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Research Associate in Cavern Development in Carbonate Strata
Oxford Road, Manchester

Job reference: SAE-018162

Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

Closing date (DD/MM/YYYY): 07/02/2022

Salary: £33,309 to £40,927 per annum depending on relevant experience

Employment type: Fixed Term

Faculty/Organisation: Science and Engineering

Division: Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Hours per week: Full time

Contract Duration: Fixed term from 1 April 2022 until 30 June 2024

School / Directorate: School of Natural Sciences

A position is available for a research associate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science following the successful award of a NERC funded project into the genesis of hypogene karst in the Lower Carboniferous Limestone of the Derbyshire Platform, UK.  This is a collaborative project between University of Manchester, University of Bristol and the British Geological Survey (BGS).  The project duration is 27 months (1st April 2022 – 30th June 2024).

Hypogene karst forms from upward-flowing fluids within limestone terrains and is often dominated by non-stratabound pipes and caverns. Where present, it has a significant influence on subsurface fluid flow, but despite forming a major component of the World’s largest cave networks, the genesis of hypogene caverns is poorly understood. This project aims to improve our knowledge and understanding of hypogene cave formation by coupling expertise in carbonate geoscience, speleology, hydrogeology, reactive transport modelling, and extensive geoscience databases held at the BGS. It focuses on constraining the geological and hydro-geochemical conditions in which hypogene caves form by characterization of a range of non-stratabound caverns within Lower Carboniferous (Upper Viséan) limestone of the Derbyshire Platform, UK and assessing the factors governing their genesis on the basis of their geological relationships and geochemistry. These observations and conceptual models will be developed in parallel with process-based modelling of hypogene karst formation alongside 3D simulations of heat and fluid flow, to be conducted by our project partners at University of Bristol. In totality, we aim to fully evaluate a range of conceptual models that can be used to interpret hypogene cavern formation.

The Lower Carboniferous Limestone (LCL) is currently being assessed as a source of low enthalpy geothermal heat to UK conurbations. The data and models generated in this study should ultimately be used to assess the impact of caverns on modern day fluid flow and heat flux, and help mitigate risks to geothermal production. Project outcomes will also be of relevance to gas storage, carbon sequestration and near-surface geohazard prediction in the UK and globally.

The purpose of this position is to undertake all geological analysis associated with non-stratabound, presumed hypogene caverns on the Derbyshire Platform, and will have four main components:

  • Data collation and analysis, including: literature review of global hypogene cave systems and documentation of their presence in the Lower Carboniferous Limestone in the UK; review and analysis of rock property data; construction of a database of hypogene cavern size and location.
  • Planning, co-ordination and implementation of field mapping, logging and sampling of non-stratabound cavern systems and associated faults and strata, principally in underground settings, on the Derbyshire Platform. Much of this work will be conducted in show caves and disused mines with easy access, some with lighting and well-marked trails. However, some caving skills are desirable in order to work less well developed caverns under the supervision of experienced cavers.
  • Petrographical and geochemical analysis of calcite cements that form within some hypogene caverns and associated fault and fracture networks. This work will be used to constrain the timing of cavern formation and the composition of fluids through multi-proxy data analysis, including stable isotope and trace element analysis.
  • Data integration and knowledge transfer to BGS geothermal energy team, with short periods of time spent working at the BGS in Keyworth; data transfer and integration with the team at University of Bristol.

As this role involves research at a postgraduate level, applicants who are not an EEA national or a national of an exempt country and who will require sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route of the UK Visas and Immigration’s (UKVI) Points Based System in order to take up the role, will be required to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate and will need to obtain this prior to making any official visa application UKVI..

As an equal opportunities employer we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of age, sex, gender (or gender identity), ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status.  All appointments are made on merit.                           

Our University is positive about flexible working – you can find out more here

Blended working arrangements may be considered

Please note that we are unable to respond to enquiries, accept CVs or applications from Recruitment Agencies.

Enquiries about the vacancy, shortlisting and interviews:

Name: Prof Cathy Hollis


General enquiries:


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This vacancy will close for applications at midnight on the closing date.

Please see the link below for the Further Particulars document which contains the person specification criteria


The closing date for this job has now passed.