Risk and Uncertainty for Debris Flows

Probabilistic Modelling of Risk and Uncertainty for Debris Flows using Large Deformation Simulation

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Heavy rainfall and a changing climate have a direct correlation with the frequency of large geohazard events. Rainfall is a crucial factor in developing debris flow risk mitigation strategies in a Tasmanian context. Current methods to assess the magnitude of catastrophic debris flows and landslides often account for a variety of possible precipitation events, incorporating inherent variability, uncertainty and spatial variability for rainfall and run-off. Although uncertainty, heterogeneity and spatial dependencies are commonplace in assessing rainfall for debris flow risk, large-scale probabilistic methods have yet to incorporate the variability of geotechnical and hydrological factors.

Numerical simulations have shown that the destructive potential debris flows are particularly sensitive to initial conditions, including debris flow orientation and position, channel geometry, surface roughness and sedimentary concentrations. This research aims to quantify the effects of debris flow uncertainties on the performance protective structures such as check dams, rigid barriers and flexible nets. The project will develop probabilistic methods for Monte Carlo simulation of debris flow run-out behaviour, as well as debris flow barrier performance, incorporating probabilistic assessment tools as part of random field theory, coupled with large deformation numerical simulation. The creation of innovative probabilistic models will drive sustainable engineering solutions for risk mitigation, accommodating for debris flow uncertainty, heterogeneity and spatial variability.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Ali Tolooiyan


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements and the following additional eligibility criteria specific to this project:

  • Applicants must be commencing a new course of study with the University of Tasmania in the 2022 academic year

Applicants from the following disciplines are encouraged to apply:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A solid knowledge of soil-structure and fluid-structure interaction
  • A solid knowledge of numerical modelling methods such as (Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics, Finite Element and
    Computational Fluid Dynamics)
  • A solid knowledge of marine hydrodynamics
  • Knowledge of a programming language (e.g. Python and MATLAB)
  • Strong academic background in engineering and capability to work independently
  • Motivated to learn and have a scientific mindset and team spirit

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Ali Tolooiyan, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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