Drylands presently cover 40-47% of the Earth's land surface and are home to > 1 billion people. Several cluster research projects address landscape dynamics in arid lands. Work includes sand transport, dune mobilization, rock breakdown, past environmental changes, natural hazards, climate impact and the intersection of human and natural systems. Current fieldwork is in Southern and Western Africa, the Middle East and Iran, China / Mongolia and the southwestern US.

Recent Projects

Richard Bailey: Development of Luminescence Dating techniques and their application to research topics in Quaternary science, including climate/environmental change, geomorphology and human evolution/dispersion. Recent work focused on the dating of palaeo-shoreline deposits and other geomorphic features, in Southern Africa, the chronology of Chinese loess deposits and development of long time-range dating methods and the dating of fossil human remains using incorporated sand.

Sallie Burrough: Palaeo-environmental reconstruction, landscape dynamics in dryland systems, Palaeolithic archaeology and human dispersal in Africa. Projects research Megafloods and Megadroughts of the upper Zambezi Valley, Zambia; Palaeolithic mega-lakes and early human occupation of the Kalahari and Landscape dynamics in the Kalahari.

Troy Sternberg: Natural hazard interaction with environment and society in the Gobi Desert, Asia. Research focuses on hazard identification, social exposure and resilience and evolving climate and hazard impact (drought and extreme winter) on human systems.

Abi Stone: Groundwater recharge rates and Quaternary environmental reconstruction in Namibia, southern Africa. Abi examines rainfall in the desert sand, casting new light on Quaternary environmental change in the Namib Desert, and dating generations of dunes in the Kalahari Desert.

David Thomas: Quaternary environmental changes in drylands and the low latitudes during the last glacial cycle, aeolain systems and processes, geoarchaeology in deserts, human-environmental interactions, including land degradation in drylands. Ongoing investigations have focused on the stabilised dune fields within the Kalahari sedimentary system and the dunes of the Namib and the UAE, and on the shoreline systems of former lakes within dryland Africa. New projects include the Oxford Martin Programme of Dryland Bioenergy in collaboration with Plant Sciences and Engineering Science, and a Leverhulme Trust funded project on Holocene socio-environmental relationships in the Indus Valley.

Heather Viles: Weathering, geomorphology and landscape evolution in extreme environments - hyper-arid, coastal, cold, and Mars. Current projects include studying the interplay of geomorphology and ecology in landscape evolution in Northern Namibia, the breakdown of basaltic rocks on Earth and Mars and fluvial and flood transport features on basalt in the Channeled Scablands of Washington State and in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

Giles Wiggs: Dune dynamics, dust emissions and processes of aeolian sediment transport. Recent investigations include studies of the impact of desert dust deposition on ocean nutrient status; modelling the impacts of changing vegetation cover on dune activity and wind erosion; field studies of saltation processes; utilising high resolution terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) data in analysis of sand dune dynamics; and exploring the controls on windblown dust from ephemeral rivers and dry lake beds. Major EU and NERC-funded research includes investigating sand mitigation around desert railway infrastructure (SMaRT), and examining the controls on desert sand dune genesis and growth (TOAD).