PhD position - Bedrock fracture network controls on alpine groundwater dynamics

University of Neuchâtel

Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Mountains are “water towers” – they sustain perennial water resources down-gradient during dry and warm periods. Groundwater plays a critical role within the mountain water cycle. In settings underlain by crystalline rocks, groundwater flow and storage are controlled by 3-dimensional networks of fractures. The lack of data in alpine contexts, combined with the complex processes shaping the architecture and hydraulic properties of the fractured bedrock, make their characterization challenging. Current methods for integrating heterogeneous subsurface properties into catchment- to regional-scale hydrological models generally involve extensive simplifications based solely on lithological constraints. This raises questions regarding the validity of this approach to quantify subsurface flow and transport processes.

This PhD project will use a multi-faceted hydrogeophysical approach to understand and quantify the role of fractured bedrock on groundwater storage-discharge processes. The primary goal is the development of new methodological frameworks that enable parametrization of catchment-scale hydrological models with 3-D representations of hydrodynamic properties that properly capture the observed dynamics. Extensive field work is planned at established mountain hydrological observatories in the Swiss Alps where international institutions are collaborating.

The student will be responsible for the following tasks:
i. Hydrogeophysical investigations (electrical resistivity tomography, self-potential, and gravimetry) in alpine headwater catchments, and interpretation of results from ambient seismic monitoring (collaboration with GFZ);
ii. Geological and fracture mapping based on high resolution UAV optical images and the integration of this information with existing geotechnical and hydrological data;
iii. Transferring geophysical information and fracture network characteristics into hydrogeological properties using network theories. In these tasks the student will derive scenarios describing the 3D distribution of permeability and porosity that will be used as main constraints for the hydrological models; and
iv. Testing hydrogeological model scenarios against hydrological observations using data assimilation techniques and process-based integrated subsurface-surface modeling. Models will be used to test the different hypotheses on the role of fracture network properties on groundwater flow partitioning and stream discharge dynamics.

The PhD position is based at the Centre for Hydrogeology and Geothermics (CHYN) at the University of Neuchâtel under the supervision of Dr. C. Roques, Dr. Landon Halloran and Prof. B. Valley. The CHYN offers a stimulating research environment with about 50 collaborators. The candidate will benefit from a comprehensive pool of field and laboratory equipment, technical support staff, and a dynamic PhD school. Information on similar projects can be found, and

Required qualifications
• MSc in Earth Science, Geophysics, Environmental Engineering, or a related field
• Strong interest in geoscience research
• Knowledge/experience in hydrology, data analysis and numerical modelling
• Programming skills (e.g., python, Matlab)
• Fluency and excellent writing skills in English. French is an advantage.
• Additionally, any experience with geophysical methods is an advantage.

Duration: 3 years with an option to extend 1 year

Start date: Upon agreement

Application and additional information
Applications should include a concise statement (1 page) describing the motivation to work on this research project, a CV, copies of your academic qualifications, and the names of two referees. The application should be submitted as a single pdf file to [email protected] Please use “[Application Alpine Hydro PhD:] your name” in the subject of your email. The application deadline is set at October 15th. Exceptionally strong applications may be considered after this date until the position is filled.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions regarding the position. Please use the same email address with “[Question Alpine Hydro PhD:] your name” in subject.






IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development