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PhD Opportunity at Lancaster University on using noble gases to determine groundwater quality and flow paths

Supervisors: Dr Greg Holland, Dr Ben Surridge, Dr Phil Barker and Prof Andrew Binley

At the interface between groundwater and surface water biogeochemical processes can take place which significantly influence the fate of potential contaminants. Understanding these mechanisms is essential for satisfactory management of our water resources. However, investigating water and chemical fluxes at this interface is challenging using conventional techniques.

Dissolved gases, particularly oxygen, play a critically important role in biogeochemical cycles of aquatic systems. Supersaturation of these gases by entrapment and dissolution of air is a commonly observed phenomenon in groundwater, termed the ‘excess air’ component. Oxygen is used as a diagnostic tool for water quality monitoring therefore the ‘excess air’ component has important implications for understanding oxygen consumption in groundwater and hence water quality. We need to understand the underlying physical processes of gas exchange if we are to understand the dynamic oxygen cycle. The noble gases (helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon) are ideal in this regard because they are not affected by biogeochemical cycles. Their unreactive nature also means they are an ideal tracer of physical processes in the aquatic environment and the water-soil interface. The project will make use of a quadrupole mass spectrometer attached to a diffusive membrane inlet system for direct analysis of noble gas concentrations in groundwater to provide new insight into physical and chemical processes occurring at the interface between surface and groundwater. The initial field sites in Cumbria (River Eden and River Leith) are easily accessible from Lancaster University. The portable nature of the instrumentation will allow these experiments to be conducted in the field if deemed necessary.
Academic Requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

Application Deadline: Midnight Sunday 26 February 2012

Provisional Interview Date: Friday 16 March 2012

Start Date: October 2012

Application process: Please send a CV and a covering letter outlining your background and suitability for this project, along with two references (download the reference form) to Andy Harrod, Lancaster Environment Centre, Postgraduate Admissions. Please pass the reference form to your two referees and ask them to send their completed reference direct to Andy Harrod.
Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.
Please do not apply via the online application system.

For further information please contact the supervisors or for application details please contact Andy Harrod.

Funding Notes

Full studentships (fees and maintenance grant (£13,590 (2011/12) tax free, per year) are available to UK and EU candidates who have been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award. EU candidates who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last 3 years are eligible for “tuition fees-only” awards (no maintenance grant). Unfortunately this studentship is not available to non-UK/EU applicants.

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Category: Opportunities

About the Author: Dr. Philip Barker is a Reader in Environmental Change in the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

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