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Early Career Research funded by the BSG - Dr Matt Westoby

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c.skinner@hull.ac.uk's picture

The Early Career Research Grants from the British Society for Geomorphology are aimed at giving Early Career Scientists a career boost, pump-priming their independent research. It is hoped that this initial research will lead to larger grant support from other organisations, such as the Research Councils.

Dr Matt Westoby, an Early Career Researcher at the Department for Geography, Northumbria University, received an Early Career Research Grant from the British Society for Geomorphology to help kick-start his research in the European Alps.  He will investigate rates of debris supply to glacial surfaces using novel surveying technologies, and hopes to use this research to improve current estimates of how these systems are responding to climate change.

Debris-covered glaciers respond different to ‘clean ice’ glaciers, with the debris insulating the underlying ice and stopping it melting as quickly. The processes of freeze-thaw and frost shattering on glacial valley sides cause frequent rockfalls, helping to build this debris layer.


The Miage Glacier, Italian Alps - a debris-covered glacier (Photo provided by Matt Westoby)

Previous methods of estimating the rate at which debris builds up on glaciers have been expensive and labour-intensive, but Matt’s research will take an alternative approach making use of drones.

“Instead, this research will use a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and cutting-edge advances in photogrammetric surveying technology to undertake repeat surveys of rockfall source areas,” Matt explained.

Matt will begin his exciting field work in the early summer of 2016 on Miage Glacier in the Italian Alps. His results will provide insights into the development of the debris cover on glaciers and how this is changing with the climate – his results will be valuable to other researchers investigating how glaciers are likely to change in the future. We look forward to seeing Matt’s results.

You still have time to get in you Grant applications before the February 1st 2016 deadline.