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PhD Studentship: Morphological evolution of tidal inlets: past, present, future. Case study of Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester Harbour inlets

Civil, Maritime & Environmental Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Wednesday 31 July 2019
Reference:  1145419DA

Project Reference: CMEES-ECC-427

Predicting the evolution of coastal morphology is an important aspect of coastal engineering, because of its implications for safety, environment and economy. Tidal inlets are coastal features characterized by complex morphodynamics, as well as important environmental aspects. Inlet systems are highly dynamic and important changes can occur due human modifications and sea-level rise/climate change.The Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester tidal inlets play an important role in sediment transport in the eastern Solent, influencing beach size and hence erosion and flood risk, as well as adaptation needs. Several hundred years ago, sediment transport occurred from Selsey Bill to Gilkicker Point, Gosport with bypassing of all these three inlets. This bypassing first failed at Portsmouth Harbour inlet, then failed at Langstone Harbour inlet in the 20th Century and maybe failing at the Chichester Harbour inlet. This has major implications for the open beaches which are the first line of defence. Hence, the aim of this research is to understand the morphologicall evolution of these three inlets with a strong focus on bypassing and its sensitivity to littoral drift rates and other factors (e.g., sea-level rise). In particular, what caused bypassing to stop for Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours and might stop bypassing at Chichester Harbour during the 21st Century? The understanding of morphological evolution of these inlets will be generalised to consider the wider and transferable lessons for the stability of tidal inlets nationally and globally.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with the East Solent Coastal Partnership who manage most of this coastal length and are interested in inlet stability and sediment supply when planning shoreline management strategies over timescales up to a century.

The project is suitable for a coastal engineer or a highly numerate coastal oceanographer or earth scientist. Experience of developing sediment budgets and using morphodynamic models such as Delft-3D would be advantageous.

The project has been selected for possible support by the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute Doctoral Training Centre, although these awards are made on a competitive basis. Successful candidates will be awarded a standard University stipend.

 If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof Robert J. Nicholls, Energy and Climate Change Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 4139 or Dr Charlotte Thompson, Email:

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