Civil and Natural Resources Engineering

 

Project Number: 2019-3

Project Leader: Dr Kaley Crawford-Flett, Dr Mark Stringer, Dr Robert Finch

Host Department: Quake Centre, Civil and Nat Res Engineering (CNRE)

Project Title: Understanding the engineering characteristics of stopbanks (levees) in the Hawkes Bay region

Project outline: Stopbanks (levees) provide the primary means of flood protection for people and properties in many New Zealand communities. It is presently estimated that New Zealand has in excess of 5,000 km of stopbanks, protecting around 100 “flood prone” population centres and managed largely by a mixture of private landowners and regional and local government agencies.   

Regional and City/District Councils typically hold internal records concerning the properties of stopbank and flood-protection assets; however, the availability of engineering information is often piece-meal and inconsistent in type and format.  Furthermore, methodologies for characterising the engineering characteristics of stopbank embankments vary widely from region to region. Accordingly, New Zealand presently lacks a national perspective on hydrotechnical and geotechnical characteristics of stopbank networks.  Ultimately, a more comprehensive understanding of embankment and foundation properties is crucial to understanding the resulting risk profile for peripheral and downstream communities.

This summer research project will provide an opportunity for a student based in Hawkes Bay to work with a team of engineers and researchers to better-understand the characteristics of stopbanks in the Hawkes Bay region. 

This project seeks to collate, characterise, and summarize the available geotechnical and hydrotechnical properties of stopbank embankments and their foundations in the Hawkes Bay region. This project aims to provide a better understanding of the geological, hydrological, and engineering properties of stopbanks, for the benefit of both asset managers and researchers.  Outputs will feed into national-scale research concerning stopbank hazard exposure.

Specific Requirements: This project is offered to a student who is based in Hawkes Bay for the summer period.  Travel and/or accommodation funding for out-of-region students will NOT be provided.

The ideal applicant would be enrolled in the BE (Hons) degree, with an interest in geotechnical engineering.  Students enrolled in other relevant degree programmes (e.g. science or similar) may be considered.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-4

Project Leader: Dr Kaley Crawford-Flett, Dr Mark Stringer, Dr Robert Finch

Host Department: Quake Centre, Civil and Nat Res Engineering (CNRE)

Project Title: New Zealand hydropower embankment dams:  geotechnical laboratory investigation

Project outline: New Zealand has a large number of earth embankment dams, many of which were designed from the 1940's through to the 1980's to enable hydroelectric power generation. Given that hydropower generation accounts for approximately 55% of total electricity generation in New Zealand, earth embankment dams form a vitally important part of New Zealand’s energy infrastructure.

Perceived 'knowledge gaps' in the field of dam engineering are internationally well-documented and there are concerns that many older dams possess design deficiencies due to gaps in engineering knowledge at the time of construction.  Through the University of Canterbury Quake Centre, hydropower asset owners in New Zealand have expressed a need for improved guidance for evaluation of the performance of embankment dams. In particular, there is presently a lack of guidance for the evaluation of the whole-life performance of embankments and the possibility of combined earthquake-erosion failure modes.

The Summer Research project provides an opportunity for a senior undergraduate student to gain a background in geotechnical dam engineering within the long-term Quake Centre earth dam research project.  The successful student will gain an appreciation of current issues and challenges facing the geotechnical dam industry both locally and internationally. 

Specifically, the project will involve an assessment of the geotechnical characteristics of some of New Zealand's large hydropower assets.  Research components may include the following:

1)            Sort and interpret geotechnical construction and investigation records for one or more large New Zealand hydropower dams.

2)            Undertake geotechnical characterization of dam soils sampled from one or more large New Zealand dams.  There may be a chance to be                     involved in materials sampling.

3)            Conduct laboratory testing to help assess the performance of soils in New Zealand dams, with reference to international research findings.                 Laboratory work may include:

a. Testing of New Zealand soils for erosion or cracking potential in dam applications

b. Development of methodologies to address unique issues encountered in New Zealand dam engineering practice

The nature and extent of laboratory testing will be discussed with the successful student.  There may be potential to explore additional or alternative geotechnical tests.

The project will provide an opportunity for students to gain experience in an industry-based research environment.  It is expected that the outcomes from the summer project/s will inform further research in the field of geotechnical dam engineering in New Zealand.

Specific Requirements: (preferred) Geotechnical engineering courses: ENCN253, ENCN353 or equivalent, OR relevant experience.

Good communication skills. Responsible, Able to work independently.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-15

Project Leader: Markus Pahlow and Tom Cochrane

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Using aerial multispectral imagery and high precision topography to identify nutrient runoff pathways

Project outline: The loss of nutrients from agricultural lands contributes to land degradation, low productivity, and poor waterway health.  One of our greatest challenges has been to determine the pathways nutrients take to reach waterways.  Identifying overland nutrient pathways in agricultural fields will allow for improved land management by implementing efficient low-cost measures to intercept or capture nutrient flows.   Research is thus need to identify these pathways over time and space. 

This project will determine the feasibility of using an advanced aerial platform (drone) mounted with high tech multispectral sensors and Lidar technology to identify nutrient flow pathways in agricultural land.  Multispectral imagery and Lidar from selected agricultural fields around Canterbury will be captured and analysed to identify signatures for nutrient pathways under various field conditions.   Field work to verify aerial monitoring will be required.  Factors affecting accuracy in determining pathways, such as soil moisture, cover, topography, and others will be examined.   This research is exploratory in nature and can lead to future postgraduate research.

Specific Requirements: The student (engineering or science) working on this project will be required to have experience with GIS, data analyses, and programming.  Field work will be required (driver’s license necessary).  An enthusiasm for flying drones, doing digital surveying, and troubleshooting sensors and high technology is expected.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-17

Project Leader: Frances Charters

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Feasibility of nutrient removal in agricultural runoff using mussel shells

Project outline: Nutrient-enriched runoff from agricultural land contributes to eutrophication of surface water, leading to excessive algal growth and its associated effects such as oxygen consumption and deterioration of water clarity. It can also lead to elevated nitrates in drinking water (a public health risk) where the nutrient-enriched runoff infiltrates to groundwater.

Mussel shells, a byproduct of the shellfish processing industry, have been shown to have potential to remove phosphorus from wastewater. There is a research gap in our knowledge of whether these shells can be effective at removing both phosphorus and nitrogen in other applications such as surface runoff. This approach also builds on previous research at UC that has culminated in the development of the StorminatorTM treatment system which uses mussel shells for dissolved metal removal in stormwater runoff. This new pathway of nutrient treatment will benefit from what we have learnt in the process of developing the StorminatorTM technology. It has the potential to be of value to a wide range of stakeholders, including Councils, farm owners and managers, and agricultural organisations.

In order to assess the feasibility of using the waste mussel shells for nutrient treatment, experimental trials are required. The primary research question to be addressed by these initial experimental trials is to quantify the effectiveness of mussel shells at removing different forms of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The summer student will gain insight into working as part of a bigger research team, with other parallel projects running on further development of the StorminatorTM technology. They will be responsible for setting up the experiments in the laboratory including development of a method for synthesizing nutrient-enriched runoff, running the trial systems and taking runoff quality samples, sample analysis and communication of their research outcomes at HydroEco Research Group meetings. They will also benefit from exposure to the process of engineering innovation that has created the StorminatorTM.

Specific Requirements: The student working on this project will be required to have laboratory experience working on water quality engineering applications. Ideally they will be near completion (or have competed) the BE Natural Resources Engineering degree.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-35

Project Leader: Drs Tom Cochrane (and Aisling OSullivan, Frances Charters)

Host Department: Department of Civil & Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Storminator - R&D of the product design features

Project outline: Untreated stormwater runoff is destroying the integrity of our urban rivers. Studies within New Zealand have identified that heavy metals such as zinc and copper are of major concern within freshwaters. Although zinc in trace amounts is an essential element for all biota, at high concentrations it has lethal effects.

Metal roofs have been identified as major contributors of zinc in stormwater. Therefore, the StorminatorTM was invented, a University of Canterbury designed stormwater treatment system, which specifically treats roof runoff, offering a cheap, sustainable and effective solution. The simple design makes use of 'off the shelf' components and mussel shells otherwise ending up in landfill. The vertical design of the StorminatorTM means the system has a zero horizontal footprint and is easily retrofitted to existing buildings or just as easily incorporated into a new build. To date, the StorminatorTM is the only storm water treatment system capable of removing high concentrations of dissolved metals. In collaboration with external partners, seven StorminatorTM systems have been installed around Christchurch. There has been substantial interest from industry and council across Aotearoa also wanting to install Storminator systems.

In order to understand how the StorminatorTM design will can best applied to industry applications, we need to re-examine some of its design features, including how to include new functional components when increasing the size of the Storminatorâ„¢ for wider applications.

This summer project will investigate the current (and previous) prototype designs of the Storminator when increased in size. In particular, it is not well understood how we can cater for treating larger roofs by designing a multiple-cartridge Storminator. The research will explore how best to integrate a flow-splitting/connecting component in developing multiple Storminatorâ„¢ treatment cartridges in one treatment system. Other aspects will help investigate how to improve the product look for making it more marketable.

The summer student will gain insight into working as a research team, coordinating logistics and schedules to field test different components of the revised product design and communicate their research outcomes at focused workshops. They will benefit from working as part of a research team on a common problem and the engineering innovation that has created this design solution. Furthermore, this project will be run in parallel with another engineering summer scholarship, which is focused on quantifying the treatment capacities of different Storminator systems to guide the revised design criteria.

Specific Requirements: The student working on this project will be required to have product design knowledge and/or experience for engineering applications. Ideally they will a senior student in the School of Industrial Product Design at UC.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-36

Project Leader: Drs Aisling OSullivan (and Tom Cochrane, Frances Charters)

Host Department: Civil & Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: StorminatorTM assessing the dissolved zinc removal capacity from various sized treatment systems

Project outline: Untreated stormwater runoff is destroying the integrity of our urban rivers. Studies within New Zealand have identified that heavy metals such as zinc and copper are of major concern within freshwaters. Although zinc in trace amounts is an essential element for all biota, at high concentrations it has lethal effects.

Metal roofs have been identified as major contributors of zinc in stormwater. Therefore, the Storminator was invented, a University of Canterbury designed stormwater treatment system, which specifically treats roof runoff, offering a cheap, sustainable and effective solution. The simple design makes use of 'off the shelf' components and mussel shells otherwise ending up in landfill. The vertical design of the StorminatorTM means the system has a zero horizontal footprint and is easily retrofitted to existing buildings or just as easily incorporated into a new build. To date, the Storminator is the only storm water treatment system capable of removing high concentrations of dissolved metals. In collaboration with external partners, seven StorminatorTM systems have been installed around Christchurch. There has been substantial interest from industry and council across Aotearoa also wanting to install Storminator systems.

In order to improve the engineering capacity of the treatment systems, we need to conduct more experimental monitoring. This includes water quality sampling and analysis of different sized Storminator systems already installed throughout Christchurch. These data will help understand how differing roof material types, rainfall parameters and Storminator sizes affect the treatment capacity.

This summer project will investigate field-testing the treatment efficiency of the various Storminator around Christchurch (including 4 at UC), which is also aligned to an-going PhD research project. The summer student will gain insight into working as a research team, coordinating logistics and schedules to field sample, monitor hourly weather patterns, submit samples to laboratories for analysis and communicate their research outcomes at focused workshops. They will benefit from working as part of a research team on a common problem and the engineering innovation that has created this design solution. Furthermore, this project will be run in parallel with an engineering product design summer scholarship, which is focussed on helping to optimise the product design features of the Storminator for wider market application.

Specific Requirements: The student working on this project will be required to have fieldwork and laboratory experience working on engineering applications. Ideally they will have competed (or be near completion) of the BE(Hons)  Natural Resources Engineering degree.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-51

Project Leader: Gabriele Chiaro, Ali Tasalloti and Laura Banasiak

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Interface strength and leaching characteristics of gravel-tyre mixtures

Project outline: In this project, the applicability of granulated recycled tyre-gravel mixtures as an economical alternative for conventional granular soil in the development of seismic-resilient foundation systems will be investigated from a geotechnical and environmental engineering viewpoint.

Geotechnical investigation: The friction at the interface between a rubber-gravel layer and a rubberised-concrete raft foundation will be quantified by conducting a series of direct shear box tests. In these tests, the upper part of the specimen will consist of rubberised-concrete and the bottom part a selected gravel-rubber mixture. By applying a shear force in the horizontal direction the rubberised-concrete layer will be forced to slide on the top of the gravel-rubber layer and the stress-strain behaviour will be measured. From the analysis of the results the corresponding frictional angle at the interface will be determined. It is anticipated that 20-30 tests will be performed - where the rubberised-concrete surface roughness and the applied vertical load (20-100 kPa) will be methodologically varied - so that a unique and wide dataset and valuable empirical correlations and charts summarising the experimental tests can be developed.

Environmental investigation: The introduction of new or alternative (recycled waste) materials in building foundations may have benefits in terms of cost reductions and increased seismic resilience of low-rise buildings. However, it is essential to ensure that such innovations do not result in long-term negative impacts on the environment e.g. through the leaching of toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil environment, groundwater and surface water. In this context, this project will also focus on the leaching properties of gravel – rubber mixtures that could be used to develop seismic-resilient foundation systems. While gravel is inert, additives used in the manufacture of tyres are potentially harmful to the environment (e.g. organohalogen compounds, acidic solutions) and the steel fibres within the tyres can leach heavy metals (e.g. zinc, manganese, lead, cadmium). To do so, a series of batch leaching tests will be carried out to evaluate the potential hazardousness of granulated waste tyres.

The two investigations are independent and will be carried out in parallel.

Specific Requirements: none stipulated.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-52

Project Leader: Gabriele Chiaro, Ali Tasalloti

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineeirng

Project Title: Shear strength, compressibility and permeability of gravel-recycled tyre mixtures

Project outline: From a geotechnical engineering perspective, recycled tyres have interesting properties, such as high strength and excellent durability. If waste tyres are reused as a construction material their unique properties can be exploited in a beneficial manner. The benefits of using waste tyre (under the form of granulated particles)  are particularly enhanced if they can be used to replace virgin construction materials made from non-renewable resources. In this project the strength, compressibility and permeability characteristics of several gravel- recycled tyre mixtures will be evaluated by conducting a series of triaxial and/or direct shear tests, uniaxial compression and constant-head permeability tests. dry specimens will be prepared at a given void ratios and tested under different levels of vertical stress. From the test results, the effects of volumetric rubber content on the shear strength, compressibility and permeability of gravel-tyre chips will be assessed.

Specific Requirements: ENCN253 and ENCN353

 

 

Project Number: 2019-67 (2 scholarships available)

Project Leader: Mark Stringer & Kaley Crawford-Flett

Host Department: Civil & Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Understanding the New Zealand Stopbank Network

Project outline: Stopbank networks are critical distributed infrastructure, providing the primary flood protection for people and properties in many New Zealand communities. The construction of flood protection stopbanks in New Zealand began in the late 1800s (well before modern design criteria were established). Today, it is estimated that there are over 5000kms of stopbanks, protecting around 100 'flood prone' population centres.

Just as the risk from flooding varies significantly by location, so to do the physical and engineering attributes of the stopbanks as a result of differences in expertise, available material and the evolution of design and construction practices with time. As a result of the decentralised management of stopbanks, the expertise and approaches to understanding, characterising and maintaining the stopbank network vary significantly from region to region. As a result, New Zealand lacks a national perspective on the geotechnical and hydrotechnical characteristics of its stopbank networks.

In 2017, research on the performance of these stopbanks commenced and resulted in the creation of a national inventory of stopbanks (NZIS), describing both the potential exposure to flooding, as well as detailed information of historical “incidents.” However, during the creation of this inventory, geotechnical data was not collected.

This project seeks to compile available geotechnical and hydrotechnical attributes of stopbanks across New Zealand. Key attributes include (where applicable): location (spatial coordinates), year/timestamp, soil classification (embankment and foundation), geological classification (embankment and foundation), specific engineering design details (erosion protection, structural details etc.), construction details, geotechnical test data (where available), embankment geometry (height, cross section), hydrological characteristics (ground water levels, design and historic flood levels, river flow data, catchment area).

In conjunction with the New Zealand River Manager's Forum, data will be collected from one or more councils, and depending on the nature of available information for each region, this task may involve:

- Sourcing of electronic records

- Visits to archives (council, government, or consultant) to access and copy existing reports.

- Compilation of existing records (e.g. news articles, interview transcripts, photographs) to obtain qualitative information regarding engineering standards and/or loading of stopbanks (e.g. historic flood events or construction detailing).

All available data will be compiled in a standardised dataset (spreadsheet, database, or geospatial format) to enable comparison of attributes between regions. Analysis may include:

- Assessment of data completeness.

- Characterisation of geotechnical properties

- Classification and commentary regarding design information

- Identification of key data gaps and prioritization for further work.

 Specific Requirements: none specified.

 

 

Project Number: 2019-98

Project Leader: Tom Logan

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Machine Learning to Predict the Apple Harvest

Project outline: New Zealand's apple industry is worth over $700million and is the most competitive in the world. Increasing the value and maintaining our competitive edge against other countries requires smart decision making. One promising avenue is the use of data science. For example, our exporters must negotiate with the buyers of apples months in advance of the apple harvest. However, the ideal market for the apples is dependent on the size distribution of the apples. Early prediction of the size can maximise the return to the New Zealand apple industry. You will be tasked with developing and comparing machine learning models, based on apple measurements over the last few years, to predict apple size months in advance. In this project you will learn data science methods (e.g., random forest, neural networks etc.) and practice (cross-validation) as well as the academic process as we intend to submit the results as a journal paper.

Specific Requirements: Base statistics. Coding experience in python or R

 

 

Project Number: 2019-112

Project Leader: Tom Logan

Host Department: Civil and Natural Resources Engineering.

Project Title: Climate risks and New Zealand's food

Project outline: We need food to survive; that is certain. What is uncertain is the impact of the climate crisis on the food system and our ability to produce and distribute that food. That food system is extremely complex because it is highly integrated and dependent on the environment, economy, and our infrastructure. The first step to building a resilient food system is to understand the system and the risks that it faces: the threats and potential consequences. In this project, we will be conducting a regional risk assessment of Canterbury's food system. As per modern risk assessment, we will map the system and its dependencies, identify potential threats and consequences, and evaluate the knowledge behind these assumptions. The result will provide an essential road map for building a resilient food system into the future.

Specific Requirements: None

 

 

Project Number: 2019-138 (6 projects available)

Project Leader: Brendon Bradley, Chris McGann

Host Department: QuakeCoRE

Project Title: USER: Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Resilience

Project outline: USER is a summer research programme led by QuakeCoRE: The NZ Centre for Earthquake

Resilience (www.quakecore.nz) at the University of Canterbury. The aim of the USER

programme is to provide multi-disciplinary research opportunties for undergraduate (UG)

students to become exposed to various aspects of the earthquake resilience problem.

The programme is open to 6 UG students from science, engineering, social science, and

creative arts disciplines. We believe that two differentiating factors in our programme for

UG research is:

(1) a large collection of students from a variety of different disciplinary

background who forge collaborations via a 'grand challenge' problem related to Earthquake

Resilience in New Zealand; and

(2) students have access to the network of NZ's leading

researchers, who are members of QuakeCoRE, and who will collectively provide mentoring

to students as well as guest lectures and field trips. More information is available here: https://tinyurl.com/qcuser2018

Specific Requirements: none specified