PhD Candidate "Historical and Future Gully Erosion Evolution and its Impacts in Sub-Saharan African Cities

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The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) and the University of Liège (ULiège), Department of Geography seek applications for a PhD proposal on the study of gully erosion and its impacts in subSaharan African cities.

The research group GeoRisKA of the Royal Museum for Central Africa has its research activities in the fields of geology, geomorphology, natural hazards and risk assessment. Most of its study areas are located in Central Africa. Remote sensing, GIS, and field work are used to support the research as well as for assisting in thematic mapping. The involved research group at Uliège concentrates on understanding geomorphic processes and their impacts at regional to continental scales, with a strong focus on Africa.

The research topic deals with the issue urban mega-gullies. Such urban gullies affect dozens of cities in sub-Saharan Africa. They result from a combination of erosion-prone conditions, intensive rainfall and inadequate urban planning and are in many cases associated with significant impacts (including casualties, the destruction of houses and damage to infrastructure). Nonetheless, the controlling factors and impacts of this geomorphic hazard remains currently poorly understood.

The proposed research topic therefore aims to assess the total population in sub-Saharan cities that is currently impacted by this problem and to predict how this will evolve in the future. First, the PhD candidate will build multi-temporal inventories of urban gullies for affected cities across Africa and locate the impacted zones. Based on this, the candidate will then aim to better understand the natural and anthropogenic factors that lead to the formation and expansion of urban gullies. Finally, the current and future impacts on populations will be studied with regard to urban growth and climate change scenarios. The research will be mainly based on remote sensing, aerial photo interpretation, GIS analyses and empirical (statistical) modelling. In addition, short fieldwork campaign and terrain visits are foreseen (around 3 weeks/year). The PhD thesis will be prepared in English, based on a compilation of peer-reviewed scientific publications.

The candidate will work at RMCA under the supervision of Dr. Olivier Dewitte and Dr. Caroline Michellier and at the Department of Geography (ULiège) under the supervision of Prof Matthias Vanmaercke.