Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Mountain Multi-Hazard Chain

Durham, United Kingdom
£34,304 - 36,382 per annum
12 Aug 2022
End of advertisement period
24 Aug 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Grade 7: - £34,304 - 36,382 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 28 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 24-Aug-2022, 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

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 Department was ranked joint first for research quality among UK geography departments in REF2021 and third for research power. With 54% of work assessed as being in the highest category, it produced the largest number of world-leading (4*) publications in the country. 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 Role  

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to appoint a full-time Grade 7 research associate to work with Professor Alexander Densmore, Professor Nick Rosser, Professor Boguslaw Obara, and a wider consortium team on a project entitled ‘Sajag-Nepal: Planning and Preparedness for the Mountain Hazard and Risk Chain in Nepal’. The project is funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund, and aims to improve decision-making and preparedness in Nepal in order to mitigate the impacts and reduce the risks from the mountain hazard chain that is triggered by earthquakes and monsoon rainfall. The project involves close collaboration between physical scientists, social scientists, and a wide range of partner organisations in Nepal and elsewhere, including government departments, national and international NGOs, and the UN. The objectives of the project are to (i) contextualise the contemporary multi-hazard and systemic risk landscape in Nepal, to understand how risk is produced, experienced, and negotiated by households and communities, and to embed this understanding in hazard and risk reduction and management; (ii) transform the earthquake planning process into national-scale preparedness planning for catastrophic multi-hazard events triggered by rare damaging earthquakes; (iii) transform the monsoon planning process into seasonal planning for monsoon-related multi-hazard events at a scale that is appropriate for local government decision-making; and (iv) develop new protocols for embedding local, natural and social scientific knowledge of the mountain hazard and risk chain in preparedness and response.

This post will primarily contribute to objective (i), and will focus on the development and analysis of the first dynamic, national-scale multi-hazard inventory for Nepal. This inventory will cover the full earthquake- and monsoon-triggered hazard chain, including landslides, debris flows, and sediment aggradation. The post-holder will lead on upscaling an existing landside mapping and household-level risk assessment programme, focused on the area that was most badly affected by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, to the national scale. They will implement and refine a novel approach to national-scale multi-hazard mapping, using Google Earth Engine to develop annually-updated multi-hazard inventories. They will analyse the resulting inventories to understand the spatial and temporal distributions of different elements of the mountain hazard chain. They will also work closely with the interdisciplinary project team to explore the potential for integrating local and scientific knowledge on the mountain hazard chain.

The post-holder will be based at Durham University, but will be expected to work closely with team members at other UK institutions (Northumbria, Newcastle, Oxford, Bristol) and with wider members of the consortium, particularly at the National Society for Earthquake Technology (Nepal) and at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, Government of Nepal. The post-holder will also be expected to work closely with other members of the project team to ensure that the understanding and tools developed in this project are relevant to the research needs and skills of a wide range of potential stakeholders. A key element of the proposed work will be the development of capacity within the Government of Nepal to maintain and analyse the inventories, to share the data through existing online platforms, and to use the inventories to inform discussions with municipal-level government and community residents about the hazards and risks that they face.

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.   

This post is fixed term and is available from 1st September 2022 to the end of the project, which is funded to 31st December 2024.  

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.

How to Apply  

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Alex Densmore, a.l.densmore@durham.ac.uk.   

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:

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

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include an interview and a short presentation on prior research experience and outcomes. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment in Summer 2022.


The Requirements  


  1. Qualifications
    1. A good first degree in a relevant science or engineering subject.
    2. A PhD (or be close to submission) in a relevant science or engineering subject.
  2. Experience
    1. Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
    2. Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
    3. Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national and international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
    4. Demonstrable experience of automated approaches to landslide or other hazard mapping and inventory creation using remote sensing data.
    5. Demonstrable experience with quantitative analysis and manipulation of large spatial datasets.
  3. Skills
    1. Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of an interdisciplinary team, including participating in research meetings and overseas fieldwork.
    2. Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
    3. Ability to manage time effectively and to exercise judgment and initiative in carrying out research tasks.
    4. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.  
    5. Ability to travel outside the UK for fieldwork and to attend international conferences and meetings.


  1. Experience
    1. Research experience on the multi-hazard chain in mountain environments. Experience of quantitative hazard and risk analysis.
    2. Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
    3. A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
    4. Demonstrable ability to communicate complex information to non-specialist project partners and other audiences.
    5. Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
    6. Experience of working in a cross-disciplinary team.
  2. Skills
    1. Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
    2. Demonstrable ability in remote sensing and numerical analysis.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.