Summary

Objectives:

  • Use of latest 3D airflow modelling techniques to better understand aeolian bedforms on Mars
  • Earth analogues of aeolian bedforms to be used as surrogate field sites on Mars
  • Investigation of formational and evolutionary mechanisms of aeolian features (particularly Transverse Aeolian Ridges) on Mars

Wind-driven processes dominate the present day surface environment on Mars.  Understanding landform and bedform evolution by wind action helps determine Mars’ evolutionary history. Aeolian (windblown) accumulations now dominate the planet’s surface in the form of extensive dune fields and within these a distinct bedform type known as Transverse Aeolian Ridges (TARs) are common. These enigmatic landforms are distributed semi-globally and are closely associated with local climate and wind regimes, however, present day winds may not necessarily be representative of original formative processes or mechanisms of TARs. Ambiguity therefore exists on their origin, genesis and dynamics, however, recent high-resolution remote sensing imagery (HiRISE) has revealed much more detail on their 3D form and extent.

TARs have simple ripple-like form and are often far bigger (up to tens of metres across) than similar bedforms on Earth such as megaripples. Few in-situ measurements of TARs have been made on Mars, as Rovers have tended to avoid accumulations of sand for reasons of safety. Therefore, many questions remain, including “why are TARS so much bigger than ripples on Earth?”, and “When and how rapidly do they form?”. Terrestrial analogue studies can help answer these questions. The use of Terrestrial analogues allows us to study geological processes observed on other planets such as Mars. Some examples of bedforms similar to TARs do occur on Earth, and provide an excellent opportunity to explore in situ (instrumented) localised airflow around these features as well as any associated sediment flux patterns.  Using findings from Earth analogues (Iceland) this project will explore similarly scaled TARs found in Martian settings to directly compare their behaviour between both environments and shed new light on their origins on Mars. A range of sites on Mars will be selected to expand our investigations of TARs to examine their evolutionary patterns and also the winds that would have been/are transport capable and therefore responsible for the genesis and/or the movement.

The project will use the mesoscale climate model MarsWRF (Richard et al., 2007) to help supply high resolution 3D computational Fluid Dynamic modelling of airflow both on Earth (Jackson et al., 2011, 2020) and Mars (Jackson et al., 2015) to investigate spatial patterns of surface wind forcing over and around TARs. Instrumented field experiments at sites in Iceland will make use of a suite of monitoring equipment including terrestrial laser scanning, drones, high frequency 3D sonic anemometry and load cell sediment flux traps.

Candidates will be expected to have a background in geological/earth sciences and/or physical sciences (physics, astronomy, astrophysics).

References will be requested for shortlisted candidates.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,500 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,750 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,500 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies



The Doctoral College at Ulster University