp of the process-form feedbacks between dune size and avalanche drivers, it is impossible to interpret the ancient wind climates that formed dune environments now preserved in the rock record both on Earth and Mars.

This PhD will use the latest technology to measure avalanches remotely and supplement field experiments with laboratory replicates within the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences aeolian avalanche slope facility.

Supervisory team

The supervisory team includes supervisors from several organisations. Please contact the Lead Supervisor for more information about the team.


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at Geography and Environmental Science. 
Specific training will include: 
  • the use of TLS
  • 3D sonic anemometry
  • sediment transport measurements
  • grain size analysis
  • remote sensing techniques
  • ancient and modern environment interpretations
  • field skills
  • laboratory experimental avalanche slope techniques
  • large data set processing and analysis
The supervisory team are experts in desert landscape processes and together have extensive experience in undertaking effective field campaigns with high resolution process-form measurements.
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