Fran Palm

Fran Palm


Franziska is a PhD student in the Sedimentology Group in the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds. Her research interest concerns the sediment transport from the coast down to the deep ocean. This interest for sediment transport, in particular submarine landslides rose during her Bachelor degree. One interesting fact is that most submarine landslides happen on a slope, which is not even visible by the naked eye.

Franziska completed a Research Masters in Southampton in 2013. Her research project concerned the causes of submarine landslides occurring on continental slopes. She represented this research project with a poster at a conference for submarine landslides.

Her PhD project is looking at the erosional feature of submarine landslides. In particular of the morphological features of a submarine channel and how the channel is influenced by the flow dynamics of a submarine landslides.

  • 2012-2013 Master of Research, MRes Marine Geology/ Geophysics, University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

MRes project: “Understanding the causes of submarine landslides: A relationship between regional sea level changes and large continental slope failures”, Supervisor: Dr Morelia Urlaub, Dr Mark Vardy

The study derived about 1600 sea level reconstruction points from previously published data sets from areas (13), where continental slope failures occurred. An objective reliability index was created to evaluate each landslide and closed local sea level data. The results suggest that submarine landslides occur randomly in time, but factors which affect sea level variations such as meltwater distribution and glacio-isostatic adjustment were difficult to detect in the dataset and might control landslide occurrence.

  • 2009-2012 Bachelor of Science, BSc. Marine Biology/ Oceanography, Bangor University, Natural Sciences, School of Ocean Sciences

Dissertation: “How marine organisms produce cohesive sediment?”, Supervisor: Dr. Jaco H. Baas

A scientific analysis of journals on the stability of the seabed through the secretion of “exopolymeric substances-EPS” by micro-organisms


Proposed PhD project: Active submarine channel dynamics

Supervisors: Professor Jeff PeakallDr Dave Hodgson

Collaborator: Dan Parsons (Hull), Steve Darby, Russ Wynn and Esther Sumner (Southampton), Emin Özsoy (Middle East Technical University, Turkey), James Gardner (New Hampshire)

Funding: Leeds Anniversary Research Studentships (LARS)

This proposed PhD project Active submarine channel dynamics aims to clarify the flow dynamics when submarine landslides flow through submarine channels. Submarine channels occur worldwide on continental margins. They can be thousands of kilometres long, few kilometres wide and hundreds of kilometres deep. Even so they are one of the greatest geological features on earth; they are less understood than channel systems on Mars or even Venus. Submarine channels are the conduits of submarine landslides as they travel from shallow into deeper water. Submarine landslides are a mixture of mud, sediment and water, which is denser than the surrounding sea water. As they travel along the seabed they pose a potential hazard as they can generate devastating tsunamis or can destroy engineering construction such as submarine cables. 70% of communication network worldwide use submarine cables (Carter et al., 2009), a single event can destroy several submarine cables within minutes. In order to minimize this risk and to predict such catastrophic events, it is important to understand the flow patterns of turbidity currents within submarine channels. In addition, submarine channels are important features to understand in terms of continental margin evolution, deep sea sediment and nutrient supply and hydrocarbon exploration.

It was thought that submarine channels are the rivers of the ocean and so behave similar to terrestrial rivers in terms of morphology, evolution and flow dynamics, but recent studies showed that they vary completely from each other. An example is the flow dynamics within bends. Here the highest flow velocity in rivers is at the top near the water-air interface and moves to the outer part of the bend. In submarine channels the highest velocity within bends is close to the seabed and flows toward the outer part of the channel (Coreny et al., 2006; Parson et al., 2010). This knowledge has an influence on sediment distribution within the channel and channel structure over time.

The study of submarine channels in nature is challenging, because of their large-scale, inactivity and their infrequency. A unique place of continuous active submarine channels is the Black Sea shelf, but since turbidity currents have a destructive power instruments are complicated to deploy. In order to minimize this risk an autonomous submarine was used during a cruise in the Black Sea in summer 2013. This submarine flowed just above the channel and collected successful a large dataset of flow in and around submarine channels.

This PhD would focus to analyse and interpret the flow and bathymetry data collected by the submarine and combine them with other available submarine channel datasets, such as bathymetry and side scan sonar. The second part would be to model submarine channels in the laboratory. In the laboratory single parameters, which were previously identified in the dataset to be important factors controlling flow patterns can be looked separated and analysed. The laboratory data can be later modelled and combined with real flow data again. A special attention will be focused on the shape of the channel and how those influence the flow pattern within the channel.

Invited talks


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM. How diverse are submarine channels? Oral presentation at Ifremer, Centre Bretagne, France, May.

Conference contributions


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM, Silva Jacinto R, Marsset T, Dennielou B, Babonneau N. Width variation around submarine channel bends. Oral presentation at: British Sedimentology Research Group AGM; Dec 16-19; Edinburgh, Great Britain.


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM, Gardner J. Width variation around submarine channel bends. Poster presentation at: Deep-water Depositional Systems: Advances and Applications; 2017 Jan 25-27; London, Great Britain.


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM. Variation of cross-sectional geometries in submarine channels. Oral presentation at: British Sedimentology Research Group AGM; Dec 18-20; Cambridge, Great Britain.


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM, Gardner J. Width analysis of submarine channel bends. Poster presentation at: British Sedimentology Research Group AGM; Dec 21-22; Keele, Great Britain.


  • Palm FA, Peakall J, Hodgson DM, Gardner J. Using high-resolution datasets to improve understanding of submarine channel evolution.Poster presentation at: British Sedimentology Research Group AGM; Dec 20-22; Nottingham, Great Britain.


  • Palm FA, Urlaub M, Vardy ME. Investigation into the relationship between large submarine landslides and regional sea level. Poster presentation at: 6th International Symposium on Submarine Mass Movements and their Consequences; Sep 23-25; Kiel, Germany.

Research groups and institutes

  • Sedimentology
  • Institute of Applied Geoscience