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 focusses on:
- Rock breakdown processes, controls and laboratory simulation. This includes the interactive effects of temperature, moisture, salt and organisms in the weathering of rock coast landscapes and building stone, and increasingly in a context of climate change;
- The bioprotective roles and biodiversity value of epilithic plants and animals. This includes research on barnacles, seaweed and mussels at the coast and the impact of plants (both good and bad) on historic buildings and ruins;
- Ecological enhancement in engineering design. This interest stems from his PhD research on the role of biogeomorphological processes in shaping colonisation and biodiversity patterns on coastal rocks and sea defence structures;
- Biogeomorphology. Martin has a particular interest in the theoretical development of biogeomorphology as a sub-discipline of geomorphology and the parallel concept of 'ecosystem engineering'.
Previously, Martin was a Departmental Lecturer in Physical Geography here in Oxford, and a Lecturer at Worcester College and St Hilda’s College.
Martin is a member of the Oxford Resilient Buildings and Landscapes Lab (OxRBL) and the Landscape Dynamics research cluster. He is the SEAHA Tutor for students undertaking their DPhil research as part of the EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA). As part of this role, he is currently supervising Tim Baxter’s project on Biodiversity and bioprotection of historic maritime structures: a possible win-win?.
Martin is leading a project under the theme of ‘heritage horticulture’ that aims to identify and scope-out opportunities for understanding and adapting to climate change using archives from historic estates and gardens. This links to his wider research interests in plants, heritage, biodiversity, and historic walls and ruins.
He is also part of a collaborative project funded by National Geographic to examine bioprotection along the Argentinian coastline. This research is assessing the influences of mussel beds on rock-surface microclimates, salt ingress, and erosion rates using field experiments alongside laboratory weathering simulations.
- Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund (2019 – 2020): To scope and develop opportunities for ‘learning from the past’ in a context of horticultural practice, historic gardens and climate change.
- National Geographic (2018 – 2020): To examine the bioprotective role of mussels on rapidly eroding coastal landscapes in Argentina. In collaboration with the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina.
- SoGE Inspiration Fund (2018 – 2019): A project examining the ‘histories and mysteries’ of the iconic stone heads outside Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.
- EPSRC Sponsorship Fund (2015 – 2016): To engage end-users with opportunities for greening of urban infrastructure (‘Integrated Green-Grey Infrastructure’). In collaboration with the University of Glasgow.
- HEIF Heritage Knowledge Exchange Fund (2015): A public engagement and research dissemination project focussing on Godstow Abbey, Oxfordshire.
- British Society for Geomorphology ECR grant (2013 – 2014): To examine biogeomorphological processes on rocky shores in South West England.
- University of Oxford Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund (2013 – 2014): To develop the 'Conserving Oxford Stone Heritage' audio walking tour (Twitter: @OxfordStoneHeritage)
- Esmée Fairbairn Research Grant (2011 – 2013): PDRA on a project examining the bioprotection of coastal rocks and structures.
- Coombes, M.A., Viles, H.A. and Zhang, H. (2018) Thermal blanketing by ivy (Hedera helix L.) can protect building stone from damaging frosts. Scientific Reports, 8(9834).
- Viles, H.A., Messenzehl, K., Mayaud, J., Coombes, M. and Bourke, M. (2018) Stress histories control rock-breakdown trajectories in arid environments. Geology, 46(5): 419-422.
- Coombes, M.A., Viles, H.A., Naylor, L.A. and La Marca, E.C. (2017) Cool barnacles: Do common biogenic structures enhance or retard rates of deterioration of intertidal rocks and concrete? Science of the Total Environment, 580: 1034-1045.
- Kennedy, D.M., Coombes, M.A. and Mottershead, D.N. (2017) The temporal and spatial scales of rocky coast geomorphology: A Commentary. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.
- Naylor, L.A., MacArthur, M., Hampshire, S., Bostock, K., Coombes, M.A., Hansom, J.D., Byrne, R. and Folland, T. (2017) Rock armour for birds and their prey: ecological enhancement of coastal engineering. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Maritime Engineering, 170(2).
- Coombes, M.A. (2016) Biogeomorphology: diverse, integrative and useful. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 41(15): 2296-2300.
- Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (2015) Population-level zoogeomorphology: the case of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles L.). Physical Geography, 36(3): 215-238.
- Coombes, M.A., La Marca, E.C., Naylor, L.A. and Thompson, R.C. (2015) Getting into the groove: Opportunities to enhance the ecological value of hard coastal infrastructure using fine-scale surface textures. Ecological Engineering, 77: 314-323.
- Coombes, M.A., La Marca, E.C., Naylor, L.A., Piccini, L., De Waele, J. and Sauro, F. (2015) The influence of light attenuation on the biogeomorphology of a marine karst cave: A case study of Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan, the Philippines. Geomorphology, 229: 125-133.
- Gowell, M., Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (2015) Rock-protecting seaweed? Experimental evidence of bioprotection in the intertidal zone. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 40(10): 1364-1370.
- Naylor, L.A. and Coombes, M.A. (2015) Bioprotection: working with nature to manage coastal hazards. Geography Review, 28(4): 37-41.
- Mayaud, J.R., Viles, H.A. and Coombes, M.A. (2014) Exploring the influence of biofilm on short-term expansion and contraction of supratidal rock: an example from the Mediterranean. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39(10): 1404-1412.
- 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 coastal zone. Engineering Geology, 167: 14-19.
- Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Viles, H.A. and Thompson, R.C. (2013) Bioprotection and disturbance: seaweed, microclimatic stability and conditions for mechanical weathering in the intertidal zone. Geomorphology, 202: 4-14.
- Coombes, M.A. and Naylor, L.A. (2012) Rock warming and drying under simulated intertidal conditions, part II: Weathering and biological influences on evaporative cooling and near-surface micro-climatic conditions as an example of physical ecosystem engineering. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 37(1): 100-118.
- Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A. and Viles, H.A. (2012) Reconceptualising the role of organisms in the erosion of rock coasts: a new model. Geomorphology, 157-158: 17-30.
- Naylor, L.A., Coombes, M.A., Venn, O., Roast, S.D. and Thompson, R.C. (2012) Facilitating ecological enhancement of coastal infrastructure: the role of policy, people and planning. Environmental Science and Policy, 22: 36-46.
- Coombes, M.A. (2011) Rock warming and drying under simulated intertidal conditions, part I: Experimental approaches and comparisons with field data. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36(15): 2114-2121.
- Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Thompson, R.C., Roast, S.D., Gómez-Pujol, L. and Fairhurst, R. (2011) Colonization and weathering of coastal construction materials by microorganisms. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36(5): 582-593.
- Coombes, M. (2020) Biogeomorphology. In, Richardson, D., Castree, N., Kwan, M.P., Kobayashi, A., Liu, W. and Marston, D. (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology. Wiley. ISBN: 9781118786352.
- Naylor, L., Coombes, M., Kippen, H., Horton, B., Gardiner, T., Roca Collell, M., Simm, J. and Underwood, G.J.C. (2018) Developing a business case for greening hard coastal and estuarine infrastructure: preliminary results. In, Burgess, K. (ed.) Coasts, Marine Structures and Breakwaters 2017: Realising the Potential. Series: ICE Coasts, Maritime Structures and Breakwaters Conference Series. ICE Publishing. pp. 801-814. ISBN: 9780727763174.
- Coombes, M.A. (2017) Biogeomorphology. In, Richardson, D., Castree, N., Goodchild, M., Kobayashi, A., Liu, W. and Marston, D. (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. ISBN: 9781118786352.
- Coombes, M.A. (2014) The rock coast of the British Isles: Weathering and biogenic processes. In, Kennedy, D., Stephenson, W. and L. Naylor (eds.) Rock Coast Geomorphology: A global synthesis. Geological Society of London Special Publications. pp. 57-76. ISBN: 1862396841.
- Naylor, L. and Coombes, M. (2013) Engaging industry and government agencies with applied research: ecological enhancement of hard coastal structures. In, Nicholson, D. T. and Wheater, C. P. (eds.) Public Engagement in the GEES Disciplines: A Good Practice Guide. The Higher Education Academy, York. pp. 24-25. ISBN: 9781907207921.
- Coombes, M.A., Naylor, L.A., Roast, S.D. and Thompson, R.C. (2009) Coastal defences and biodiversity: the influence of material choice and small-scale surface texture on biological outcomes. In, Allsop, W. (ed.) Coasts, Marine Structures and Breakwaters, Volume II. Thomas Telford, London. pp. 474-485.
- Coombes, M., Viles, H.A. and Cathersides, A. (2017) Ivy on Walls. Historic England Research Department Reports, 30/2017 127 pp. ISSN: 2059-4453.
- Naylor, L.A., Kippen, H., Coombes, M.A., Horton, B., MacArthur, M. and Jackson, N. (2017) Greening the Grey: A Framework for Integrated Green Grey Infrastructure (IGGI). Technical Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow.