Physical Geography and Earth Science PhD Opportunities

Potential areas for PhD research are listed below, grouped by the Research Group (Earth Observation, Glaciology, Earth Surface Dynamics, Quaternary Environmental Change) that students would be affiliated with. Where applicants would like to propose their own topic they should approach potential supervisors directly to discuss their ideas well in advance of the application deadline.


Quaternary Environmental Change

Primary Supervisor –  Dr Sarah Davies                     

  • Late-glacial and Holocene environmental change recorded in lake sediments from upland Wales                             

Primary Supervisor – Professor Geoff Duller

  • Developing luminescence methods for dating basalts from Earth suitable for application to robotic exploration of Mars

Primary Supervisor – Professor John Grattan

  • Finding the First Factories: Archaeological remote sensing in Jordan through integration of radar and hyperspectral data     

Primary Supervisor – Professor Helen Roberts

Primary Supervisor - Professor Andrew Thomas

  • Projects concerning soils, carbon, carbon dioxide emissions, drylands, and wetlands in drylands.



Primary Supervisor - Dr Tom Holt

  • A multi-temporal inventory of Greenland’s independent ice caps and stand-alone glaciers
  • Glacier structure and debris evolution in a warming climate
  • Debris transport in receeding glaciers and implications for future melt

Plus projects relating to remote sensing in glaciology - contact Tom for informal discussions. 

Primary Supervisor – Professor Bryn Hubbard                

  • Fieldwork-based:
    Borehole-based investigations of englacial structure and processes at a temperate glacier
  • Remote sensing-based: 
    Remote sensing of the dynamics of outlet glaciers of the Greenland Ice Sheet
    The structure of valley glaciers on Mars                                   

Primary Supervisor - Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn


 Primary Supervisor - Dr Marie Busfield

  • Sedimentology and micromorphology of ancient glacial successions: Palaeoproterozoic, Cryogenian, Ordovician, Late Palaeozoic Ice Age, Pleistocene


Earth Observation Unit

Primary Supervisor - Dr Peter Bunting 

  • Projects involving the development of new and improved methods / techniques for analysing Earth Observation imagery – optical and/or SAR. For example, image segmentation, texture analysis, contextual classification, classification techniques (e.g., machine learning, deep learning). This work would enhance our RSGISLib ( software.
  • Projects investigating methods of improving the generation of analysis ready optical data (ARD). For example, atmospheric correction and cloud masking. This will enhance our ARCSI ( software.
  • Projects looking to automated the process of updating of land cover (i.e., change detection) mapping at large geographic scales (i.e., national, continental and global) using high resolution (Landsat, Sentinel 1 and 2) data.
  • Remote sensing of changes in mangrove forests at any scale.
  • Classification of very high resolution (i.e., UAV/drone imagery < 10cm resolution) to automatically retrieve broad land cover information. Might involve texture analysis and/or deep learning methods of classification.

Primary Supervisor - Dr Andy Hardy

  • Mapping malarial mosquito habitats using Earth Observation



Earth Surface Processes Research Group

Earth Surface Processes Research Group

Primary Superisor - Professor Andrew Thomas

  • Soil degradation, soil carbon, soil carbon dioxide emissions, impacts of grazing in a variety of temperate environments.
  • Woodlands, carbon accounting, soil micro-climates, hydrology (with Hywel Griffiths, Stephen Tooth and Paul Brewer).
  • Dryland soils, degradation, carbon, and wetlands in drylands – particularly in Spain, Botswana and Namibia (with Stephen Tooth).

Primary Supervisor – Professor Paul Brewer 

  • Mining impacts on river systems.
  • Application of hyperspectral remote sensing to the detection and assessment metal-contaminated floodplains.
  • Spatial and temporal changes in river channel instability.                                        

Primary Supervisory - Dr Hywel Griffiths

Primary Supervisor – Professor Stephen Tooth

  • Divided in flow but united in denudation? Establishing the temporal development of mixed bedrock-alluvial anabranching rivers
  • Wetlands in drylands as sociogeomorphological systems: an examination of the science-society-policy interface


Mircrobes and Earth Cluster

Microbes and Earth Cluster

Primary Supervisory - Dr Andrew Mitchell

  • Geochemical and biogeochemical aspects of carbon capture and storage – water, rock, microbe interactions.
  • Microbially enhanced carbon capture and storage
  • Microbially enhanced radionuclide and toxic metal pacification in groundwater and mine water
  • Geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry in subglacial environments – Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine.
  • Mineralogical controls on microbial communities in subglacial, groundwater and mine aqueous environments.