The changing near-surface critical zone

Rapid characterisation of the near-surface critical zone for a changing Earth, and for planetary bodies, using integrated geophysical and multivariate methods

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

The ‘critical zone’ is the outermost subsurface layer of our Earth.  In this zone, water interacts with weathered rock and/or loose sediments, and potentially with biological and chemically active material.  Such interactions can cause gradual or sudden failure, and other environmental impacts. In a changing climate, the critical zone is an important but hidden changing layer.  Critical zone investigations are of consequence for the fast-evolving field of planetary geophysics whereby the shallow surface beneath remote landers also provides a challenge for rapid characterisation.

This project will make use of geophysical methods such as seismology and electrical methods that have seen recent technological acceleration such that large numbers of cable-free sensors may be quickly deployed for fast data collection.  Multivariate statistical methods, including machine learning, are also enabling further datasets to be combined for an integrated understanding of the near-surface and how this is changing over time.  The project could focus on theoretical aspects of computer simulation, and/or field data collection and analysis, depending on the interests of the student researcher.  These approaches will lead to a greater understanding of how to detect and manage both gradual change and water ingress due to extreme events on Earth.  The approaches will also enable improved investigations of the shallow and deep interiors of planetary bodies.

Project outcomes will provide the basis of an expanded capability for Australia in detecting change in coastal environments and environments adjacent to other large water bodies.  Newly developed software and workflows will enable near-surface characterization to be rolled out to environmental and/or geotechnical and/or space-industry partners.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Anya Reading


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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 essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Honours degree in physics, applied mathematics, geophysics and/or related fields

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Enthusiasm for, and/or experience in, scientific computing

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Anya Reading to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 2 x 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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