Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Catchment Hydrology

University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
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Not Specified
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We seek an outstanding post-doctoral research associate (PDRA) to participate in the Multihazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub funded by £19M from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The Hub focuses on developing risk management strategies for 4 cities (Quito, Kathmandu, Istanbul and Nairobi) incorporating multiple hazards including volcanoes, earthquakes and floods. The project involves multiple collaborators from the UK (e.g. Edinburgh, UCL, Kings College and Bristol), and importantly, works closely with multiple overseas partners who have identified the challenges and provided the links to critical stakeholders and decision-makers in the cities. This post will be responsible for determining the controls on catchment dynamics that underpin the flood modelling carried out in a partner project. Hydrological records will be analysed and new monitoring strategies developed. The role of sediment mobility in influencing discharge capacity will be analysed. Studies will be initiated in the Kathmandu Valley, but may expand to other cities.

This post is available from the 1st September and is full-time and fixed term for 24 months. There is potential for this post to be extended within the duration of the Hub project.

The School aims to ensure equality of opportunity and holds an Athena SWAN Silver award. We welcome applications from everyone irrespective of gender or ethnic group. Appointment will be based on merit alone.

Salary: £33,199 - £39,609 per annum

Closing Date: Tuesday 6th August 2019 at 5pm (GMT)

1. Job Details

Job title: Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Catchment Hydrology
School/Support Department: GeoSciences
Unit: Institute of Global Change
Line manager: Professor Hugh Sinclair

2. Job Purpose

To analyse the hydrological records from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology in Kathmandu, and to evaluate the principal controls on flooding in the Kathmandu Valley. Use flood models (in collaboration with partner PDRA) to explore the impact of changing land-use and infrastructure on flood hydrographs. To evaluate how the installation of low-cost gauging stations could be used to calibrate flood modelling, and the improvement of early warning systems for communities. Similar analyses will be considered for other cities such as Istanbul and Nairobi. This will initially require discussions with the Department for Hydrology and Meteorology in Kathmandu, and colleagues in the Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University.

3. Main Responsibilities (Approx. % of time)

1) Liaise with contemporary PDRA in the use of flood models to explore controls and impacts of development (20%).
2) Statistically analyse the hydrological records to characterise changes through time and principal controls (30%).
3) Analyse sediment types in river channels and calculate thresholds for bedload transport (20%).
3) Plan the best strategy for installing new gauging stations using low cost sensors; coordinate installation of sensors working with communities to maintain them (20%).
4) Liaise with local communities in calibrating flood inundation for known events (10%).

4. Planning and Organising

The overarching organisation of the project will be through Prof Sinclair as Kathmandu UK City Lead in the hub, and Drs Mikael Attal and Mark Naylor in terms of sediment transport and time series analyses of hydrological data. Meetings will be weekly, and there will be at least two meetings in Kathmandu with colleagues, and fieldwork to view the catchments.

5. Problem Solving

The overarching problem is a challenge faced by the communities in the study regions when exposed to hazards, and the way in which these hazards interact. Therefore, while the day-to-day challenges may be scientific in terms of statistical analysis and modelling, the post must be able to recognise the bigger challenge, and be prepared to compromise in order to remain focused on the challenge. The candidate will also need to devise strategies to interact within a large, diverse group of colleagues.

6. Decision Making

The post-holder will make day-to-day decisions that have a large impact on the quality and impact of the results. Longer-term strategic decisions will be made in conjunction with Prof Sinclair and DRs Attal and Naylor and on a weekly basis with colleagues in Tribhuvan University.

7. Key Contacts/Relationships

The post-holder will interact principally with Prof Hugh Sinclair and Drs Mikael Attal and Mark Naylor. They will also be expected to interact directly with the other colleagues in Edinburgh, particularly the linked PDRA position. In Kathmandu, colleagues at the Institute of Engineering (Dr Bhola Nath Ghimire and Dr Sangeeta Singh) and at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology will be important links. Overarching this, the Directors of the Hub, Profs John McCloskey and Mark Pelling will give the overarching direction for the hub.

8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job


• Demonstrable experience with catchment hydrology.
• A PhD (or a PhD close to completion) in a relevant scientific discipline.
• Proven ability to work independently and efficiently with diverse nationals.
• Excellent analytical, organisational and communication skills.
• Excellent skills in writing for academic and/or other audiences.
• Excellent oral presentation skills.
• Proven ability to communicate in English, both verbally and in writing
• Peer reviewed publications in a relevant field.
• Proven ability to work as a member of a team.
• Willingness to interact across disciplines.


• Understanding of, and practical ability in analysis of time series data.
• A publication record in catchment hydrology or related topic
• Understanding of sediment transport

9. Job Context and any other relevant information

The following text gives some background on the motivation and context of the Hub which underpins this post:
Globally, more than 2 billion people living in cities of low-to-middle income countries are exposed to multiple hazards such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and fires, which threaten the cyclical destruction of their lives and livelihoods. With urban areas expanding at unprecedented rates, this number is expected to reach 4 billion by 2050. Failure to integrate multi-hazard disaster risk into urban planning and decision-making presents a major barrier to sustainable development, including the single greatest global challenge of eradicating poverty in all its forms. But this global challenge is also major opportunity: as ~60% of the area expected to be urban by 2030 remains to be built, we can reduce disaster risk in tomorrow’s cities by design.

The aim of this project is to catalyse a transition from a culture of crisis management to one of multi-hazard risk-informed planning and decision-making that strengthens the voice and capacity of the urban poor. We will enhance risk-sensitive urban development through a global network of integrated research programmes led by local teams in low-to-middle income countries. Research teams in each city will work to reduce risk for 1-4 million people by:
1) Co-producing forensic examinations or root causes, drivers of vulnerability and trend analysis of decision-making culture for key, historic multi-hazard events.
2) Combining quantitative, multi-hazard risk assessment to interface with urban planning culture and engineering.
3) Convening diverse stakeholder groups – including communities, schools, municipalities, private enterprise and national agencies – around a new understanding of multi-hazard risk, stimulating engagement and innovation in making risk-sensitive development choices to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

All activity is aimed at bringing together communities at risk, community leaders, city authorities and researchers to support momentum towards inclusive, sustainable and resilient urban futures. It is through the combination of new data, understanding, voice and relationships that cities can move from places of risk accumulation to places of risk reduction.

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquiries should be directed to Hugh Sinclair –

Application Procedure

All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page and submitting an up to date CV. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.

You will be notified by email whether you have been shortlisted for interview or not.

The closing date is 5pm (GMT) on Tuesday 6th August 2019.

Right to Work

In accordance with UK legislation the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK).
To do so, the University requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

For further information on right to work please visit our right to work website

In the circumstances where the vacancy does not meet the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) criteria for sponsorship the successful applicant must have the existing right to work in the UK or individual circumstances which enable permission to work to be obtained.

For further information about whether you require a visa and other visa routes please visit the GOV.UK website

Conditions of Employment

Pension Scheme

This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

For further information please visit our Pensions website.


The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £33,199 to £39,609 per annum for 35 hours each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month. Salaries for part-time staff are calculated on the full-time scales, pro-rata to the Standard Working Week.

The University reserves the right to vary the candidate information or make no appointment at all. Neither in part, nor in whole does this information form part of any contract between the University and any individual.