SPIN ESR 4.3: Monitoring hazards from a changing alpine environment

Host institution: ETH Zürich (ETHZ), Department of Earth Sciences, Institute of Geophysics, Exploration and Environmental Geophysics
https://eeg.ethz.ch/ drawing


main supervisor: Cédric Schmelzbach (ETHZ, CH)
co-supervisors: Johan Robertsson (ETHZ, CH)
  Philippe Roux (UGA, F)
  Lorenz Meier (Geopraevent, CH)
  Margarita Segou (UKRI-BGS, UK)

This position is filled: Position remains open until filled

General information

This PhD position is one of the 15 Early Stage Researcher (ESR) positions within the SPIN project. SPIN is an Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA).

SPIN will focus on training 15 PhD candidates in emerging measurement technologies in seismology. We will research the design of monitoring systems for precursory changes in material properties, all while optimizing observation strategies. The unique interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral network will enable PhDs to gain international expertise at excellent research institutions, with a meaningful exposure of each PhD to other disciplines and sectors, thus going far beyond the education at a single PhD programme.

Project description

Alpine regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change, for example, due to melting permafrost resulting in unstable mountain slopes (e.g. devastating rock fall in Bondo, Switzerland). Such increased risks are a significant threat for ecosystems, infrastructures (e.g. hydraulic power plants), and densely populated alpine areas. Real time monitoring of exposed slopes as well as understanding internal processes is key to protect human lives and infrastructure, but obtaining in situ observations on instable slopes remains challenging because of the limited and dangerous access. In this project, we propose to develop a novel seismic slope instability monitoring and early warning system. We will combine latest developments in seismic multi-observable instrumentation (e.g., rotational motion measurements, spatial wavefield gradient estimates from local dense sensor layouts; ESR1.4; fiber optics ESR1.2), data analysis (e.g., coherence based detection methods ESR3.3), with our new understanding of time-dependent processes gained in SPIN (ESR2.1). We will furthermore explore whether existing fiber-optics infrastructure like telecom cables can be used as low-cost monitoring tool and whether seismic sensors could be deployed with drones to extend the application range into high-risk areas. Goal of this project is to develop a seismic monitoring workflow for the changing alpine environment context.

The successful candidate for the PhD project position should hold an outstanding Master’s degree in geophysics, physics, applied mathematics, or similar fields, and should have a keen interest and preferably some experience in geophysical field work, data processing, as well as seismic wave propagation and inversion theory. Good knowledge of English is essential and, although not a prerequisite, a basic understanding of German is an advantage.

We offer a dynamic and stimulating working environment with highly qualified scientists, excellent computational facilities, a large pool of state-of-the-art geophysical equipment. In addition, our group has access to high-performance computing systems owned by ETH. The Exploration and Environmental Geophysics group at ETH Zürich is embedded in a top-ranked and vibrant Earth Science department, which will offer many opportunities for collaborative projects.