PhD students

PhD researchers

Our support for PhD students trains new researchers and enables the delivery of high quality evidence

Our collaboration with universities as part of our Research Programme enables us to support graduate researchers in developing advanced skills, and delivers high quality scientific evidence that helps enhance understanding of risks in the environment.

Luke Jenkins, Southampton University

Storm clustering and its influence on coastal morphology and defences

The coastal zone is widely recognised as important at national, European and global levels, but is facing increasing pressures from climate change. A 2018 Committee on Climate Change report highlighted the urgency of increasing threats from flooding and coastal erosion in the UK. It calls for improvements in calculation of failure probabilities of coastal structures, reductions in uncertainty about coastal erosion and better understanding of coastal geomorphology, and its response to climate change. Many risk assessments consider the impact of individual storms, but the risk from sequences of storm events, which may occur over different time-scales, are harder to assess.

Luke’s research will examine the impact that sequences of storm events have on the dynamic response of hard and soft coasts and the subsequent impact on communities living in the coastal zone.

Luke’s advisory team is Prof Ivan Haigh at the University of Southampton, Dr Doug Pender of JBA Consulting and Jenny Sansom of the Environment Agency. This project is funded by NERC through the INSPIRE doctoral training programme with support from JBA Trust.

Jake Grainger, Lancaster University

Modelling wave interactions over space and time

Jake is researching generalised mathematical and statistical techniques to describe ocean wave fields, employing and adapting modern methods from signal processing, time series analysis, and spatial statistics. These include (a) non-stationary time series methods, to capture evolving wave structure, (b) multivariate techniques, to capture serial and cross dependencies over time and space, (c) higher order spectra, to capture non-linearities, and (d) directional spectra, which decompose the process both by frequency and direction. Such tools are at the cutting edge of spatio-temporal statistics. Building better models and estimation techniques here will enable improvements in our understanding of waves and risk analyses of marine structures, shipping and potentially wave extremes at the coast. 

This project is funded by EPSRC through the STOR-i doctoral training programme with support from JBA Trust.

Georgios Saralidis, University of Bristol

Understanding and estimating uncertainty in global flood risk models

The objective of this PhD is to investigate the sources and implications of uncertainty in global flood risk models, by  developing an appropriate methodological approach for sensitivity analysis in a flood catastrophe model.  In these models input uncertainties can exhibit complex spatially distributed and spatially structured (correlated) patterns, and vary significantly between places. The context is growing interest in applications of catastrophe risk modelling to support disaster risk reduction needs, for example understanding the balance between investments in risk prevention and the emergence of new insurance markets, and viability of state or privately-backed insurance pools.

This project is funded by EPSRC, in partnership with JBA Risk Management and with support from JBA Trust.

Andrew Johnson, University of Leeds

The role of habitat quality in determining river ecosystem resilience to extreme hydraulic events

Andrew is investigating the influence of channel modification and heterogeneity on the ability of freshwater communities to resist extreme flow events, in particular freshwater macroinvertebrates.  The project will determine the optimal techniques to assess the health of macroinvertebrate assemblages, and identify a threshold for significant flow events.  It will also assess the mechanisms through which habitat heterogeneity and modification can influence the resistance and resilience of freshwater communities.

Ultimately, this project will provide a comprehensive model and methodology for policy-makers to assess the vulnerability of freshwater communities to extreme hydraulic events, and provide advice on the best techniques to enhance resistance and resilience.

This project is a CASE Studentship funded by NERC, undertaken in partnership with the Environment Agency, JBA Consulting, the University of Leeds, and the University of Birmingham.  The wide array of expertise and knowledge provided by this partnership offers a unique opportunity to develop robust decision-making tools and broaden our scientific understanding of freshwater ecosystems.

Josephine Westlake, University of Lincoln

Improving flood risk assessment using documentary and floodplain sedimentary archives

Josephine is working on extending the flood event series on the Yorkshire Ouse, Trent and Witham rivers by analysing documentary and sedimentary records throughout the Holocene.  In the UK, flood risk assessment is traditionally based on extrapolating instrumental records extending back little more than 50 years. This statistical method excludes larger events with longer return periods which occurred prior to the recording of instrumental data. It also fails to account for changes in channel dimensions, land use and climate over time. The inclusion of primary data from historical and prehistorical events aims to improve flood frequency analysis accuracy by accounting for these factors.

The project is being undertaken at the University of Lincoln, in partnership with the Environment Agency and JBA Consulting who are providing expertise in modelling and hydrological processes and guidance on how the research could be applied.

Ultimately this research aims to provide evidence that geomorphological data can support existing methods of flood frequency analysis to deliver more reliable risk assessments, particularly for high impact, low return period events.

Zora van Leeuwen, University of Leeds

Impact of woody debris on hydrogeomorphological processes and flood risk

Zora is working with a team of researchers at the University of Leeds to investigate the impact of introducing woody debris as part of natural flood management (NFM) interventions on the  hydrodynamics of the river channel.  The project partners also include the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and the Catchment and River Restoration team at JBA Consulting who are providing additional technical and practitioner expertise.

This research  aims to contribute to the quantitative evidence base that is required for natural flood management to become part of a catchment based approach to flood risk management.

“I hope to make the most of the expertise of practitioners at JBA Consulting and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust to deliver research outputs which are relevant to the flood risk management industry”.

This PhD is a CASE Studentship funded by NERC.

Eleanor Pearson, University of Leeds

Multi-scale sediment and debris impacts of NFM measures

Eleanor Pearson

Eleanor is investigating the impact of “Natural Flood Management” (NFM) on sediment and debris in river systems, in particular the connection between different scales – reach, river network, catchment.

Whilst sediment and debris are important for river and ecosystem sustainability, they can increase flood risk in the upstream with, for example, the blockage of small bridges/culverts or in the downstream with the accumulation of debris from across a catchment impacting bridges and buildings. This project will explore which of these effects is most significant and whether their relative significance varies spatially and temporally. It will also investigate where debris impacting urban areas comes from: upland areas, local tributaries or from more direct riparian sources?

“I’m excited to utilise the in-house models, tools and invaluable knowledge at JBA to help reduce the major research gap of effects sediment and debris have on downstream receptors and the impact this has on associated flood risk management decisions”.

This project is also a CASE Studentship funded by NERC and the JBA Trust’s involvement is helping to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange between Eleanor and Zora’s PhD projects.

Suzanne van Zuijlen, Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University

Impact of climate change on air quality


Suzanne is undertaking her PhD at the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation and working in collaboration with JBA Consulting to develop new methods and tools to communicate climate change and air quality risk to national and international stakeholders.

Ultimately, the project will develop air quality-climate indices that express air quality risk in terms of climate scenarios without the need to run a (computationally expensive) climate model. The final part of the project will create a decision making tool that will assist policy-makers in managing climate-driven threats to air quality, and determine either emission control strategies that are win-win for air quality and climate, or necessary adaptation strategies.

You can find out more about Suzanne’s work in this poster summarising the project and interim results here.

Tom Padgett, University of Leeds

Hydrodynamically- and ecologically-driven design of weirs, hydropower plants and fish passes

Thomas is part of the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Fluid Dynamics at the University of Leeds.  After graduating from the University of Leeds in 2015 with an MEng in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering, he chose the CDT because of its interdisciplinary nature and the opportunities it presented to explore a multitude of applications of fluid dynamics.

Thomas’ research looks at developing a new open-source modelling tool to predict fish behaviours, which can be used to identify ecologically and hydrodynamically advantageous weir, fish pass, and hydroelectric power plant configurations. It is hoped that this toll will allow developers of fish passes and hydropower schemes to better design these structures and to mitigate the potential impact to the local ecological community.

“It’s important to ensure that the ecological status of a river is not adversely affected by man-made structures. It is my hope that this tool will make it easier for developers to mitigate the potential effects of such structures”.

Peter Metcalfe (1971-2018), Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University

Modelling nature based approaches to flood management at a catchment scale

Peter Metcalfe, Lancaster University

Peter worked on new methods to predict the impacts of nature-based measures to mitigate flood risk.

Peter brought with him many years of experience in technical software development and a background in computer modelling in the process engineering and aerospace industries. In the course of the PhD, Peter developed and published applications of a number of hydrological and hydraulic models that can be applied at a variety of scales and contexts within the water catchment. His research advisors were Keith Beven of LEC, Barry Hankin of JBA Consulting and Rob Lamb of the JBA Trust.

Peter discussed his research and how it is already being applied in practice here.

Peter died in a climbing accident on 22 April 2018. He is greatly missed. An obituary was published in the August 2018 edition of the British Hydrological Society’s newsletter Circulation (No. 138).

Ashley Buchan, University of Edinburgh

Impact of a Water Level Management Plan on the Humberhead Wetlands

A Water Level Management Plan (WLMP) to re-wet the Thorne moors is currently being implemented by JBA Consulting on behalf of Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board in conjunction with Natural England (who are also supporting this research).

Ashley is using insect monitoring to:

  • understand the extent and rate of change in the particular areas restored;
  • identify Red Data Book and rare species to define significant areas for priority conservation on the Moors;
  • develop a methodology which centres on the invertebrates for assessing the development of raised mires which can used to inform future management and policy decisions for the restoration of wetlands elsewhere.

JBA Trust resources