Doctoral research students 

Our Doctoral research students within the School research themes:

Environmental Health Sciences

Mukhtar Abdulrasheed ( )

Project title: The Effect of Spatial Settlement Patterns on Urban Climatology

Funded by Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) Nigeria

Supervised by Prof.  Rob MacKenzie and Prof.  Lee Chapman

Mukhtar is a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning, a M.Sc. Graduate of University of SouthWales and currently a PhD research student in Environmental Health Sciences in GEES. His research interests are in urban climatology and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).  His research focuses on novel ways of describing the spatial patterning of urban space. Basic fractal patterning is explored and the idea that simplicity can emerge from the complexity of fractal patterning gives the opportunity to develop powerful new ways of discussing how the structure of cities increases or decreases their vulnerability to hazards such as flooding, air pollution, UHI, crime, etc.


Manna Alwadei  (

Project title: Particulate matter (PM2.5) composition, sources and toxicity in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Funded by Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia; supervised by Professor William Bloss and Dr Zongbo Shi.

Particulate matter (PM) is considered as a form of hazardous pollutant that threatens human lives. In Saudi Arabia, little research has been done to study PM composition, sources and toxicity. This research is aiming to investigate PM2.5 composition, sources and toxicity in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Samples will be collected from Dammam in 2018-19. Compositions of interest in this project will include trace elements which will be analyzed by ICP-MS; water soluble ions which will be investigated by IC; and organic and elemental carbon which will be examined by the Sunset Laboratory Thermo-Optical Carbon Aerosol Analyser. Toxicity will be studied by the ability of PM to produce oxidative potential (OP) by using DTT assay. The source of PM will be ascertained through EPA PMF module.


Jennifer Ebele Anekwe (

Project title: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Freshwater Aquatic Environment.

Supervised by: Professor Stuart Harrad and Dr Mohamed Abdallah

My research examines the exposure of humans and aquatic biota to the group of emerging contaminants known as Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs). This research involves applying various analytical techniques (including solid phase extraction (SPE) and LC-MS/MS) to the determination of PPCPs in various surface and wastewater samples in both developed and developing countries. To date, I have used these techniques to determine PPCP biomarkers in effluent from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) across Australia and used these data to estimate the exposure or consumption of the population to a defined substance (e.g. paracetamol). I am also studying the monthly and seasonal variation in concentrations of PPCPs in both UK and Nigerian waterways.


Aileen Baird (

Project title: Investigating the impact of enriched atmospheric carbon dioxide on environmental fungal populations

Funded by NERC via the DREAM CDT, Supervised by Professor Francis Pope (GEES), and Professor Robin May (Biosciences).

Aileen’s work investigates the impact that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has on fungal populations in forests. In order to understand the response of the forest as a whole to climate change, and more specifically CO2, it is essential to understand the fungal response. Fungi play key roles in the carbon and nutrient cycles; via nutrient delivery to plants, decomposition, as well as causing plant and human diseases.

Aileen works closely with the team at BIFoR; a deciduous oak woodland with a FACE experiment exposing areas of the woodland to concentrations of CO2 150ppm above current levels. Using a combination of traditional techniques such as fungal fruiting body surveys, with metagenomic analysis of samples from BIFoR, Aileen is characterising the fungal populations on site and investigating how they may be altered by increased CO2. In conjunction with fieldwork, Aileen is also completing laboratory experiments to investigate how fungi are affected by different nutrient concentrations and CO2 under more controlled conditions. Aileen’s work is important in the environmental mycology field, providing long term measurements of fungi at a single site, how these populations respond to CO2, and what this means for our forests.


Alfred S. Bockarie (

Project title: Air quality and climate impact of charcoal production in Africa.

Supervised by Dr Eloise Marais and Professor Rob MacKenzie.

Alfred has M.Sc. in Geomatic Engineering, M.Sc. in Renewable Energy and the Environment and B.Sc. in Environmental Science. He has more than 6 years of teaching and working experience in GIS, Surveying and Environmental consultancy. His research interests are in the fields of GIS, Energy and Climate Change. 


Dimitrios Bousiotis (

Project title: Elucidation of ultrafine particle sources and factors influencing particle formation in south-eastern UK.

Supervised by Professor Roy Harrison and Professor Francis Pope.

Dimitrios has a degree and a MSc in Environmental Engineering and is currently undertaking  a PhD in Atmospheric Science and Air Pollution. His research is focused on understanding the sources of ultrafine particles in urban and rural environments in south-eastern UK. Additionally, as gas-to-particle formation (nucleation) is an important production mechanism of new particles in the atmosphere, his research mainly focuses in elucidating the conditions and trends of new particle formation, as well as their development in south-eastern UK, around the area of greater London. The effect of the urban environment in both particle composition and particle formation is also looked into, by comparatively studying different kinds of environments - rural, urban background and roadside - in close proximity.


Jiali Feng (

Project title: Modelling of the surface-air temperature relationship in urban environments.

Supervised by Dr Xiaoming Cai, Professor Lee Chapman.

Jiali is a geographer and meteorologist interested in urban climate using GIS and numerical models. She is investigating the relationship between satellite-sensed land surface temperature and air temperature derived from weather stations in Birmingham, UK and Oklahoma, US respectively. The research deploys both statistical analysis and numerical models (Weather Research and Forecasting mode, WRF). Results from the research are promising to provide new knowledge related to the physical processes and interaction between land surface and atmosphere, which are of benefit for most temperature-related studies in urban areas. 


James Hodgson (

Project title: Urban Traffic Pollution: A Big Data Approach.

Supervised by Professor Roy Harrison and Professor Francis Pope.

Urban air quality is an increasingly important issue for both developed and developing cities globally. A major contributor to poor urban air quality are vehicle emissions, namely Nitrogen Oxides, Particulate Matter, Ozone, Volatile Organic Compounds and Carbon Dioxide. These pollutants have significant long- and short-term health implications, with air pollution resulting in approximately 40,000 deaths per year in Great Britain. Despite this, little is known about the extent to which vehicle emissions contribute and influence urban air quality, particularly with discrepancies between European Drive Cycle tests and emissions produced under real-world driving conditions becoming increasingly prevalent. This research looks to utilise ‘black box’ telematics data for 250,000 vehicles within Birmingham in conjunction with vehicle specific power and emissions calculations to determine how urban traffic influences Birmingham’s air quality. Through the use of traffic flow simulations, options for improving the cities air quality will be explored, along with confounding factors such as the cities widely studied urban heat island effect.


Angeliki Kourmouli (

Project title: Impact of enhanced CO2 on soil respiration and nutrient dynamics at BIFoR FACE.

Funded by the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research with additional support from the Horseman Trust.  Supervised by Dr Zongbo Shi, Dr Rebecca Bartlett and Dr Liz Hamilton (University of Gloucestershire).

Angeliki is an environmental scientist interested in the impact that climate change will have on the processes occurring to a forest floor. Given the fact that temperate forests are of global significance to carbon cycling, she is using BIFoR's FACE facility as her experimental site and focuses mostly on the soil respiration under elevated atmospheric CO2. Soil respiration being the second largest flux in the global carbon cycling, her research's main aspect is to quantify the contributions of heterotrophic and autotrophic respiration in the total soil respiration, and therefore improving understanding of temperate forest responses to rising CO2 concentrations. Soil respiration depends strongly on the soil nutrient dynamics, thus she is also monitoring the bioavailable nutrients in the soil.


Vasileios Matthaios (

Project title: Direct Measurement of On-Road Vehicle Emissions in the UK: Implications for Air Quality.

Funded by NERC. Supervised by Professor William Bloss and Professor Francis Pope.

Vasilis is an Environmental engineer with a master’s degree in environmental chemistry. His PhD research aims to understand the actual, real-world emissions from traffic. This comprises two aspects.  Firstly, fleet vehicle emissions, where measurements with a mobile laboratory, tunnel observations and flux measurements at a high altitude aim to improve the current vehicle emission inventories. Secondly, by exploring the relationship between outdoor air quality and the exposure of car passengers inside different vehicles to air pollution as a function of ventilation settings, with the aim to improve understanding of exposure and hence health impacts for car passengers and pedestrians.


Pirutchada Musigapong (

Project title : Reactivity and Toxicity of Silica Nanoforms found in Cosmetics.

Funded by the Royal Thai Government and supervised by Professor Eva (Eugenia) Valsami-Jones and  Professor Iseult Lynch

The use of nanomaterials in food, medicines, and cosmetics has been increasing over the last decade. Additionally, the cosmetics industry has been required by EU legislation since 2013 to provide specific data relevant to the safety assessment of any nanomaterials in cosmetic products; particular emphasis has been given to the presence of silica nanoforms, especially synthetic amorphous silica (SAS). The purpose of this PhD project is to evaluate the reactivity and toxicity of silica nanoforms, in the context of their use in cosmetics. A variety of analytical methods may be used to characterize nanomaterials. Synchrotron-based techniques have an exceptional potential to elucidate the properties of silica nanoforms, given their high resolution and data acquisition speed. The work will initially focus on the characterization of amorphous SiO2, using laboratory techniques including DLS, TEM, BET and XRD. Later, synchrotron-based SAXS and XAS will be used for more detailed characterization. The combination of a range of analytical techniques, including synchrotron, should allow in-depth understanding of the cellular interactions of silica nanoparticles and any potential effects on humans.


Helen Pearce (

Project title: Real-time integrated modelling of transport-related air pollution in urban street networks – risk assessment and policy evaluation.

Funded by the ESRC and NERC through the DREAM CDT;  supervised by Dr Zhaoya Gong, Dr Xiaoming Cai, and Professor William Bloss.

Helen completed her undergraduate in Geography at the University of Birmingham in 2016 and was awarded the David Thomas Prize for contributions to the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science. Having obtained a Distinguished Alumni Scholarship, she continued at UoB and obtained an MSc in Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

Air pollution poses a significant threat to people’s health and a large contribution to an individual’s pollution exposure comes from road transport emissions. However, this is currently not measured or modelled at a realistic resolution. This project will use a disaggregated activity-based demand model (MATSim) to simulate driving behaviour, which will in turn feed into an emissions model, and this will provide input for a photochemical air quality box model. Once the modelling framework is established on a theoretical road network, it will be applied to an area in Birmingham of approximately 1 km2. The final aim is to then alter the travel flow to account for different policy decisions such as Clean Air Zones, and evaluate the resulting air quality.


Sue Quick (

Project title: Tree-soil-water relations under elevated CO2. 

Supervised by Professor Rob MacKenzie and Professor Stefan Krause.

In September 2016, I started a part-time PhD with Birmingham Institute for Forest Research (BIFoR) and undertake practical research work in their Staffordshire woodland. As a cross disciplinary student, I have achieved chartership in two professions, engineering and occupational safety and health, and enjoyed a successful working career. Embarking on forest ecohydrology keeps me stimulated and active whilst using my existing skills and experience.

My project investigates how water mediates carbon absorption and transport in mature deciduous woodland under enhanced CO2 reflecting predicted levels for 2050 as part of the Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Free-Air CO2 (FACE) science.

Measurements help to ascertain potential ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the forest ecology as the atmospheric composition changes. I have been defining, planning, installing and commissioning instrumentation relating to water/ water vapour cycling through the research woods, including through the trees, the most exciting of which has been using heat pulse probes to measure xylem sapflow.

Specific measures, either from core measurements such as soil moisture, or more project specific data such as heat pulse sapflow will be used to populate the water cycle budget and derive Water Use Efficiency (WUE) figures for each tree measured, extrapolated for each research patch.


Suleiman Saidu Suleiman (

Project Title: Phytoremediation of crude oil contaminated soil using vetiver grass.  Funded by the Petroleum technology development fund (PTDF) Nigeria. Supervised by Dr Lesley Batty and Professor Iseult Lynch.

This research is aimed at determining the effectiveness of Chrypsopogon zizanioides also known as vetiver grass in degrading and immobilising persistent oil pollutants particularly the 16 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) classified by United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) as priority pollutants. The experiment was conducted in a glasshouse by growing the plant C. zizanioides in a crude oil contaminated soil under the influence of biosurfactant (ramphnolipids) produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Similarly, all the contaminated soil samples were amended with N.P.K fertilizer to promote the growth of C. zizanioides and microbial activities. Additionally, the influence of earthworms in degrading petroleum hydrocarbons in the crude oil contaminated soils was also analyzed in a second phase experiment. Likewise, the assessment of the (bio) distribution of the petroleum hydrocarbons particularly the PAHs was carried out via Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC MS). It is highly anticipated that the results and findings of this research will help in dissipating persistent contaminants such as PAHs in the crude oil contaminated soils under the influence of C. zizanioides and soil organisms that include (ramphnolipids and earthworms) as compared to the control samples.


Andrew Tongue (

Project title: Birds as Bioindicators of Flame Retardant emissions from Landfill.

Funded by NERC with contributions from Environment and Climate Change Canada, The Seabird Group and the Waterbird Society.

Waste streams are important reservoirs of several persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including legacy brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Landfill is often an important foraging substrate for birds (e.g., gulls Larus spp.). Because of their widespread distribution, broad foraging niches, and the fact that contaminants often sequester in eggs, birds can be important bioindicators of environmental POPs contamination. Studies show correlations between bird use of landfill and elevated avian BFR burdens. However, in Europe, few studies have examined BFR contamination in birds; ours is the first to investigate such contaminants across a UK landfill species-assemblage. I am researching legacy BFRs: polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDD), plus novel BFRs (NBFRs) in the eggs of five gull species: black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, common gull Larus canus, great black-backed gull L. marinus, European herring gull L. argentatus and lesser black-backed gull L. fuscus, all of which are of conservation concern.


Karn Vohra (

Project title - Development of a new tool to quantify air pollution detrimental to human health and food security in rapidly urbanising cities.

Funded by a University of Birmingham Global Challenges studentship; Supervised by: Dr Eloise Marais and Professor William Bloss.

My work involves trying to understand how urban air pollution is evolving over time, using satellite observations to monitor cities, particularly in the developing world. By building a tool to monitor air pollution, we can better understand the urban environment, and provide city planners and stakeholders with the information they need to develop action plans to improve air quality. This work excites me because we're trying to look for a solution to a problem of global concern. It's something that will have real life impact as air pollution is detrimental to both human health and food security.


Michael Walz (

Project title: Hazard Uncertainty and Related Damage Potentials of extra-tropical Cyclones.

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP.

Michael Walz is a trained Meteorologist undertaking doctoral research into extreme extra-tropical cyclones and their potential impact on domestic properties (e.g. housing).  The major task is to identify and to quantify uncertainties related to probabilistic seasonal to decadal forecasts of these extreme events and to see how these meteorological uncertainties eventually affect economic loss models (e.g. CAT models).


Ruixin Xu (

Project title: Behaviour of Nanoparticles Emitted by Road Traffic.

Supervised by Professor Roy Harrison and Dr Salim Alam.

Ruixin is working on the study of ultrafine particulates arising from road traffic and her work is a part of the FASTER project (Fundamental Studies of the Sources, Properties and Environmental Behaviour of Exhaust Nanoparticles from Road Vehicles). Within the urban environment road traffic, particularly diesel vehicles, is one of the most significant sources of particles. Many uncertainties exist regarding the semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC) within the particles, which partitions directly between gas and particulate phase under ambient conditions. Detailed knowledge of the identities and chemical composition of SVOC is elusive, as traditional gas chromatographic methods are unable to separate and characterise complex mixtures adequately. For this study, atmospheric samples were collected from a street canyon and the adjacent park in central London to evaluate the change in composition of SVOC during advection from the traffic to the cleaner atmosphere. The samples were analysed using thermal desorption coupled to comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TD-GC×GC-ToF-MS). SVOC in both gas and particle phases from C12 to C31 were identified and quantified, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the semi-volatile organic compounds emitted from traffic. 

Earth Sciences

Amy Thorpe (

PhD title: Unlocking the Toolbox of Soil Bacterial Biomarkers

Supervisors: Dr Dan Read (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Dr James Bendle (University of Birmingham)

Amy’s PhD research aims to characterise the relationship between 3-hydroxy fatty acids (3-OH-FAs), the species of bacteria that produce them, and the climate. The structure and distribution of 3-OH-FAs in terrestrial ecosystems varies with the climate as a consequence of the physiological response of bacteria to temperature and pH. These fatty acids can therefore act as biomarkers of environmental conditions. Working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, she is using molecular and bioinformatic approaches to investigate the diversity of the bacterial community in soils and couple this with 3-OH-FA distributions and environmental factors. An improved understanding of the ecological responses of the bacterial community responsible for the correlation between 3-OH-FAs and the environment is required to enable development of the use of these biomarkers in the reconstruction of paleoclimates.


Alice Hardman (

PhD title: Development and application of novel palaeoclimate proxies based on 3-hydroxy fatty acids

Supervisors: Dr James Bendle, Dr Tom Dunkley-Jones

Alice’s PhD research is in palaeoclimatology and organic geochemistry. In particular, working with 3-hydroxy fatty acids (3-OH FAs), which are sourced from Gram-negative soil bacteria. 3-OH FA biochemistry is influenced by environmental conditions, such as soil temperature and pH. Therefore 3-OH FAs have potential as a novel terrestrial palaeoclimate biomarker. This PhD research will involve a continental calibration of 3-OH FAs in the USA, by extracting such fatty acids from surface soil and lake sediment samples from US soil and lake transects. The results will develop the current understanding of the physiological response of Gram-negative bacteria to their external environment, and will contribute to the application of 3-OH FAs as a terrestrial palaeoclimate biomarker.


Adam Browne (

The key aim of Adam’s research is to develop a detailed model of the stratigraphy and emplacement of the Antrim Lava Group within the setting of the North Atlantic Igneous Province. The relationship between the Antrim Lava Group magmatism, lava emplacement and continental breakup remains incompletely understood. Eruption rates are challenging to reconstruct on short timescales, but a detailed understanding of lava emplacement can help better constrain the role of magma generation within continental rifting processes and provide robust models to aid related resource exploration and definition. Techniques, developments and publications generated by this work will inform work at international sites found in India, South Africa, Siberia and feed into Central Atlantic (CAMP) studies.


Zainab Abdullah Issa Al Rawahi (

PhD title: Nannoplankton Biostratigraphy, Paleoceanographic and Paleoenvironmental implications of the Fiqa Formation, Oman.

Zainab Al Rawahi is undertaking doctoral research into the biostratigraphy of nannofossils and other calcareous microfossils, as well as their paleoceanographic and paleoenvironmental implications, in the Fiqa Formation from North and South Oman. The project is sponsored by PDO (Petroleum Development Oman). The research focuses on bio-chronostratigraphic subdivision and correlation based on nannoplankton biostratigraphy and integration with existing microfossils and geological data . Zainab is mainly using routine nannoplankton biostratigraphy work, XRF analysis and carbon isotope techniques. These allow for new constraints on the age and its diachronous nature across the subsurface. As well as achieving a basin-wide correlation to help in the understanding of the complexity of the Late Cretaceous basin and its sequence stratigraphy, provenance and sediment entry points, time stratigraphy vs. lithostratigraphy and integration with seismic stratigraphy.


David Cavell (

PhD title: Investigating the role of oceanic plateaus in early continental growth.

Supervisors: Dr Alan Hastie and Dr Sebastian Watt

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP

David is researching modern analogues of early continental crust to better understand the processes which formed Earth’s first continents. This early continental crust is composed largely of tonalities, tronjhemites and granodiorites (TTG). The oldest of these rocks is Eoarchaean (3.6 - 4.0 Ga) TTG (ETTG), derived from melting of thick, basaltic crust. ETTG have modern analogues in volcanic rocks derived from partial melting of subducted oceanic plateau in Jamaica, known as Jamaican-type adakites (JTA). David is studying rocks from Panama and Colombia with compositions similar to JTA, to see if their mode of formation is similar to JTA and ETTG.  


Daniel Cox (

Supervisors: Dr Sebastian Watt and Dr Alan Hastie

Daniel’s research focuses on investigating the distribution of the economically important chalcophile elements (e.g., Cu, Ag, Pb) above subduction zones. Using the Central and Southern Volcanic Zones in Chile as an example, this work aims to understand the processing of the chalcophile elements within the sub-arc mantle wedge and the continental crust. Daniel’s research has implications for understanding the cycling of Sulphur within a subduction zone and for the generation of ore deposits.


Rosemary Dartnall (

PhD title: The sedimentology, stratigraphy, and age of the the mélange deposits of the Gwna Group, Anglesey and Llŷn, north-west Wales.

Supervisors: Professor Ian Fairchild and Dr James Wheeley, University of Birmingham; Professor Paul Smith, University of Oxford;  Dr David Schofield, British Geological Survey.

The Gwna mélange crops out on Anglesey and north-west Wales, along with geographically associated blueschist and greenschist belts, considered collectively to comprise a record of Neoproterozoic subduction. Rosemary’s Gwna Group work includes field study, petrographic and geochemical analyses designed to elucidate the genetic history of the Gwna mélange. Questions include: How and when was the mélange formed? What was the regional tectonic setting at that time? How does the mélange relate to the units below and above? Does the tectonic setting concur with what the known mosaic of early Palaeozoic peri-Gondwanan terrane dispersal and the history of the Iapetus Ocean?


Emma Dunne (

PhD title: Quantifying patterns of diversity during the rise of tetrapods.

Supervisors: Professor Richard Butler and Dr Roger Close.

Emma’s research focuses on the patterns and drivers of terrestrial vertebrate (tetrapod) diversity and biogeography from the Carboniferous to Jurassic (359-175 million years ago). Currently there is widespread disagreement about major patterns of diversity change during these intervals, stemming from the debate on the significance of spatial and temporal sampling biases. Emma uses a diverse range of computational methods, including rigorous sampling standardisation, to address key questions surrounding tetrapod diversity and biogeography including: how ecosystems responded in the aftermath of environmental change; are changes in diversity correlated with major shifts in global climatic conditions; how sampling of the tetrapod fossil record varies in time and space, and to what extent these biases may limit the identification of genuine diversity patterns. 


Jonathan Hall (

PhD title: Plio-Pleistocene environmental and oceanographic change in the North Atlantic Ocean

Supervisors: Dr Steve Jones, Dr Tom Dunkley Jones and Dr James Bendle(University of Birmingham)

Jonathan’s research aims to generate new palaeoenvironmental, palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic understandings of the Neogene NE Atlantic. It focuses on the multi-proxy environmental analysis of several industrial and scientific boreholes on the NW European continental margin, with a particular focus on the impact of long-term oceanic gateway morphology on NE Atlantic oceanography and climate.

Twitter: @jhgeol


Alastair Hodgetts (

PhD Title: Volcanic Hazards in the Mexico City Region: Probing a 500,000 year record of diverse eruptions from a lacustrine succession.

Supervisors: Dr Sebastian Watt (University of Birmingham), Dr Victoria Smith (University of Oxford), Prof Mike Branney (University of Leicester).

Alastair’s research is aimed at understanding the tempo and style of explosive volcanic eruptions in the Mexico City region. He is primarily investigating a lacustrine core preserving an extensive tephra and volcaniclastic record of past eruptions to determine the variation in volcanic output over timescales comparable to the lifetime of local volcanoes; thus providing an important context to understanding present-day hazards in Mexico City. His research interests include the use of physical volcanological, tephrostratigraphical and tephrochronological approaches to decipher volcanic archives and deposits.


Murray Hoggett (

PhD title: A Global Analysis of Igneous Sill Dimensions and their Effect on Sedimentary Basins and Petroleum System - Statistics and Modelling of Seismic Observations.

Supervisors: Dr Steve Jones, Dr Carl Stevenson

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP.

I am a geologist and geophysicist, working on a wide range of topics in the Earth Sciences. I research:

  • The emplacement of sills and igneous intrusions
  • Paleocene-Eocene boundary climate change
  • How sedimentary basins fill 
  • The movement of faults and subsidence of the lithosphere
  • The mechanics of slow spreading mid ocean ridges

I process and interpret seismic data and combine this with numerical and analytical modeling to study phenomenon at micro and macro scales. I also undertake field work, including digital mapping and the use of drones, and processing and interpretation of photogrametric and multispectral remote sensing data. My research has recently been published in Geology, Lithos and Climates of the Past. 


Rohazaini Muhammad Jamil (

PhD title: Estimating urban direct recharge using a GIS approach (ArcSWAT).

Supervisor: Professor John Tellam

Funded by the Ministry of Education of Malaysia.

My current work focusses specifically on groundwater direct recharge using ArcSWAT model in urban environment. The aim of this study is to develop an ArcSWAT model of Birmingham urban aquifer and use the model to explore the impacts of recharge on applications such as sustainable urban drainage, urban planning, climate change and water futures.


Kate Newton (

Supervisor: Dr James Bendle

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP

Kate’s research is in palaeoceanography, involving organic geochemistry and stable isotope techniques. These are applied to marine sediment samples from a variety of locations and time periods, including Holocene and Recent sediments from the Antarctic coastal zone (Adélie Land) which are being used to reconstruct glacial meltwater, primary productivity and ocean temperatures. She is also working to reconstruct pCO2 and sea-surface temperatures from various locations during the Miocene.


Chisomaga Opara-Nestor (

PhD title:  Seismic reflection imaging and analysis of fault network connectivity.

Supervisors: Professor Tim Reston and Dr Stephen Jones.

Chisomaga’s research interest is in geophysics, specifically reflection seismology. It deals with using advanced seismic reflection imaging processes to image and analyse complex geological structures (highly faulted structures) which occur in places like the mid-ocean ridges and rifted margins. His research will be looking at processing issues, including imaging and migration challenges due to complex velocity structures resulting from  anisotropic complex geometries and side-coming energies.  Available data-sets include 
2D lines from the Brazilian margin, a 3D seismic volume from the Galicia rifted margin and newly collected data from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge spreading centre. 


Ulrike Baranowski (

PhD title: Early and middle Eocene palaeoenvironmental and tectonic reconstructions from the Rockall Trough

Supervisors: Dr Tom Dunkley Jones, Dr Kirsty Edgar and Dr James Bendle (University of Birmingham)

Ulrike’s research is focused on palaeoclimate and environmental reconstructions of extreme warmth during the Early Eocene Climate Optimum (EECO). Based on planktonic foraminifera and organic biomarker geochemistry she is generating new sea surface temperature proxy data from a site with exceptionally preserved calcareous microfossils from the Rockall Trough, NE Atlantic.


Juan Pablo Castañeda (

PhD title: Patterns and drivers of early Cretaceous benthic foraminifera in the UK

Supervisors: Dr Ian Boomer and Dr Kirsty Edgar (University of Birmingham), and Dr Haydon Bailey (Formerly of Network Stratigraphic)

Juan Pablo’s research focuses on the response of benthic Foraminifera to major global changes during the Early Cretaceous. He aims to investigate the role that changes in climate and marine ecosystems may have played in the diversification of this major group of microfossils.


Marcelo de Lira Mota (

PhD title: Palaeoclimate reconstruction of the last greenhouse-icehouse transition based on geochemical and micropalaeontological records from central Mississippi, US Gulf Coastal Plain

Supervisors: Dr Tom Dunkley Jones and Dr James Bendle (University of Birmingham), Dr Guy Harrington (Petrostrat)

Marcelo’s research aims to document sea level and ecological perturbations associated with global cooling at the Eocene-Oligocene transition. This research is based on exceptionally preserved palynomorphs preserved in the late Eocene Yazoo Clay succession of Jackson Mississippi, and bulk sediment geochemistry.


Michael McKnight (

PhD title: New Paleogene bio- and chemo-stratigraphies from key exploration areas in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean

Supervisors: Dr Kirsty Edgar andDr Tom Dunkley Jones (University of Birmingham), Dr Carina Hoorn (UWE)

Mike’s research focuses on reconstructing biostratigraphic and palaeoclimatic history for the equatorial Atlantic region across the Eocene-Oligocene transitionutilizing well preserved calcareous microfossils from the Foz Do Amazonas basin in the Amazon Fan and Mossy Grove, Mississippi coast. This work will be integrated with global records of past environment and fill a key data gap in existing palaeoclimate models.


Dana Noory Ridha (

PhD title: Miocene deep-sea benthic foraminifera from ODP Sites 752, 1139 and 1168 (Southern Indian Ocean)

Supervisors: Dr Ian Boomer andDr Kirsty Edgar (University of Birmingham)

Dana’s research focuses on Neogene deep-sea palaeoenvironments and palaeoceanography of the Indian Ocean. He uses benthic microfossil assemblages (foraminifera and ostracods) to trace deep-water circulation changes and ventilation history associated with long-term cooling. He is also interested in the taxonomy of benthic foraminifera.


Emma Hanson (

PhD title: Automated Image Analysis for Rapid Biostratigraphic Data Collection

Supervisors: Dr Tom Dunkley Jones, Dr Stephan Lautenschlager, Prof. Ales Leonardis (University of Birmingham) and Dr Manuel Viera (Shell)

Emma’s research aims to set up an automated image analysis system for rapid biostratigraphic data collection (focussing on calcareous nannofossils), initially using sediments spanning the past 10 million years, recovered from the Browse Basin on the NW Australian shelf. She will also use novel methods to gain a greater insight into the palaeoclimate of the area, using geochemical techniques and assemblage data.

Google Scholar page


Amy Jones (

PhD title: Macroevolution and Biogeography of Eocene-Oligocene Coccolithophores

Supervisors: Dr Tom Dunkley Jones and Prof. Richard Butler (University of Birmingham), and Dr Liam Gallagher (Network Stratigraphic)

Amy’s research focuses on the identifying potential climate and environmental drivers of macroevolutionary change in tropical coccolithophore communities (calcareous phytoplankton). In particular, Amy is studying the two major phases of global cooling and ice sheet expansion of the Cenozoic: the Eocene-Oligocene transition (Java) and the late Neogene transition into bipolar glaciation (IODP Expedition 363 Site U1482 and U1483, NW Australian Shelf). 


Nicola Kirby (

PhD title: Climate or tectonics as the dominant driver of global climate and ocean circulation patterns in ancient high-CO2 worlds?

Supervisors: Dr Kirsty Edgar andDr Tom Dunkley Jones (University of Birmingham)

Nicola’s doctoral research involves reconstructing climate and ocean circulation across key greenhouse intervals in the past, e.g. the early Paleogene and the Cretaceous, when CO2levels were higher than today. Her focus is on material recovered during IODP Expedition 369, in the Indian Ocean off the southwest coast of Australia. She uses these records to assess the relative influences of ocean circulation and tectonic change, related to the opening of the Tasman Passage, on global climate. In particular, to assess what drove global cooling following peak warmth in these greenhouse intervals. Her methods include foraminiferal micropaleontology, and sediment and foraminiferal geochemistry to reconstruct past climate and ocean circulation.


Charlotte Bird (

PhD title: Brain evolution in pre-mammalian cynodonts and the role of intraspecific variation

Supervisors: Dr Stephan Lautenschlager andProf. Richard Butler (University of Birmingham), Professor Paul Barrett (Natural History Museum, London) and Dr Martin Reuklin (Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Leiden)

Through virtual palaeontology, Charlotte aims to digitally reconstruct soft tissues lost to the fossil record to observe the evolutionary changes in endocranial anatomy within non-mammalian cynodonts from their late Permian origins to modern relatives (such as the opossum). Specifically, she generates  3D models of the brain, inner ear and neurovascular structures facilitating quantitative analyses of the roles intraspecific variation, sexual dimorphism and developmental stage play in the evolution of endocranial structures.

Importantly, the relatively sparse fossil record for cynodonts means they are understudied, hence this project provides new contextualisation of the subsequent impacts of palaeoneurobiological changes upon species’ intelligence and sensory capabilities. Furthermore, the project assesses the bias in digital reconstruction techniques created by software and the user, permitting understanding of the impacts upon inferences made, a topic of multidisciplinary importance.


Ffion Ma (

PhD title: Functional morphology of oviraptorosaurs

Supervisors: Dr Stephan Lautenschlager and Professor Richard Butler (University of Birmingham); Dr Michael Pittman (University of Hong Kong)

Ffion is originally from Hong Kong. She completed her MSc at the University of Edinburgh, using geometric morphometrics to study skull form in oviraptorosaurian dinosaurs. For her PhD, she is further exploring oviraptorosaur functional morphology using 3D modelling techniques.


Luke Meade (

PhD title: Functional morphology of Oviraptorosauria and the evolution of dietary diversity in theropods

Supervisors: Dr Stephan Lautenschlager and Professor Richard Butler (University of Birmingham); Dr Michael Pittman (University of Hong Kong)

Luke is undertaking a comprehensive biomechanical study on the skulls of oviraptorosaurs, a group of feathered theropod dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of North America and Asia. These animals are characterised by robust, stubby, often toothless beaks which leave the feeding behaviour and ecosystem position of Oviraptorosauria enigmatic due to a lack of other evidence. He will use 3D data to reconstruct and visualise the skulls and musculature of key taxa (e.g. Incisivosaurus, Citipati, Khaan, Gigantoraptor and Anzu) and conduct biomechanical analyses including finite element modelling to test how their skulls may have functioned. The analyses may reveal patterns of change in the form and function of the skull and lower jaw through the group Oviraptorosauria and whether different skull modifications can be linked as adaptations to specific diets (durophagy, insectivory, herbivory). Ultimately, this may reveal a picture of how complex dietary diversity patterns were in Oviraptorosauria and in other derived theropod groups throughout millions of years. Insight from this may be applied to interpret trends in feeding behaviour in other important extinct and extant taxa and ecosystems. 


Lisa Schnetz (

PhD title: The completeness of the early shark fossil record

Supervisors: Dr Ivan Sansom and Prof. Richard Butler(University of Birmingham)

Sharks have inhabited this planet for over 400 million years and have maintained their status as top predators up until today. While we know a substantial amount about their history and diversification patterns from later geological periods, little is known about both their early history and diversity. There is a 50-million-year gap between the earliest findings of scales and the first shark teeth, where we have no indication of shark-like properties in the fossil record. Fossils of sharks are rarely preserved beyond the teeth and jaw sections, thus making it more difficult to investigate them. This project will aim to assess and investigate the quality of the fossil record of early sharks using new approaches to estimate the fossil record completeness of early sharks in order to address a series of key questions, including: (1) How complete is the early shark fossil record in comparison with other groups? (2) Is completeness impacted by ecological categories, habitat preferences, and/or body sizes? (3) Are changes in completeness correlated with major changes and shifts in global marine diversity, including evolutionary radiations and mass extinctions? (4) How do changes in completeness correlate with broader estimates of fossil record sampling through time and space?

Struan Henderson (

PhD title: Macroevolutionary trends in Palaeozoic osteichthyans

Supervisors: Dr Sam Giles and Prof. Richard Butler (University of Birmingham)

Struan Henderson completed his BSci and MScR degrees at the University of Edinburgh. His PhD research focuses on macroevolutionary trends in Palaeozoic osteichthyan fish, with particular focus on the diversity and distribution of ray-finned fish. He also employs high-resolution CT-scans of fossil fish to determine their internal anatomy and construct 3D models.

Physical Geography

Raquel Arias Font (

Project title: Testing the effect of hydrological alteration on stream ecosystem functioning. Supervised by Dr Mark Ledger and Professor Alexander Milner

My current research focus on the ecological effects of environmental flows with a European collaborative project, Euro-FLOW project (Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN). Using a mesocosm approach in the EcoLAB facilities, we aim to disentangle the mechanism regulating ecosystem functionality and how flow components as timing or variation rate can modify river communities and the functions provided by those. The overall goal is to identify possible management techniques to enhance river functions as water purification or biomass production to ensure the wellbeing of humans and nature. 

More information about the project can be found on:  @EuroFLOW_ITN


Nicolai Brekenfeld (

Project title: Hydrology and nutrient spiralling at forest groundwater - surface-water interfaces.

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP. Supervised by Professor Stefan Krause (UoB), Professor David Hannah (UoB), Dr Nicholas Kettridge (UoB), Professor Hjalmar Laudon (SLU, Sweden), Professor Kevin Bishop (SLU, Sweden).

I am interested in the spatial and temporal dynamics of groundwater - surface-water interactions and their impacts on stream and hyporheic metabolism. Specifically, I am analyzing the effects of variable discharge regimes on small-scale, bedform related hyporheic exchange. In addition to the bedform scale, I am also conducting experiments on the reach-scale, comparing the metabolism (tracer and nutrients) of contrasting stream reaches (e.g. steep-flat, re-naturated - natural). I am using Resazurin and dissolved oxygen dynamics to measure the metabolism in-stream and in the hyporheic zone and developed micro-EC sensors for quantifiying the groundwater - surface-water interactions on the bedform scale.


Lucinda Capewell (

Project title: Changing risk, perceptions and responses with shifting Flood Risk Management in the UK and Netherlands.

Funded by NERC and ESRC through the DREAM CDT.

Lucinda is a geographer with an interest in the hydrology and impacts of flooding events. Working as part of the Hydrological Extremes research group, her research uses the UK and Netherlands as case studies to investigate how changes in flood risk, perceptions and responses are coinciding with shifting flood management practices, from solely structural defences to integrated flood risk management approaches. The research will be supported by community interviews and surveys, mapping, serious games and socio-hydrological modelling.

Prior to her research at the University of Birmingham, Lucinda completed her BSc at the University of Chester in Geography and Natural Hazard Management, followed by her MSc at the University of Manchester in Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction. Lucinda also undertook a placement at CH2Mhill as part of the river and flood modelling team, and remained working with them to complete her MSc thesis that investigated changes to the River Eden rating curve at Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, following the 2015/2016 UK Storm Desmond flood events.


Sophie Comer-Warner (

Project title: Drivers of Microbial Metabolism, Nutrient Cycling and Greenhouse Gas Production in Agricultural Streambed Sediments.

Supervised by Professor Stefan Krause (University of Birmingham) and Dr Daren Gooddy (British Geological Survey).

My research focusses on the factors affecting nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas production in the hyporheic zone of both chalk and sandstone streams. Specifically, I am interested in nitrogen and carbon cycling, and the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. I am investigating controlling factors on biogeochemical cycling and how these interact to allow a greater understanding of the chemistry in streambed sediments, focussing on temperature, microbial metabolism and residence time. This will allow more effect strategies to manage rivers in the future, so that both pollution and greenhouse gas production are reduced. Additionally, I am interested in isotopes to gain further insight into biogeochemical cycling and sources of chemical constituents and am developing new ways to investigate these in the hyporheic zone.


Danny Croghan (

Project Title: Hydrological Extremes in Urban Environments: Impacts on River Water Quality.

Supervised by Dr Anne van Loon.

Danny is a PhD student funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) specialising in urban hydrology and water quality. He is currently researching the effects of extreme events on water quality in cities. His research is focused on furthering understanding of water quality dynamics during extreme events within urban systems, for which he specifically looks at the effects of floods and droughts on water temperature and organic matter.


Julia M. Docherty (

Project title: Understanding Water-Related Multi-Hazards in a Sustainable Development Context.

Supervised by: Professor David Hannah, DR Julian Clark, Dr Feng Mao, Dr Wouter Buytaert, Dr Megh Raj Dhital and Dr Jagat Bhusal.

Multi-hazard analysis involves the recognition of all possible and relevant hazards occurring within a given space and time and how they interact. Research on hazards in isolation or simply overlaying single hazards gives a flawed understanding and leads to serious underestimation of risk. Hydrologically-induced landslides and floods are among the most destructive natural hazards globally and are especially devastating in developing countries. In mountainous regions, intense and/or prolonged rainfall may act as a trigger leading to simultaneous or cascading hazards. My research will use a multi-hazard framework approach to assess the hydrometeorological drivers, river basin controls and local impacts of hydrologically-induced landslides and floods in the Karnali river basin in western Nepal. To carry out this analysis regional rainfall characteristics will be identified and related to the occurrence of all hazards both present and historical to ascertain the locations and time periods of greatest multi-hazard sensitivity. This will be combined with basin characteristics in order to construct statistical, GIS based models to yield predictive multi-hazard vulnerability maps. This research has the potential to increase community resilience on a local scale and contribute to our overall understanding of multi-hazard interactions on a global scale.


Jonathan Mackay (

Project title: Glacial, hydrological and landscape change in a deglaciating  catchment.

Funded by NERC through the CENTA DTP. Supervised by Dr Nick Barrand, Professor David Hannah and Professor Stefan Krause.

As part of his doctoral research, Jon is using meteorological, hydrological and glaciological field data in combination with numerical models to investigate how climate change will influence the hydrological behaviour (river flows and proglacial groundwater dynamics) of a rapidly deglaciating river basin in southern Iceland. The grand aim of Jon's research is to link models of climate, glacier and hydrology so that the propagation of change from climate to river and groundwater dynamics can be investigated. Jon will also use the model chain to investigate how limitations in our process understanding contribute to uncertainties in model predictions. This research is being conducted in collaboration with the British Geological Survey and University of Iceland.


Victoria Pattison-Willits (

Project Title: Investigating the dual impacts of urbanisation and extreme weather events on breeding phenology and success in Blue Tits (Cyanistes Caeruleus)

Funded by the University of Birmingham; Supervised by Professor Jon Sadler and Dr Jim Reynolds.  

The exploration of the effects of urbanisation on wildlife has gained momentum in recent years. However, little is known about how breeding may be affected by fine-scale environmental changes within the complex cityscape, including those driven by climate change. Of rising concern in temperate cities are the stresses associated with increases in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events (EWEs). My research investigates how the dual challenge of urbanisation and EWEs affects breeding phenology and success in the iconic British garden-bird: the Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). Breeding data have been collected in Birmingham using an experimental study design involving 310 nest-boxes spread across a network of 31 sites (N=310) along a gradient of increasing urbanisation and decreasing habitat connectivity. I am exploring how and why breeding varies across the city in relation to these gradients. Using modelling of high resolution satellite and ground-based temperature and precipitation data for the different stages of each breeding season I am also investigating how weather drives spatio-temporal variability in breeding. Does the urban environment buffer the impacts of extreme weather or does it create a multiple stressor effect?  

Vicki is a 2018 Women in Science Mentor and an Ecological Ambassador for the British Ecological Society.


Tanu Singh (

Project title: Flow and Nutrient Cycling in Dynamic Hyporheic Zones.

Supervised by:Professor Stefan Krause (UoB), Dr Jesus D. Gomez-Velez (New Mexico Tech) and Professor David Hannah (UoB). Tanu is within the Hypotrain-ITN project funded by European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. 

Tanu Singh’s doctoral studies focus on water and solute transport mechanisms in groundwater-surface water interfaces. She uses numerical modelling approaches to explore the impacts of flood events, temperature fluctuations on the functioning of river systems. 

Tanu holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from University of Delhi (India) and masters degree in Water and Environmental Management from the University of Bristol (UK). After the completion of her Masters, she was a research intern at the Centre for Science and Environment, and worked briefly as a Research Analyst in the Council of Energy, Environment and Water in New Delhi. 


Suffeiya Supian (

Project title : Uptake of differently sized microplastics in gut passage by different species of Daphnia.

Funded through a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Scholarship, MALAYSIA. Supervised by Professor Iseult Lynch and Prof Jon Sadler.

Suffeiya’s research focuses on understanding the impacts of microplastics on freshwater organisms in the environment. Microplastics are synthetic polymers with a diameter smaller than 5 mm and down to the nanoscale. They,have a widespread occurrence and negative effects on different trophic levels have been described. The freshwater crustaceans Daphnia forms part of the plankton community making them an important indicator species in the foodchain. The Daphnia family includes species ranging in size from D.magna (2.3-5.0 mm) to D. galeata (1.3-2.0 mm) which span a similar range of sizes as micro and nanoplastics, thus suggesting that different members of this family may be differentially sensitive to or affected by different sizes of micro or nanoplastics. This work presents a first analysis of the effect of Daphnia body and gut size on uptake of microplastics of different sizes. We assessed the uptake, accumulation, and depuration of the microplastics in Daphnia species using stereomicroscope measurements. Rapid accumulation in the gut was observed after exposure to all particle sizes in D.magna, with the smaller particle sizes being detectable in the guts of neonates of all three species.


Doris Wendt (

Supervised by Dr Anne Van Loon, Professor David Hannah and Dr John Bloomfield (British Geological Society).

Doris’ work is on the influence of water management on hydrological droughts. Her research area is inspired by water conflicts around the world and previous projects were located in water-scarce areas in developing countries. Currently, her focus is on groundwater management that proves itself to be influential during droughts. Examples of the UK, California, Texas, and Mexico are used to quantify the influence and in later final stages of the research, feedback of existing drought mitigation strategies will be examined. The project is in collaboration with the British Geological Survey. In addition to the institutional support, Doris is also part of Panta Rhei network (Drought in the Anthropocene working group).

Human Geography

Maria Jesus Alfaro (

Project Title: Youth Happiness in the Grey City - Young people’s experiences of happiness and wellbeing in the urban environment of Lima, Peru.

Funded by the Government of Peru, CIENCIACTIVA programme; supervised by Professor Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield Hill.

Maria Jesus Alfaro is a Peruvian Architect with a master’s degree on construction and real estate management. Her research examines children's happiness in urban environments. It explores children and young people’s understandings and everyday experiences of happiness and wellbeing as well as their relationships with the public urban environment, addressing the possibilities of the city as an inclusive agent capable of boosting the community wellbeing and quality of life.

She uses a mixed methods approach between qualitative and quantitative data collection to discuss the importance of urban design for the child’s wellbeing through the evidence of the physical environment and the emotional attachment to it in terms of quality of built environment, public space facilities, sense of belonging, and mobility options.

The research takes place in Lima, Peru, Latin America and aims to portray understandings and perceptions of children’s happiness, and place experiences of children’s mobility related to positive wellbeing within a challenging context constantly changing by poverty, inequality, economic development, and discrimination on terms of race and sex.

Twitter: @majealfaro  Webpage:


Amy Walker (

Project Title: Children's Experience of Mobility in Post-Separation Families: Intimacy, Home and Journeying

Funded by the ESRC, Supervised by Professor Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill

Amy Walker is doctoral researcher interested in the geographies and mobilities of children and young people with separated parents. Using a combination of in-depth interviews and visual/audio methods, her research explores young people’s experiences of journeying between their parents houses. Taking journeying to encompass moments of preparing, leaving, travelling and arriving, the research will explore the varying spatial, material and temporal configurations of these journeys and their entanglements with the emotions, affects, moods, intimacies and distances produced when mobile.

It will therefore ask questions of the practices and processes established to manage these complex geographies. Whilst also exploring the ways in which this journeying shapes, and is shaped by, children's relationships with their family members, their home-making practices, and the degree and forms of agency they are able to exercise.


Stuart Bowles (

Project title: Can Alternative Currencies Support Decentralised Renewable Energy?

Funded by the ESRC, supervised by Dr Rosie Day and Dr John Round.

Stuart is researching potential relationships between alternative currency systems and a transition to sustainability. Alternative currencies include local examples; Bristol Pound, Chiemgauer and Sardex, alongside global examples; Bitcoin and Ethereum. Relationships may include using local currencies to fund energy efficiency improvements, localise supply chains or raise finance for renewable energy. The “blockchain” technology behind Bitcoin may support distributed ownership, automated grid systems and currency “backed” by energy.


Hannah Budnitz (

Project title: (Tele)commuting, Cities and Weather Conditions.

Funded by NERC and ESRC through the DREAM CDT. Supervised by Dr Emmanouil Tranos and Professor Lee Chapman.

My research project brings together the study of the changing nature of work and travel in recent years, in part due to technology, with an understanding of the increasing risks to transport infrastructure and travel arising from severe weather events and climate change. The integration of these areas of study results in my overarching research question: Do new technologies and increased flexibility in the economy result in an increased ability of commuters to respond to severe weather, risk, and disruption, thereby increasing resilience? To answer this question, I combine my knowledge and experience as a professional transport planner with data science and econometric methods to analyse a variety of data sources. My aim is to provide evidence of the combined or interacting influences of weather and technology on travel behaviour, including not travelling. Considering the potential benefits to economic and social resilience, I will also explore how such behaviours may be reinforced and replicated.


Giulia Chiara Ceresa (

Supervised by Professor Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill.

Giulia’s research intends to explore children's everyday use of space in a variety of alternative education sites in Italy. The core project consists in an investigation of more than ten learning spaces, which include both mainstream education – state and private – as well as a variety of alternative school environments that have emerged in recent years (Steiner schools, Montessori schools, homeschooling, care farms, forest schools). One of the particularities of the Italian education panorama resides in the fact that experimentations have also been integrated into state schools, resulting in a phenomenon of commingling of education typologies . The research project utilizes qualitative, ethnographic, participatory methodologies. Giulia is supervised by Peter Kraftl and Sophie Hadfield-Hill.

Giulia received the highest mark for her undergraduate degree in human sciences and philosophy (110/110 cum laude) and she subsequently obtained a postgraduate degree in humanities 110/110) at University of Milan. Giulia’s curriculum vitae demonstrates the interdisciplinary character of her approach, which has permitted her, for instance, to work for the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust for Italy, and to teach geography in various schools of Milan.


Gina Hasibuan (

Project Title: Sustainable Affordable Housing Development in Indonesia.

Funded by the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education scholarship (LPDP). Supervised by Dr Peter Lee and Professor Peter Kraftl.

Gina is interested in housing, collaborative planning and urban sustainability. Her research is on the housing sector in Indonesia which is in a critical condition where the majority of low-income citizens live in substandard dwellings, and the housing backlog is increasing every year. The housing problem becomes more urgent when ‘sustainability' is considered. Despite much research on sustainable housing in Indonesian context, there is a dearth of research examining the role of collaborative governance, as the current approach still shows fragmentation between stakeholders and community, and thus this research attempts to fill the gap. Her research aims to critically assess the role of governance in addressing sustainable affordable housing in Indonesia and understanding informal settlements and interventions in Indonesia rather than imposing a framework from western perspectives. Her research is expected to contribute to the existing literature on urban sustainability, sustainable housing and collaborative planning by exploring its relevance and transferability to the Indonesian context as a result of what Indonesia has missed due to its abrupt transition from a centralised to a decentralised system.


Hikmah Kamarudin (

Project title: Physical access for  disabled people's inclusion in Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Funded by the Government of Malaysia and supervised by Dr Rosie Day and Dr Lauren Andres.

Physical access to the city is vital in enabling disabled people to fully enjoy the services and facilities provided in urban areas, without discrimination. However, the issue of accessibility of services, facilities and infrastructure for disabled people inclusion has been long highlighted by researchers as needing more attention. In examining physical access and inclusion, cities are key spaces to be interrogated where research may examine the physical urban form such as the accessibility of streets, buildings and forms of transportation. Her background in architecture and building surveying, and her passion for working for the rights of disabled people has brought Hikmah to her current research. Hikmah investigates physical access implementation gaps that affect the inclusion of disabled people in society.  She explores various stakeholders’ perspectives on the provision of physical access for disabled people in Kuala Lumpur city centre by undertaking in-depth data collection involving professional interview and go-along interview methods. The research findings are expected to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in planning and implementation for an inclusive built environment and provide insights for a better understanding of the facilitation of physical access for disabled people’s inclusion in society.


Arooj Khan (

Project title: Maps. Citizenship. Strategic regeneration. Young lives. Mapping the implementation of strategic regeneration within Tilbury Town.

Supervised by Professor Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill

Arooj is a human geographer interested in utilising creative research methods to map the multisensory changes that occur as a result of regeneration. Her research observes and analyses the ongoing regeneration of Thurrock in Essex, more specifically the nuanced changes that occur as a result of regeneration, the changing smells, new sounds, different textures etc.  Her work borrows from a non-representational theory framework in order to focus on embodied experiences of change amongst the young residents; as well as an intersectional framework in order to understand the impact of various interlocking discourses of power which shape their individual experiences. 
This approach is linked to the creation of a series of creative ‘sense-maps’, such as soundscapes; smell maps; focus groups; photographs and the mapping of 'affective' sites in the Thurrock area. The final pieces; the processes which contribute to the end product; and thoughts post-project will be subjected to an analysis in order to understand how changes to local physical and cultural landscapes affect the lives of young people within the vicinity. 
Ultimately, through its empirical discussion, this research aims to utilise art to elicit more nuances theoretical considerations of the impact of regeneration on children and young people facing disadvantage.


Catherine Oliver (

Project title: The changing spaces of animal rights activism.

Supervised by Dr Patricia Noxolo and Professor Dominique Moran

Catherine’s doctoral research traces the historical and contemporary animal rights and vegan movements, through engagements, entanglements, and encounters with different kinds of subjects, to imagine futures in which humans, animals and the earth can co-exist less violently. Catherine combines three methodologies to consider the entanglements of bodies, through the non-linearity of pasts, presents, and futures: (auto-)ethnography with animals; interviews and oral histories with activists; and ethnographies of and in the archives. The “beyond” is thus situated as a vital site for enacting nonviolent futures, enacted through a feminist politics of possibility and a new conception of friendship as a necessary political endeavour. This thesis is situated somewhere between non-human geographies; more-than-human geographies; and animal geographies; and the geographies of embodiment, of activism, and of consumption and representation.

Catherine is currently curating the Animal Rights Collection for the British Library’s ‘Archiving Activism’ project (forthcoming at which traces the entangled histories of animal rights activism in the UK, through the archives of Richard D. Ryder.

Catherine’s other research includes a project entitled ‘(dis-)Belonging Bodies: negotiating outsider-ness and embodied surveillance in academic conferences’, with colleague Amelia Morris, exploring the exclusionary dynamics of academic conferences.


Tess Osborne (

Project Title: Exploring the past with the body: a biosocial investigation of heritage.

Funded by the ESRC, supervised by Dr Jessica Pykett and Dr Phil Jones.

I am a social geographer with a focus in two connecting areas: first, exploring the application of technology as a research tool and in everyday life, including biosensing, multimedia, and GIS; second, examining questions around memory, emotions, and embodiment, particularly how these relate to the built environment. Bridging these areas is an interest in the biosocial, a consideration of the biological, psychological, geographical and sociological underpinnings that influence people’s engagement with space. My research seeks to better understand how urban heritage can shape people’s emotional responses using biosensing technology. The project applies geographic and psychological theory to focus on how these psychophysiological responses are influenced by the physical, the social, and the symbolic aspects of one’s immediate surroundings and how they can influence the way that people feel about the spaces themselves.


Nurulhusna Qamaruz Zaman  (

Project title: Sustainable Transformation of Public Places.

Funded by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA), Malaysia. Supervised by Dr Phil Jones and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill.

Nurulhusnais researching the production of meaningful public spaces in the Malaysian multicultural context, particularly within the post-colonial historic core. This research examines how bottom up approaches to urban regeneration empower citizen participation and strengthen the local capacity through placemaking and collaborative planning approaches. Two methods were used, first: observation of placemaking activities conducted by the local authority and second: interviews with participants ranging from policy makers, consultants, professionals, specialists to local communities. The research will provide significant input on emotional geographies of placemaking practices from urbanisation and urbanism perspectives in the context of a multicultural country. Nurulhusna is a lecturer (on  study leave) in the Center of Studies for Architecture at the Universiti Teknologi MARA, with a background in Architecture and Urban Design.


Bahtiar Rifai (

Project Title: Impact of Knowledge Flows on Innovation Performance in Southeast Asia and China.

Funded by the Ministry of Research, Education and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia.  Supervised by Dr Emmanouil Tranos and Dr Zhaoya Gong

Bahtiar is economic geographer interested in regional development. Since knowledge is important for economy and development, sufficient capacity of knowledge will determine the performance of a region. In reality, not all regions have similar capacities of knowledge, leading to flows of knowledge across regions. Global North (GN) countries have been dominating in international scientific knowledge creation, meanwhile Global South (GS) countries have limitations on education and research quality. This study aims to analyse knowledge flows from GN to GS countries and identify how the structure of knowledge networks have changed over 11 years. Southeast Asia countries and China have been selected as representative of GS countries which have particular characteristic as archipelagic region which is dissimilar from other regions such as European Union, South Africa and South America. Using secondary data from the Scopus website, structure of knowledge flows is analysed through degree centrality of co-authorship papers. Panel data analysis is used to identify determinant factors of knowledge flows and the impact of knowledge flows on innovation in regions. Through empirical findings, the study contributes to work on knowledge flows from GS countries’ perspective and its impact at regional level.


Caroline Russell (

Project title: Actionable knowledge for disaster risk reduction: Collaborative governance to enhance community resilience to natural hazards.

Funded by NERC/DfID’s Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) initiative. Supervised byDr Julian Clark, Professor David Hannah and Dr Fraser Sugden.

Wicked environmental problems represent some of the biggest challenges to achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through its integration into Climate Change Adaptation and International Development agendas is one such complex problem. Part of the UN approach towards wicked problems is an emphasis on inclusion of grassroots, multi-actor collaborative action. Collaborative governance has become a buzz word for global environmental actions, yet in Nepal little is known about how this international agenda is actually being implemented. My research explores collaborative governance as part of the global agenda to tackle wicked environmental problems. I use political ecology as a guiding analytic to explore power dynamics in current governance systems in the Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Adaptation nexus in Western Nepal. My research aims to assess how collaborative models are being mobilised in order to contribute to current knowledge on Nepali DRR. Further, I aim to explore if collaborative governance is a useful tool for understanding human and environment interaction and how this can aid in tackling wicked environmental problems.


Yanhui Shi (

Project title: A cross-cultural comparative study of urban form.

Funded by the China Scholarship Council.  Supervised by Dr Jeremy Whitehand and Professor Rob Mackenzie.

Yanhui is interested in the urban landscape and its evolutionary process in different cultural contexts.  She aims to compare residential buildings and related aspects of urban form, taking Zhengzhou, China, and Birmingham, UK as examples.  For methodology, the work of the Conzenian School based in the Urban Morphology Research Group (UMRG) in the University of Birmingham provides a solid base.  Starting from the basic methods of morphogenetic analysis developed by successive members of the Group, the evolving process and form of residential buildings and city pattern of Zhengzhou and Birmingham in their industrial and post-industrial periods will be explored.  The sources to be made use of include maps, town plans, surveys, remote sensing images, historical images of residential buildings, documents, and field investigation. 


Faye Shortland  (

Project title: ‘Living Heritage’ and living heritage: The ontology and experience of cultural landscapes in the English Lake District.

Funded by the AHRC through the M3C DTP. Supervised by Dr Steven Emery and Dr Katy Bennett (University of Leicester) 

I am human geography PhD student in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, funded by the Midlands 3 Cities Arts and Humanities Research Council DTP. My PhD explores the ontology and experience of cultural landscapes and draws conceptually from work in both geography and anthropology. My research is focused on the newly inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the English Lake District. The aim of my research is to understand how different groups, involved with the management of the landscape, experience the landscape and to understand their notions of heritage. I aim to examine how these different groups represent the landscape in which they live and work and how this influences management and policy making. My wider research will facilitate stakeholder engagement around heritage, landscape, and environmental management.


Ian Slesinger (

Project title: Waging safer war?: technology, territory and the geopolitical management of security in Israel's conflict with Gaza 2005-2016.

Funded by the ESRC. Supervised by Dr Julian Clark and Dr Sara Fregonese.

Ian is a political geographer interested in the more-than-human implications of the military technologies used by nation-states to manage insecurity. He is conducting research that uses Israel’s ongoing conflict with Gaza to evaluate the complex relationship between technological apparatuses, the geopolitical constitution of territory and the political dynamics of the state. His work uses a materialist epistemology that borrows from actor-network-theory, assemblage theory and object-oriented-ontology to suggest that technologies have intrinsic affective capacities that can variably influence and constrain their agencies in relation to humans and other material agents. This approach is applied to three linked empirical studies that elucidate the technological co-production of the Israeli state by working through the territorial volume of Israel-Gaza: the aerial illustrates the regime of atmospheric governance produced through the Iron Dome missile defense system, the surfical considers the capricious political agencies of the ‘conventional’ weaponry used by Israeli military for urban warfare in Gaza, and the subterranean narrates the challenges faced by Israeli techno-scientific experts working to locate cross-border tunnels when confronted with the geophysical agency of the subsurface. Through its empirical discussion, this research seeks to contribute a more nuanced theoretical consideration of technological agencies in the context of geopolitical conflict.


Jillian Smith (

Project title: Decolonising ecological knowledge: A case study in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Supervised by Dr Rosie Day and Dr Steven Emery.

Jillian is interested in the potential to improve social and environmental outcomes in mining restoration sites by harmonizing current scientific approaches with local Indigenous knowledge, specifically, Métis knowledge. As a Métis citizen with a background in environmental science, Jillian uses participatory research methods with Sudbury's Métis community to evaluate the social, ecological, and epistemological implications of incorporating traditional ecological knowledge into the region’s reclamation program. Though the Sudbury region has a long history of nickel mining and a legacy of denuded landscapes, it is increasingly recognized for its re-greening programs and reclamation successes. Jillian’s doctoral research seeks to add value to current environmental practices by pursuing a nuanced approach to ecological restoration rooted in the core values of community-based, Indigenous-led research.


Naeemah Yusof (
Project Title: Planning and developing a walkable city: identifying barriers for senior’s walkability and social participation in an urban area.

Funded by theMinistry of Higher Education (MOHE) Malaysia, Supervised by Dr Peter Lee and Dr Rosie Day.

Naeemah is interested spatial and social justice for marginalised groups, place making and social participation.  Her research is about walkability for older citizens in an urban area. In the past decades, the walkable city concept in city planning has gained wide acceptance as a resilient urban form which offers environmental, psychological, and social benefits for people and the future of a city. Although many scholars have examined the provision of walkable environments in urban planning, there has been little research concerning older citizens’ rights in a walking environment. Therefore, her research aims to gain insights from different stakeholders regarding older citizens’ rights, experience and encountered barriers in an urban centre. By using the city centre of Birmingham as a case study, her research argues that there is an urgent need in planning policy to encourage older citizens’ social participation through provision of an inclusive walking environment with a long-term goal to support resilient ageing. Her research hopes to make a contribution to social and spatial justice for marginalised groups and the walkable city planning policy of Birmingham.