Postgraduate research

Physical Geography and GIS

Contemporary Processes: Earth Observation

Professor Heiko Balzter

Climate change is occurring at unprecedented speed. Climate change as a global challenge requires a reliable global monitoring and forecasting system to deliver information that policy makers and business leaders can trust. Heiko’s research focuses on Earth observation applications that can help address the climate emergency. He has pioneered machine learning applications to satellite data and developed ‘big satellite data’ solutions e.g. deforestation alerts from Sentinel-2 implemented in Python.

Dr Kirsten Barrett

Kirsten is interested in the combination of remotely sensed imagery and field data to examine landscape-scale effects of anthropogenic and natural disturbances and the associated consequences for global climate change. Her research focuses on wildfire disturbance in high northern latitude ecosystems.

Dr Fernando Espirito Santo

Fernando’s primary research focuses on understanding tropical forest structure and function over the Amazon region. He examines tropical forest disturbances from natural to anthropogenic processes using remote sensing technologies, ecological models and long-term ecological experiments.  

Dr Sarah Johnson

Sarah’s research uses remotely sensed and geospatial data for applications related to the land environment. In particular, she am interested in the link between environment and human health, currently focusing on issues related to greenspace and greenspace descriptors; land cover/land use change mapping, especially with respect to long term multi-decadal change; water and hydrology; agricultural applications of remote sensing; and, interactions and scattering mechanisms between radar signals and natural targets on the Earth's surface.

Professor Kevin Tansey

Kevin’s research interests are in the analysis and investigation of Earth Observation data. He is particularly interested in characterising vegetation on the Earth's surface and identifying the spatial, temporal, and magnitude of disturbance (specifically fire deforestation degradation and drainage) of vegetation. He undertakes these tasks at a range of spatial scales using existing and new SAR LiDAR and optical remotely sensed data from the ground aircraft or satellites in space. More recently, he has become interested in the use of satellite data to identify agricultural activity and determine crop yield. 

Contemporary Processes: Human-environment interactions

Dr Calvin Jephcote

Calvin is a socio-environmental scientist with academic and consultancy expertise in spatial modelling, environmental epidemiology, and social mobility. His particular research specialisms relate to the identification, management and analysis of geocoded 'big' datasets with traditional statistical evaluation techniques, conducted alongside advanced geostatistical approaches ranging from cluster and boundary detection, to multi-level and geographically weighted regression.

Dr Joerg Kaduk

Joerg’s research focuses on carbon losses from peatlands under intensive agricultural use and the fire-climate interactions. He has a strong interest and background in modelling the atmospheric exchange fluxes and ecophysiologial development of terrestrial ecosystems using coupled land surface and carbon cycle models.

Dr Mark Powell

Mark is a Fluvial Geomorphologist with particular interests in understanding the dynamics of sediment transport in alluvial rivers and their morphological, sedimentological and ecological consequences.  A key focus of his work in gravel-bed rivers has been to understand how bed surface conditions influence near-bed flows and the rate and calibre of sediment transport and how the bed condition is regulated by feedbacks between the flow and sediment transport.  He is primarily a field scientist with extensive experience of building and maintaining field equipment and installations to monitor channel processes relating to channel hydrology, flow hydraulics and suspended and bedload sediment transport.  More recently he has become interested in the movement of plastic pollution (macro plastic debris) through river systems.

Professor Mick Whelan

Mick’s research has three main themes: 1) Mathematical modelling of environmental systems with an emphasis on developing conceptually simple approaches which capture the essential features of system behaviour and which are useful for informing operational and strategic decision making; 2) The environmental risk assessment of chemicals with particular interest in understanding the fate of pesticides and chemicals emitted to surface waters via the “down-the-drain” pathway; and, 3) Nutrient cycling in soil and water with particular interest in nitrogen and phosphorus transfers from agricultural land to ground and surface waters.

Evolution and Past Environments

Dr Juan Carlos Berrio

Juan Carlos’ research interest focuses in to understand patterns of distribution and dynamics of tropical vegetation the biogeographical control of different plant species and their relationships with main drivers of climate change. In order to investigate climate variability and environmental change he applies different proxies to study both long-and-short term sedimentary records from different tropical biomes. Most of the time is dedicated to trace such climate variations and vegetation changes at millennial and decadal to orbital time scales.

Dr Arnoud Boom

Arnoud is a bio-geochemist / organic geochemist and his research evolves around reconstructing climates of the past in particular the tropics. He is also interested in soil and plant organic matter studies.

Dr Andrew Carr

Andrew’s research focuses on Pleistocene environmental change in desert and coastal environments. This work has included the development of chronologies for palaeo-dune formation, the analysis of fossil pollen from wetland and lake sediments, as well as the application of stable isotope and biomarker proxies. He is particularly interested in the application of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating methods. This technique provides depositional (burial) age estimates for quartz and feldspar minerals and is used to construct chronologies of sediment deposition over the last ~200,000 years. 

Dr Anna Joy Drury

Anna Joy’s research interests span palaeoceanography, geochemistry and stratigraphy, with a strong focus on understanding Cenozoic climate evolution and dynamics. Her research combines high-resolution multi-proxy sedimentological and geochemical records with stratigraphy, astrochronology and core image processing techniques on deep sea sediments. She has expertise in XRF core scanning, stable isotope and trace element analyses on foraminifera and bulk sediment, as well as scanning electron microscopy.

Professor Sarah Gabbott

Sarah Gabbott is known for her research on decomposition and fossilization. Her focus is soft-bodied animals, details of which are often lost during decay. This work sheds light on the process of fossilization by determining which types of tissues are preserved and which of them rot away rapidly. The findings can improve the quality of modern reconstructions or restorations based on fossils. In particular, features that evolved more recently were among the first to decay, causing fossils to appear like their ancestors and making identification more difficult. Gabbott also studies environmental factors to fossil preservation.

Dr Tom Harvey

Tom researches the evolution of life and environments through deep geological time. I have a particular interest in the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition which is when animals first rose to dominance in marine ecosystems some half a billion years ago, fundamentally changing the way our planet works. His research extends across many scales, from resolving the microscopic anatomy, functional morphology, and phylogenetic position of individual fossil organisms, to establishing large-scale patterns in ecology, evolution, and environmental change.

Professor Mark Purnell

Mark’s research focusses on experimental and analytical taphonomy (particularly analysis of soft-tissue character decay and preservation) dental microwear analysis of diet and feeding (including aquatic vertebrates mammals and dinosaurs) and palaeobiology of conodonts and other early vertebrates.

Dr Tim van Peer

Tim’s research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet and its relation to ocean circulation. He applies geophysical and geochemical techniques on sediments recovered from the deep-sea during expeditions of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and its predecessors, as well as site-survey expeditions.

Professor Mark Williams

As a palaeontologist, Mark examines the evolution of life over geological timescales. Over three decades his research has taken him from the tropics to the polar regions, working across terrains as diverse as glaciers, deserts, jungles and everything in between.  Mark’s current focus is on studying patterns of human induced changes to life. His research explores solutions to human induced changes to the biosphere. Those changes may be one of the defining characteristics of a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene.

Professor Jens Zinke

Jens’ research involves the geochemical study of marine biological (massive corals) and sedimentary archives from the tropical oceans as recorders of environmental and climate change over the past 300 years and during the Holocene. He primarily focuses on Indian Ocean coral and sediment records. This work is motivated by the need to produce reliable long-term baseline data of sea surface temperature ocean currents and the hydrological cycle over the tropical/subtropical oceans and how they shape patterns of biodiversity in our oceans and adjacent coasts.


Geochemistry and volcanology

Dr Tiffany Barry

Tiff’s research involves the application of geochemistry to address fundamental questions of magmatic processes, with particular interest in mantle dynamics, intraplate volcanism and more recently, the chemistry and genesis of rocks on the surface of Mercury. She is an expert in Mongolian and East Asian volcanism and long-lived isotopic domains. She uses a combination of geochemical studies with volcanology or 3D spherical numerical modelling to tackle the research questions.

Dr Andrew Miles

Andrew’s research focuses on investigating the chemical stratigraphy of robust accessory minerals to understand the generation and evolution of silicic magmas within the Earth’s crust. These minerals often document multiple stages of magma evolution which, coupled with their inventory of key elements, enables better constraints on a wide variety of igneous processes including: rates of magma generation and emplacement, magma sources, mineralisation processes, magma degassing histories and magma redox conditions. These processes have direct applications for the evolution of Earth’s continental crust, mineralisation and exploration for geothermal energy.

Dr Marc Reichow

Marc’s research focuses on the timing, petrogenesis and source regions of mafic and silicic Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) from various tectonic settings and the role of large-scale volcanism in climate change. He utilises a wide range of methods including field evidence, geochemical, palaeomagnetic and isotope data (radiogenic and stable).


Professor Stewart Fishwick

Stewart’s primary research involves using seismology to understand the structure and evolution of the lithosphere and upper mantle.  Interests cross the whole geological timespan - from contrasts in lithospheric structure within Precambrian Shields, through to understanding controls on present day plate tectonics.  The majority of his work has been using tomographic techniques, particularly with data from surface waves, and he has looked at approaches to improve the reliability of the resulting models through careful data processing.

Sustainable Resource Extraction

Dr Susan Cumberland

Susan’s research looks at how the mobility of metals and ra-dionuclides through the environment are affected by other molecules such as natural organic matter; and surface forming minerals such as calcite and hydroxyapatite. Examples of her work have been in areas of engineered nanoparticles, urani-um ore geochemistry and nuclear decommissioning.

Professor David Holwell

Research areas include the nature and genesis of precious metal deposits including magmatic nickel-copper-platinum group element and hydrothermal gold ores and the geological concentration extraction and processing of selenium and tellurium for the photovoltaics industry. Specialism in applied research to tackle industry problems in the minerals sector through collaboration with industry partners from small exploration juniors through to the major mining houses.

Professor Gawen Jenkin

Gawen’s research explores hydrothermal mineralisation, stable and radiogenic isotopes in fluid-rock interaction and hydrothermal mineralisation, mineral carbonation for CO2 sequestration and sediments as paleoenvironmental indicators (including  trace element and isotope proxies, including selenium isotopes). He has a strong track-record in the development of deep eutectic solvents as a method for sustainable resource extraction.

Dr Dan Smith

Dan has research interests in the formation of ore deposits of copper and gold in volcanic environments, the exploration for new mineral resources including critical metals, and the sustainability of resource supply. 

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