Department of Geography


The study of sensitive earth-surface systems such as mountains, deserts, coasts, oceans, the Arctic and the atmosphere is a critical issue to society as they pose hazards and constraints to existing and future development in response to environmental change.

The science that links environmental change to physical responses in geomorphological processes and landforms is a complex area and one that is of interest to policy makers and academic research.

Our research investigates sensitive systems by field monitoring, physical and numerical modelling, description and analysis of sediments, soils and rocks, and reconstruction of Quaternary environments. We collaborate with the Climate Science and Society research cluster to understand the impacts of Surface-Atmosphere Interactions on Society more broadly.

PhD research project proposals

The cold climate landform legacy of north Dartmoor [PDF 73.26KB]

The cold climate landforms and sediments of south Dartmoor [PDF 91.43KB]

Midnight sun over the Canadian Arctic tundraMidnight sun over the Canadian Arctic tundra

Our expertise concerns

Key achievements

Recognition for the high quality of our research has led to the following achievements:

Permafrost structures: sand and ice wedgesPermafrost structures: sand and ice wedges

  • Papers in Nature, Science, Geology, Earth Science Reviews and Geophysical Research Letters
  • Grants >£3.5m (e.g. EU, INTERREG, Defra, NERC, Royal Society, Env. Agency)
  • Beaches At Risk project - a showcase Franco-British project
  • Fellowship of the Geological Society of London
  • Fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers
  • Editor of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes (from 2012)
  • Dorothy Hodgkins Royal Society Research Fellowship to a former DPhil student
  • Honorary Treasurer of the British Society for Geomorphology
  • Marine Observation and Data Expert Group, invited expert on coastal geomorphology
“Work in the Permafrost Lab with the Engineering Group of the Geological Society led to a 950-page special publication in 2017 on the Engineering Geology and Geomorphology of Glaciated and Periglaciated Terrains, which represents the international benchmark for ground investigations in former cold regions.”


John Barlow: Landslide detection; digital remote sensing; cosmogenic dating; modelling

Living on the coastLiving on the coast

Tim Cane: Quaternary palaeoceanography; physical modelling; experiment design

Mick Frogley: Quaternary palaeoecology, climatic history of lake basins

Roger Moore:  Coastal instability and erosion; slopes and landslides; geohazard risk; subsea geomorphology

Julian Murton: Permafrost; physical modelling; Quaternary environments in Arctic Canada and UK

David Robinson: Rock weathering; coastal processes; soil erosion and conservation; landform evolution


Research is supported by laboratory facilities dedicated to:

  • Cold core storage & sample archive
  • Microfossil analysis
  • Permafrost Laboratory
  • Rock cutting & regional geology archive
  • Rock weathering & abrasion
  • Sediment analysis
  • Sediment preparation

Equipment for research includes:

  • Climate cabinet (for rock weathering experiments)
  • Dedicated field vehicles (Landrover & van)
  • Horiba LA950 Particle Sizer
  • Livingstone, Russian & gouge coring equipment
  • National Instruments 128 channel LabVIEW laboratory data logger
  • Field based environmental dataloggers (Gemini & Grant)
  • Regional Climate Model (PRECIS)
  • Scanning electron microscope
  • Tacheometer & RTK-GPS (for high-precision field surveying)
  • Marine Wave recorders (S4DW) Valeport & Dobie Systems
  • Atomic Absorbsion Spectrometer
  • Micro Erosion Laser Scanner
  • Digimap

Technical support is supplied by a dedicated Experimental Officer and Computing and Information Systems Officer. The Global Studies Resource Centre has an extensive map library and aerial photographic collection.