Departmental Lecturer in Physical Geography
  • Member of the Landscape Dynamics research cluster
  • Tel: +44 (0)1865 275884
  • Email:
  • Web: Biogeomorphology

Academic Profile

Martin is a biogeomorphologist with broad interests in the two-way interactions between organisms and the physical environment. Much of his research is interdisciplinary, and has focussed on:

Other areas of interest include bioturbation by burrowing animals, urban biodiversity and ecosystem services, and stone deterioration and conservation in the built environment.

Martin has a particular interest in the theoretical development of biogeomorphology and the parallel ecological concept of 'ecosystem engineering', and is currently acting as Guest Editor for a special issue of the journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms on this topic. In addition, Martin has made invited contributions to important reference works on the topic of biogeomorphology, including the forthcoming International Encyclopedia of Geography (Wiley-AAG) and a chapter in the Geological Society of London Special Publication on Rock Coast Geomorphology.

Impact and Outreach

Martin is involved in a range of outreach and dissemination activities including: writing guidance documents for government agencies on ecological enhancement; presenting and participating in training events for industry; public engagement projects focussing on rocky shores (e.g. Shore Shapers) and built heritage (e.g. the @OxfordStoneHeritage walking trail); schools outreach (e.g. organising field days for the UNIQ Summer School); and knowledge exchange activities (e.g. collaborative projects with the Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum).

Current Research

Martin is a member of the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory (OxRBL) and the Landscape Dynamics research cluster, working on a range of rock/stone weathering related projects. He undertakes research for the Ivy on Walls project (Phase II) funded by Historic England to evaluate the protective and deteriorative roles of English ivy (Hedera helix) on vulnerable historic masonry. Most recently, Martin has been using an environmental chamber to test the influence of ivy on frost damage, and he is involved in long-term monitoring of ivy's effects on stone microclimate, moisture dynamics and weathering rates at OxRBL's dedicated test walls.

Martin is also involved in ecological enhancement projects for coastal structures in collaboration with engineers and government agencies. These projects aim to develop, test and implement novel designs that can support wildlife on built infrastructure for biodiversity, engineering and policy gain.

Funding and Awards

  • EPSRC Sponsorship Fund (2015 - 2016)
    PI on the Oxford-led component (£5k) of a project to engage end-users on opportunities for greening of urban infrastructure.
  • HEIF Heritage Knowledge Exchange Fund (2015)
    Co-investigator on a £2.5k award for public engagement and research dissemination at Godstow Abbey.
  • British Society for Geomorphology ECR grant (2013-2015)
    £2.5k to examine biogeomorphological species interactions on rocky shores.
  • University of Oxford Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund (2013-2014)
    £2.5k to develop the 'Conserving Oxford Stone Heritage' audio walking tour (Twitter: @OxfordStoneHeritage)
  • Esmée Fairbairn Research Grant (2011-2013)
    PDRA on a £117k grant to examine Bioprotection of Coastal Rocks and Structures.
  • British Society for Geomorphology Travel Award (2011)
    £0.5k to attend and present at the BSG Annual Conference.
  • International Navigation Association (PIANC) travel award (2010)
    £0.5k towards conference costs.

Teaching

Within the School Martin delivers lectures on the Geomorphology component of the 'Earth System Processes' course and the final year option in 'Heritage Science and Conservation'. He also leads the Prelims Physical Geography fieldtrip to Wytham Woods and the FHS overseas residential fieldtrip to Tenerife. Martin is Tutor at Worcester College and St. Hilda's College, delivering tutorials and classes for the following papers: 'Earth System Processes', 'Geographical Techniques', 'Earth System Dynamics', 'Geographical Research' and 'Environmental Geography'. Martin also supervises students undertaking their final year dissertation projects.

Selected Publications

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Journal Articles

Book Chapters

Conference Papers

Guidance, outreach and dissemination
  • Coombes, M.A. and Wilhelm, K. (2015) Conserving Oxford's Stone Heritage (COSH): An audio walking tour of stone preservation research and practice in Oxford. Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK (Twitter: @OxStoneHeritage)
  • Naylor, L.A. and Coombes, M.A. (2014) 'Shore shapers' a kiddies guide to rocky shore biogeomorphology. Marine Biological Association of the UK, Plymouth.
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Jackson, J. and Thompson. R.C. (2012) Shaldon and Ringmore Tidal Defence Scheme: Ecological Enhancement Monitoring Report (18 months post-construction). Report to the Environment Agency by the University of Exeter and University of Plymouth, 20pp.
  • Naylor, L.A., Venn, O., Coombes, M.A., Jackson, J. and Thompson, R.C. (2011) Including Ecological Enhancements in the Planning, Design and Construction of Hard Coastal Structures: A process guide. Report for the Environment Agency, 66 pp.
  • Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A. and Venn, O. (2011) Considering Ecological Enhancement for Hard Coastal Infrastructure in the Intertidal Zone: Initial Guidance for Ports and Harbours. Report to Portland Port Ltd. University of Exeter, 62pp.
  • Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A., Baldock, L. and White, A. (2011) Portland Port Rapid Appraisal: Physical habitat characteristics and biotopes found on selected hard structures at Portland Port. Report to Portland Port Ltd. University of Exeter.
Conference talks and presentations
  • Coombes, M.A. (2015) Greening opportunities and challenges in the conservation of historical buildings and ruins. Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), London. (PRESENTATION).
  • La Marca, E.C., Coombes, M.A., Viles, H.A. (2014) The bio-protective role of a biological encrustation. Biologia Marina Mediterranea 21(1): 345-346. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (2014) Evaluating the influence of ivy canopy cover on brickwork: A case study from Warnham, West Sussex, UK. European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna, Austria. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A., La Marca, E.C., De Waele, J., Piccini, L. and Naylor, L.A. (2014) The influence of light attenuation on the biogeomorphology of a marine karst cave, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan, the Philippines. European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna, Austria. (POSTER).
  • Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A., Sewell, J. and White, A. (2014) Shore Shapers: Introducing children and the general public to biogeomorphological processes and geodiversity. European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna, Austria. (PRESENTATION).
  • Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (2014) Thermal buffering of concrete by seaweeds during a prolonged summer heatwave. European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna, Austria. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A., Viles, H.A. and Naylor, L.A. (2013) 'Cool barnacles': the influence of abundant biological structures on the thermal cycling of coastal rocks. British Society for Geomorphology Annual Conference, Royal Holloway, London, UK. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A. and Viles, H.A (2013) What do organisms do to rock? A multi-methods apporach to evaluating biodeterioration and bioprotection in the intertidal zone. 8th International Association of Geomorphologists conference, Paris, France. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A., Feal-Perez, A., Naylor, L.A. and Wilhelm, K. (2013) A non-destructive tool for detecting changes in the hardness of engineering materials: application of the Equotip durometer in the intertidal zone. 8th International Association of Geomorphologists conference, Paris, France. (POSTER).
  • Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A., Viles, H.A., Gowell, M. and Thompson, R.C. (2013) How biogeomorphic approaches can be used to identify ecosystem processes and services: using rock weathering studies as an example. 8th International Association of Geomorphologists conference, Paris, France. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Thompson, R.C. and Viles, H.A. (2013) Bioprotection and Disturbance: Epibiota and mechanical weathering regimes - the case of seaweeds. International Coastal Symposium, Plymouth, UK (PRESENTATION).
  • Naylor, L.A. and Coombes, M.A. (2013) The icing on the cake: Bioprotection of concrete structures by fuccoids and barnacles. Urban Research on Biodiversity on Arrificial and Natural coastal Environments (URBANE) end-user workshop. Bristol, UK (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A. and Viles, H.A. (2012) Biological influences on internal stone temperatures: laboratory procedures and preliminary results for intertidal barnacles. Proceedings of the 12th International Congress on Deterioration and Conservation of Stone, Columbia University, New York, USA, Oct. 22-26. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Jackson, J., Thompson, R.C., Venn, O., Viles, H.A., Dunsford, D., Skinner, A. and Rahman, A. (2012) Ecological Enhancement in Practice: Operational examples, outcomes and the potential benefits of organisms on maritime structures. Annual Conference of the International Navigation Association (PIANC), London, Oct. 19 2012. (PRESENTATION).
  • Naylor, N.A., Coombes, M.A. (presenter) and Viles, H.A. (2012) Reconceptualising the role of organisms in the erosion of rock coasts: a new model. 42nd Annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium: Zoogeomorphology and Ecosystem Engineering, University of Alabama, Mobile, USA, Oct. 21-23 2011. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Viles, H.A. and Thompson, R.C. (2011) Bioprotection in the Rocky Intertidal Zone: Evaluating the micro-climatic influences of epibiota in geomorphology and ecology. 42nd Annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium: Zoogeomorphology and Ecosystem Engineering. University of Alabama, Mobile, USA, Oct. 21-23 2011. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A. and Viles, H.A. (2011) Biogeomorphology and Physical Ecosystem Engineering: Fundamental overlaps and opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange. 42nd Annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium: Zoogeomorphology and Ecosystem Engineering. University of Alabama, Mobile, USA, October 21-23 2011. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A., Feal-Perez, A. and Naylor, L.A. (presenter) (2010) Rapid changes in the physical properties of rock and concrete during intertidal exposure: implications for weathering and engineering durability. European Geophysical Union Annual Conference 2010, Vienna, Austria, May 2-7 2010. (POSTER).
  • Coombes, M.A. (2009) Biofilms, Barnacles and Biodiversity: ecological responses to material choice in coastal defence design. IAG International Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 2009. (John Thornes award for best poster in session).
  • Coombes, M.A. (2009) Rock thermal properties and water loss under simulated intertidal conditions: experimental approaches and ecological implications. IAG International Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 2009. (POSTER).
  • Thompson, R.C., Moore, P.J., Martins, G.M., Sheehan, E.V., Coombes, M.A., Moschella, P.S. and Hawkins, S.J. (2009) Making space for nature in marine engineering. International Temperate Reef Symposium, Adelaide, 2009.
  • Coombes, M.A. (2009) Coastal Defences and Biodiversity: examining the interplay between engineering design and ecological response. Royal Geographical Society Conference, Plymouth, 2009. (PRESENTATION).
  • Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (presenter) (2006) An integrated assessment of the geomorphological role of Eurasian Badgers (Meles meles) in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire. RGS Annual International Conference, London, 2006. (PRESENTATION).