Postdoctoral Research Associate in Active Monitoring of Seafloor Processes

Durham, United Kingdom
Thursday, 3 June 2021
End of advertisement period
Thursday, 1 July 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Grade 7: - £33,797
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 18 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 01-Jul-2021, 6:59:00 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 of Geography and Earth Sciences

The position will be based in the Department of Geography, but it involves close collaboration with the Earth Sciences Department in Durham. 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 12th overall in the world. The department is recurrently ranked in the top handful of programmes in the UK by various league tables; in 2021, we were ranked 2nd in the Times Good University Guide and 6th in 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.

Durham Earth Sciences is one of the very best UK Earth Science departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and both the satisfaction and employability of its students. It is regularly ranked in the top 5 of UK departments and is within the global top 30.The department has around 35 academic staff, 30 research staff, 90 PhD students and 250 undergraduate students. Its research covers a spectrum of Earth Science disciplines around four broad themes: Solid Earth; Climate and Environmental Change; Geoenergy, Resources and Waste; Geohazards. The themes reflect our aim to not only undertake fundamental and intrinsically excellent research, but also research which is relevant to and which impacts society. We collaborate widely, and within Durham we work closely with both the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/ihrr/) and the Durham Energy Institute (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/ ).

The Role

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Active Monitoring of Seafloor Processes for a period of 18 months New technology and methods are now allowing us to monitor active seafloor processes in action unprecedented detail, thereby answering major scientific questions and making major step changes in understanding of how our planet operates, offshore geohazards, global organic and geochemical cycling, and how marine sediments are deposited. For example, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and international partners have provided £4.2 Million in direct funding, and over £5.8 Million of ship-time for a series of novel and ambitious projects from 2016-2025. These projects provide the first detailed measurements from powerful and hazardous sediment flows (called turbidity currents) in the deep ocean, from a set of test sites worldwide. These projects include 6 major research cruises to the Congo Canyon off West Africa, and Gaoping Canyon offshore Taiwan; with two of those cruises already completed in 2019 and 2020. They have already recorded a turbidity current that ran out for 1,200 km and broke both submarine cables to West Africa, making it the longest sediment-driven flow (of any type) yet measured in action on Earth. This Postdoctoral Research Associate position will support this set of world leading research projects, and take advantage of the research opportunities they provide.

The 18-month Postdoctoral Research Associate position in Durham will have the following key aims.

  • The primary aim is to analyse, and publish scientific papers, that utilise field datasets collected by the projects, such as from time-lapse bathymetry and ADCP-moorings.
  • A second aim is to assist in planning and execution (if NERC ship schedules allow) of research cruises, such as by leading the GIS and bathymetric survey design.
  • A third aim is to develop links and coordinate analyses with UK and international project partners, including those monitoring other similar submarine flow systems.

The successful applicant must have strong skills in the analysis of geophysical data from the seabed. Experience in the analysis of time-lapse bathymetric surveys, acoustic Doppler current profiler data via Matlab, or Ocean Bottom Seismometer data is advantageous. We also seek applicants who can produce high-quality scientific papers, through the analysis of such seabed dataset. Finally, we also seek applicants with a novel research vision, linked to the opportunities provided by these research projects, who may go on to become a leader in their field. We encourage successful applicants to develop strong collaborations with UK and international project partners, including those working on other similar submarine systems, and to submit future fellowship applications. It will also be an advantage to have experience of organising logistics linked to oceanographic research cruises, such as GIS-based planning and execution of bathymetric surveys. You will need to be able to communicate well between disciplines spanning oceanography and engineering, and to be comfortable working independently. You will also need suitable skills to write up your research as research papers, with support from within the rest of these large and international project teams. We will be looking for someone with ambition, who is very well organised, and who can help develop exciting science allied to these grants, and thus use the opportunities.

Responsibilities :

  • 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 prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • 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 deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • 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 analyse geophysical datasets from the seabed (e.g. time-lapse bathymetric surveys, acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements, or Ocean Bottom Seismometer data) collected by these ongoing NERC project
  • To assist in the planning future research cruises, including bathymetric surveys. In particular, to support organisation and logistics associated with NERC funded cruises to the Congo and Gaoping Canyons, and to the Congo River-mouth.
  • To help lead seabed surveys onboard future research cruises, if NERC and other vessel schedules allow.
  • To assist in developing and executing a high-quality research program under the auspices of these existing projects, and with support from the project PI and the wider international team, leading to high-quality journal papers and/or future fellowship/grant applications.
  • To organise project meetings and workshops with international and UK partners. This may include visits to project partners working on similar submarine systems.

This post is fixed-term for 18 months.  The project is time-limited and will end on 31st March 2023.

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 September 2021, but the starting date for this position is open to negotiation.

How to Apply

We actively encourage you to make informal enquiries, and thus to learn about the existing projects at Durham. Please contact Prof. Peter Talling (Peter.J.Talling@durham.ac.uk or 07803581666).  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.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit: 

A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out below;

  • In particular, the covering letter should include (1) evidence of your previous experience in the analysis of seabed geophysical data, and (2) a brief outline of your future research vision, and how it can link to these existing NERC research projects.
  • We also ask that you submit your most important research paper or output at this stage of your career, with a brief summary of your contribution to it.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will initially be based on the CV, covering letter, and research paper or output, which must set out why you are particularly well suited to this position, and be suitably evidenced.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview and assessment in Durham within 3-4 weeks of the closing date for applications.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University. We are committed to equality: if for any reason you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on your career path, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will recognise that this may have reduced the quantity of your research accordingly.

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in Earth Sciences or Geology, Oceanography, or Physical Geography.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in Earth Sciences or Geology, Oceanography, or Physical Geography, or a related subject.


  • A strong track record of successfully analysing seafloor geophysical data, which may include time-lapse bathymetric surveys, acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) measurements, ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) or related data.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable expertise in organising logistics effectively and reliably, which may include those associated with oceanographic or other field projects.
  • Experience in designing and conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community. 


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including organisation and participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines; and to show research leadership at an appropriate level.
  • Demonstrably excellent project management and organisational skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Excellent logistic and organisational skills - to achieve relatively complex aims



  • Experience in the analysis of time-lapse bathymetric surveys, acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) measurements, or ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) data.
  • Experience in helping to organise large field projects, especially oceanographic research cruises or comparable marine field experiments.
  • Experience in studying turbidity currents and other seabed processes via analysis of data from the modern seafloor, and in publishing such analyses as high-quality scientific papers.
  • Experience in analysis of complex data via Matlab, or bathymetric data in a GIS.
  • 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 develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of successfully planning data collection during marine research cruises.
  • Experience of assisting other research students with respect to the development of their practical and research skills, and in their scientific writing.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.