Postdoctoral Research Associate in Geomorphology

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Friday, 8 January 2021
End of advertisement period
Friday, 5 February 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 15 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 05-Feb-2021, 7:59:00 AM

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The Department of Geography at Durham comprises 68 academic staff (approximately equally divided between physical and human geography), a graduate school of around 100 research students, around 40 taught postgraduate students and more than 650 undergraduates. The Department is well supported with technical staff, including a cartography unit, and administrative staff.

The most recent QS rankings for Geography placed Durham 7th overall in the world, its 5th year in the top ten, and 1st for citations in the discipline. The department is recurrently ranked in the top handful of programmes in the UK by various league tables; in 2016, we were ranked 2nd in the Times Good University Guide and 3rd in both the Complete University Guide and the Guardian University Guide. The Department was graded top for research power (quality weighted by volume) in UK geography in REF 2014 and 3rd for iGPA (average score scaled by proportion of staff submitted). With 43% of work assessed as being in the highest category, it produced the largest number of world-leading (4*) publications in the country.

The Role

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to appoint a full-time Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) in Geomorphology to join the research team led by Prof. Bob Hilton as part of the European Research Council (ERC)-funded 5 year project “ROC-CO2”. The post is fixed term for 15 months.

The ROC-CO2 project (Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by Rock-derived Organic Carbon oxidation) aims to quantify the rates and controls on the CO2 release by chemical weathering of organic carbon in sedimentary rocks, which is a major component of the geological carbon cycle (see http://roc-co2.weebly.com/ for further information). We know that erosion is major control on this flux: erosion increases the delivery of rocks to the near-surface weathering zone where they can be oxidised. However, we don’t know enough about where high erosion rates impinge on sedimentary rocks. Nor whether the inherent rock-mass properties of shales mean that these landscapes are naturally prone to very high rates of CO2 release by rock weathering. 

To address this issue, the PDRA will combine quantitative geomorphology methods with lithological maps and geochemical datasets. They will use topographic metrics that reflect erosion and regolith production to examine the links between shale bedrock and sites of high erosion. These outputs will be combined with empirically-based models of oxidative weathering rates to assess regional- to global-scale patterns in the modern-day CO2 release by rock organic carbon oxidation. The PDRA will combine empirical data from published sources and ongoing research by the ROC-CO2 team. The applicant will have experience of methods in quantitative geomorphology. Please see full list additional responsibilities and the personal specification provided below.

The successful applicant will join the ERC-funded ROC-CO2 team, which involves Hilton, a PDRA and two PhD students at Durham and an internationally-recognized group of researchers in the Department of Geography, and the PDRA will also collaborate with Dr Fiona Clubb. The appointee will be expected to be involved in the intellectual development of the project, the authorship of publications with the Principal Investigator, as well as participating in a range of dissemination activities including conferences.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   
  • To bring specific skills in quantitative geomorphology
  • To collate and interrogate published datasets that quantify bedrock geology and oxidative weathering.

This post is fixed term for 15 months and is available from 1 February 2021. The project is time-limited and will end on 31 May 2022

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st March 2021.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Bob Hilton (r.g.hilton@durham.ac.uk, 00 44 191 33 41970).  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University .

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • An acaemic CV
  • A covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out below;
  • Contact details of 3 academic/research referees. Referees will be contacted following the short listing process 

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will be based on the criteria outlined herein. We anticipate that the screening and ranking of candidates will take place in late January. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment in early February. 

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in earth sciences, physical geography, or a physical science.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in Earth Sciences or a related subject 


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national/international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience in quantitative geomorphology   


  • Demonstrated skills in topographic analyses
  • Skills in Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
  • Skills in other spatial data analysis software (e.g. Matlab, R, Python)
  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills. 



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
  • Knowledge of chemical weathering processes and reactions
  • Knowledge of approaches and models that quantify denudation mass fluxes

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.

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