Self-funded PhD opportunities

Mechanisms involved in sediment recycling in estuaries

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Civil Engineering and Surveying
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Steve Mitchell and Dr Fay Couceiro

This project is an exciting opportunity to investigate the mechanisms involved in sediment recycling in estuaries subject to a high tidal range where there has been significant intervention in terms of dredging, construction, and coastal defence works. Estuaries are well known as areas of significant deposits of fine sediments, which provide important habitats for invertebrates and the bird species that feed on them. It is known that increasing concerns about flood prevention and land drainage has meant increased reliance on drainage outlets, which cause channels to form via erosion of surface material, providing net transport of both water and sediment each tide, dependent on rainfall and on other factors such as tidal range and the availability of sediment. These sediments act as ‘conveyors’ for pollutants and can settle to the bed, requiring more (and more frequent) dredging. The process is also connected with the release of pollutants which move from solid to dissolved phase under certain conditions. The precise mechanisms of sediment transport in and through these so-called ‘runnels’, and the fate of sediments and associated pollutants are, however, somewhat unclear and this PhD will focus on a better understanding of the quantities and mechanisms involved. The results will enable managers and other researchers to build up a picture of the factors leading to the mobilisation of sediment in estuaries over different time scales, with a particular emphasis on understanding the effects of the release of drainage water in different locations and over different time scales. The work will involve some field data collection at accessible sites in Portsmouth Harbour, data analysis, use of instrumentation, and numerical modelling, enabling sensitivity testing to different climate change and drainage water management scenarios.


Supervisor profiles

Dr Steve Mitchell

 Dr Fay Couceiro


Admissions criteria 

The project requires a candidate with a good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in Civil Engineering, Computing or Physical Science or a related subject, and a desire to excel as a researcher together with disciplined work habits. Training will be offered on use of hydrodynamic software e.g. MIKE21 and on relevant field equipment. A suitable MSc/MPhil/MEng degree with a background in computer modelling is desirable. This project is suitable for both home/EU and or International students. 

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0. 

Specific candidate requirements:  None


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Steve Mitchell ( (02392842424) and Dr Fay Couceiro (

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at here.  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at here.