Brighton to lead ground-breaking study of river-tidal zones
Published 18 February 2010
A university scientist has been appointed chief investigator in a £607,000 research project aimed at understanding what happens when rivers meet tides in the world's largest estuaries.
Phil Ashworth, professor of physical geography, said: "All rivers across the globe that exit to the ocean contain zones which can be hundreds of kilometres long and are transitional between river and tidal environments. They are one of the most complex environments on the surface of the earth."
"They are home to some of the highest population densities in the world and are often the centre of competing demands from shipping, land reclamation, aquaculture, conservation and leisure activities. In addition, ancient river-tidal sediments host some of the world’s most lucrative oil and gas reserves."
"In order to maintain, manage and protect these actively-changing river-tidal zones we must understand how they evolve over short and long time periods and model how they stack and preserve their sediments."
Professor Ashworth will be working with colleagues at universities in Illinois in the USA, Exeter, Leeds and Birmingham, together with industrial partners Deltares (Netherlands), ExxonMobil (USA) and the United States Geological Survey.
The three-year project begins in April and will focus on the largest river that enters the north-eastern Pacific Ocean - the Columbia River in north-west USA. Half of the Natural Environment Research Council's £607,000 grant will go to the University of Brighton.
Professor Ashworth using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) equipment for imaging subsurface structures. The GPR will be a vital component of the Columbia River research project.
The research is entitled 'Morphodynamics and sedimentology of the tidally-influenced fluvial zone' and the NERC grant comes with a £470,000 commitment from project partners Deltares, a Netherlands software company, the US Geological Survey and ExxonMobil.
The new funding will work alongside the ongoing NERC grant 'Dynamics and deposits of braid-bars in the World's largest rivers: processes, morphology and subsurface sedimentology' that was for £602,000 and operates until December 2010.
Phil said he was delighted with the new funding: "The grant round this time was very tough with an 18 per cent success rate. I am really pleased that NERC continues to recognise that Brighton is a leading force in river and estuarine research."
"The NERC grant was conceived, written and submitted whilst I held a university sabbatical based at the UIUC and I am immensely grateful to the university for providing this new research incentive scheme. I could not have submitted this proposal without dedicated time abroad to think, write and collaborate with my partners."
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