Research

My research focuses on reconstructing past glacier fluctuations and glacier-climate interactions using evidence recorded by glacial landforms and sediments. These interests encompass a range of spatial scales (cirque glaciers to terrestrial ice sheet sectors), and my research has examined glacier fluctuations at both long-term (Greenland Stadial 2; Younger Dryas) and shorter (Little Ice Age to recent) timescales. Geographically, I am particularly interested in glacier fluctuations in upland Britain and the Nordic countries. A fundamental part of my research is the integration of multiple methods in a holistic approach, incorporating GIS, remote sensing and field methods. I also emphasise the use of modern analogues and a process-form approach (examination of both surface form and internal composition).

My research currently focuses on three main themes: (1) examining 20th and 21st Century glacier-climate interactions using moraines; (2) reconstructing the extent, style and dynamics of past mountain glaciers; and (3) ice-sheet deglaciation in upland terrain.


Examining glacier-climate interactions using moraines

Moraines are crucial landforms for reconstructing glacier dynamics of Quaternary ice masses, and potentially represent invaluable proxies for glacier-climate interactions. Thus, understanding the formation, significance and preservation potential of moraines in modern glacial settings – where they can be directly linked to glaciological and climatic conditions – is crucial to their application in palaeoglaciological contexts.

Research under this theme involves examining seasonal climatic controls on glacier dynamics (i.e. how the motion of glaciers varies in time and space) through mapping the distribution of moraines and studying their internal composition. I also employ statistical analysis of moraine spacing and climatic data.

Projects:

  • Application of ‘annual’ moraines to assess recent patterns and rates of ice-marginal retreat at Skálafellsjökull, southeast Iceland (Investigator: Benjamin Chandler; Supervisors: David J.A. Evans and David H. Roberts; Collaborators: Marek Ewertowski and Alex Clayton)
  • Seasonal climatic effects on Silvrettagletscher, Switzerland: insights from the moraine record (Investigators: Cianna Wyshnytzky; Benjamin Chandler; Sven Lukas; and Ellie Wilson)

Extent, style and dynamics of past mountain glaciers

Investigating the geomorphological signatures of former or formerly more extensive, discrete ice masses (cirque glaciers to ice-caps) enables the reconstruction of their three-dimensional form and dynamics. The reconstructions can, in turn, be used to calculate palaeoclimatic parameters for glaciated regions. The importance of this research is twofold: Firstly, it provides crucial palaeoclimatic data which are needed to test and refine numerical models. Secondly, detailed understanding of past glacier response to changing climate can help contextualise ongoing, and predicted, glacier fluctuations.

Research under this theme principally involves extensive geomorphological mapping (in the field and from aerial photographs) to establish the distribution and pattern of glacial landforms. This mapping is then used to reconstruct the three-dimensional form (extent, morphology and thickness) of Pleistocene glaciers, with a focus on discrete ice masses in the Scottish Highlands. I am also a collaborator on a current project examining the dynamics of Svartisen Østre Icefield, Norway, since the Little Ice Age.

Projects:

  • Younger Dryas glaciers and palaeoclimate in northwest Scotland (Investigators: Sven Lukas; Benjamin Chandler; Stephanie Mills; and Toby Sansom)

Ice-sheet deglaciation in upland terrain

This research theme uses geomorphological and sedimentary evidence to examine ice-sheet retreat patterns and deglaciation dynamics in upland settings, and the role of topography as ice-sheet breakup proceeds. In particular, this research is currently focused on examining the interactions of ‘local’ ice dispersal centres and ‘regional’ ice sheet lobes during ice-sheet deglaciation in Scotland. Important outstanding research issues include (a) is topography a key factor determining proposed stillstands/re-advances (i.e. are they topographically, rather than climatically/glaciologically, controlled)? and (b) did upland plateaux act as ‘havens’ for locally-sourced ice for long periods after decoupling from regional ice sheet lobes?

Projects:

  • Pattern and dynamics of (de)glaciation in the Eastern Grampians, Scotland (Investigators: Benjamin Chandler and Danni Pearce)

 

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