Professor
Geography
Telephone: (01792) 513163
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Professor in Geophysics

2003 PGCHET (2003, Queen's University Belfast, NI.); Ph.D. (2000, Aberystwyth University); Diplom-Geophysiker (1994, Institut für Geophysik, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Germany)

Specialist subjects
Glaciology and Applied Geophysics

Research interests
My research focuses on the use of applied geophysics to contribute to our understanding of the response of the world’s ice masses to past, present, and future climatic change, as well as to address related scientific problems of anthropogenic impact. Cryospheric research interests include:

  • The physical mechanisms that control ice fracturing and rifting;
  • The basal properties and processes that control fast and unstable flow of ice;
  • The physical properties of ice that control present and past ice deformation and flow;
  • Selected problems related to the glacial palaeo-record, periglacial processes, snow hydrology, contaminant dynamics in frozen ground, and geotechnical engineering and geo-hazards in glacial tills;
  • Technical developments to maximise the usefulness of geophysical methods in the cryospheric sciences, focusing particularly on multi-component seismic reflection and seismic anisotropy, electrokinetic (seismoelectric and electrical self-potential), 4-D complex electrical resistivity, and slug test methods.

I am also very interested in the application of geophysical techniques to contaminated land problems and to hydrogeological problems, and the application of state-of-the-science geophysical techniques to archaeological problems.

My research combines fieldwork, laboratory work, and forward and inverse modelling. Novel developments are sought to integrate geophysical information with other scientific approaches, e.g. through joint inversion or Bayesian modelling, fostered by extensive collaboration with other UK and international institutions.

Areas of Expertise

  • Applied Geophysics
  • Glaciology
  • Subsurface Hydrology

Publications

  1. & Re-assessment of the age and depositional origin of the Paviland Moraine, Gower, south Wales, UK. Boreas
  2. & Seismic evidence for complex sedimentary control of Greenland Ice Sheet flow. Science Advances 3(8), e1603071
  3. & Ice and firn heterogeneity within Larsen C Ice Shelf from borehole optical televiewing. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 122(5), 1139-1153.
  4. & Centuries of intense surface melt on Larsen C Ice Shelf. The Cryosphere Discussions, 1-21.
  5. & Observationally constrained surface mass balance of Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctica. The Cryosphere 11(6), 2411-2426.
  6. & Systems Analysis of complex glaciological processes, and application to calving of Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology
  7. & Antarctic subglacial groundwater: a concept paper on its measurement and potential influence on ice flow. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, SP461.8
  8. & Anatomy of terminal moraine segments and implied lake stability on Ngozumpa Glacier, Nepal, from electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). Scientific Reports 7, 46766
  9. & Massive subsurface ice formed by refreezing of ice-shelf melt ponds. Nature Communications 7, 11897
  10. & Bulk meltwater flow and liquid water content of snowpacks mapped using the electrical self-potential (SP) method. The Cryosphere 10(1), 433-444.

See more...

Teaching

  • GEG268 Dissertation Preparation

    The module prepares students for their independent research dissertation through dissertation fairs, lectures and a series of tutorials focusing upon the formulation and construction of a research proposal. The module also includes three lectures which explore career opportunities for Geography graduates and skills to enhance graduate employability.

  • GEG331 Dissertation Report: Geography

    The dissertation is an original, substantive and independent research project in an aspect of Geography. It is typically based on approximately 20 - 25 days of primary research and several weeks of analysis and write-up. The end result must be less than 10,000 words of text. The dissertation offers you the chance to follow your personal interests and to demonstrate your capabilities as a Geographer. During the course of your dissertation you will be supported by a student-led discussion group and a staff supervisor, and you will also provide constructive criticism to fellow students undertaking related research projects, learning from their research problems and subsequent solutions. This support and supervision is delivered through the 'Dissertation Support' module, which is a co-requisite.

  • GEG332 Dissertation Support: Geography

    This module provides structured, student-led peer-group support and academic staff group supervision for students undertaking the 30-credit 'Dissertation Report: Geography' module. This support and supervision is assessed through the submission of a PowerPoint Poster in TB1 and the submission in TB2 of an individually composed, critical and reflective log of the 5 dissertation peer-group meetings and the 4 group supervisory meetings (with a verified record of attendance at meetings). Working within a supervised Student Peer Group, you will also have the opportunity to provide constructive criticism to fellow students undertaking related research projects, learning from their research problems and subsequent solutions. This module complements the 'Dissertation Report: Geography' module, which is a co-requisite.

  • GEG333 Geographical Research Frontiers

    This module provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their competence as a Geographer by undertaking a critical analysis of a wide variety of literature-based sources in order to develop a cogent, substantial, and persuasive argument. While the Dissertation in Geography normally focuses on the design and execution of an evidenced-based research project that assesses the capacity of students to undertake effective data analysis and interpretation, the purpose of this module is to assess the extent to which students are capable of engaging with the academic literature at the frontier of a particular part of Geography. Students select from a wide range of research frontiers in Human and Physical Geography that have been identified by the academic staff within the Department. Given that this module emphasizes student-centred learning, none of the frontiers will have been covered in other modules, although in many cases modules will have taken students up to some of these frontiers. However, to orientate students and provide them with suitable points of departure and way-stations, there will be a brief introduction to each frontier and a short list of pivotal references disseminated via Blackboard. (Note: The topic selected by you must not overlap with the subject of your Dissertation. If there is any doubt about potential overlap, this must be discussed with your Dissertation Support Group supervisor and agreed in writing.)

  • GEG344 Glaciology

    This module will provide you with the scientific basis to understand the physical behaviour of glacier ice at spatial scales ranging from individual ice crystals to continental-scale glaciation. The module core topics will include glacier mass balance, transformation of snow to ice, glacier hydrology, dynamics, ice crystal structure and deformation, glacier sliding, deformation of glacial sediments, glacier flow instabilities and glacier surging. We will then introduce example topics of current research interest. You will have the opportunity to work in a small group on a guided research project. The module is assessed through an individual paper critique and ¿take-home¿ examination, as well as group presentation of your research project results at a poster-based mini-conference, and as a report. The research project work will normally be assigned a group mark, however, individual student¿s marks may be moderated based on self and peer assessment.

  • GEG348 Plate Tectonics and Global Geophysics

    Over the past century our view of the dynamic earth system has shifted from continental drift to sea floor spreading and, in the 1960s and 70s, to plate tectonics. However, given greatly improved observational data and mathematical models a new revolution has been initiated in the last decade: it turns out that many familiar concepts of plate tectonics may in fact be incorrect and outdated! This includes, for instance, what we thought were established concepts of mantle plumes, hot spots, evolving subduction zones and the plates¿ driving mechanisms. Consequently, a fully revamped plate dynamics framework is currently being drawn up and integrated into a whole-earth geodynamic model. This model views the earth¿s lithosphere, deeper mantle and core-mantle boundary as coupled entities that are considerably more complex than previously thought. This has fundamentally surprising and challenging, but at the time exciting and intellectually rewarding, consequences for the dynamics of the earth¿s lithospheric plates on which we live. This module thus aims to attract open-minded students excited at the prospect of turning their view of the workings of our planet upside down, as challenged with the latest scientific hypotheses of the internal anatomy and dynamics of the earth; and indeed those of many planets in the solar system! The majority of up-to-date hypotheses and concepts will be new to the student, and are not covered by existing undergraduate textbooks. Successful completion of the module will thus require the ability and willingness to engage critically with the latest scientific literature, along with conscientious lecture attendance and continuous review of lecture materials.

Supervision

  • Protecting our natural resources: an interdisciplinary assessment of human and climatic impacts on Holocene peat bogs in SW Wales. (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Siwan Davies
  • Protecting our natural resources: an interdisciplinary assessment of human and climatic impacts on Holocene peat bogs in SW Wales (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Siwan Davies
  • 'Recent variability in Himalayan glacier dynamics from remote sensing ' (awarded 2017)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Adrian Luckman

Career History

Start Date End Date Position Held Location
2011 Present Reader in Geophysics Swansea University
2011 2011 Harrison McCain Foundation Visiting Professor University of New Brunswick
2005 2011 Senior Lecturer, School of the Environment and Society Swansea University
2002 2005 Lecturer, Environmental Engineering Research Centre Queen’s University Belfast
2000 2002 Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania USA
1999 2000 Postdoctoral Scientist - Hydrogeophysics, ICG-IV Research Centre Jülich, Germany
2002 Present Go to http://www.swansea.ac.uk/glaciology/bkulessa_prof detailing professional service

Key Grants and Projects

  • Quantifying the role of marine ice in Larsen C ice shelf dynamics. 2011 - 2012

    Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, with Luckman, A. J. (PI), B. Kulessa (Co-PI) and D. Jansen (Researcher Co-Investigator), Small Grant (£60,614)

  • Seismic characterisation of subglacial conditions beneath the margin of the West Greenland Ice Sheet. 2010 - 2011

    Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, with Kulessa, B. (PI), A. Hubbard (Co-PI), and T. Murray (Co-PI), Small Grant (£52,129)

  • Investigating the Dynamic Response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to Climate Forcing using a Geophysical, Remote-Sensing and Numerical Modelling Framework. 2009 - 2012

    Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, with Hubbard, A. (PI), B. Kulessa (Co-PI), and P. Christoffersen (Co-PI), Standard Grant (£144,156)

  • Present and future stability of Larsen C ice shelf (SOLIS). 2008 - 2011

    Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, with Kulessa, B. (PI), E. C. King (Co-PI), A. Luckman (Co-PI), and P. R. Sammonds (Co-PI), Antarctic Funding Initiative (£483,608)

  • Electrical monitoring of biostimulation to remediate subsurface contamination. 2008 - 2010

    The Leverhulme Trust, with West, J. L. (PI), K. Morris (Co-PI), B. Kulessa (Co-PI), and S. Shaw (Co-PI), Research Project Grant (£89,308)

  • Characterising the dynamics of the basal mechanical processes controlling the flow instability of Grubengletscher, Swiss Alps, based on seismic reflection monitoring. 2007 - 2008

    The Royal Society, Research Grants Scheme (£13,700)

  • Monitoring microbial degradation of Light Non- Aqueous Phase Liquids (LNAPLs) using combined time-lapse geophysical imaging and in-situ biogeochemical sampling. 2003 - 2007

    Questor Centre, with Kulessa, B., T. Elliot, and R. Kalin, £117,165

  • Appraisal of the usefulness of integrated geophysical methods to detect and define buried structures associated with Iron Furnace plantations in Pennsylvania. U.S. National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. 2001 - 2002

    NCPTT, with Chiarulli, B. and B. Kulessa (50/50 share), $39,991

Research Groups

  • Glaciology Group

    A research group dedicated to furthering knowledge in the quantification of the past and future contribution from glaciers and ice sheets to sea-level rise; the processes driving the present rapid and dramatic changes observed in glaciers, and the instabilities inherent in glacial systems; and the record of palaeo-ice mass instabilities and the processes that drove these changes.