Martian Volcanic Systems

University of Leeds

PhD Permanent Leeds, UK

Uploaded 25 Nov 2018

Job Description

Martian volcanic systems: using surface strain indicators to investigate magmatically driven stress in the Tharis region, Mars 

This exciting project aims to decipher the geological history of Mars utilising the ample spacecraft data collected over the last decade. The novelty of the project lies in using the surface expressions of volcanic systems of Mars to infer the planet’s inner workings through time. Scientific outcomes and technique development undertaken as part of the project will be not only important for our understanding of Mars, but also transferable to other planetary bodies – including Earth.

This study will focus on the ancient volcanic systems in the Tharsis region of Mars and the extensive systems of radial and circumferential grabens there (e.g. Ohman and Mc Govern, 2014). The aim of the study will be to map and quantify surface fault displacement across the region using high resolution remote-sensing data of the Martian surface: MOLA (Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter), CTX (Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter Context Camera) and HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) datasets. The associated strain will then be incorporated with appropriate ranges of surface gravity and lithospheric strength to produce potential models of historical volcanic behaviour. The utility of this process will be tested using equivalent Earth-based analogous data over volcanic zones in Iceland.

You will work within the Planetary Exploration Group (PEG) here at Leeds and with Dr Paul Byrne at NCSU. In particular, according to your particular research interests, the studentship could involve:

1. Analysis of fault systems on Mars, specifically around Alba Mons and other regions of the Tharsis Rise, using  MOLA, CTX and HiRISE data to extract, map and compare fault displacement profiles at the different resolutions across the region. 

2. Production of associated surface strain maps and use of available Elastic Dislocation (ED) modelling software to produce models of ED and predicted fault plane failure.

3. Development of volcanic modelling processes to include surface fracture prediction via back analysis of measured surface fractures in the Tharsis region.

4. Using a combination of strain measurements from available high-resolution LiDAR data and field work in Iceland to investigate and develop analogous volcanic system models on Earth and to further develop planetary volcanic system modelling processes in general.

5. Utilising Martian meteorite samples to constrain surface material properties and behaviour, including the use of high-end microscopy at UoL as well as possible analysis at synchrotron facilities.

A full description of the project is available on the website.


Person Specification

The student should have a strong Geoscience/Physical Sciences background (e.g. Geology, Geophysics, Physics), preferably having undertaken an MSc in Geoscience or related topic, with high competency in quantitative science and spatial modelling.

Related undergraduate subjects:

  • Applied mathematics
  • Computer science
  • Computing
  • Earth science
  • Earth system science
  • Geological science
  • Geology
  • Geophysical science
  • Geophysics
  • Geoscience
  • Mathematics
  • Physical science
  • Physics
  • Remote sensing