Dr Simon Carr, PhD

  • Programme Lead for Geography
  • Institute of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies
  • Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA)
  • Geography
Dr Simon Carr, PhD


I am a Geographer, specialising in the study of landscape (geomorphology) and climate change. I am Programme Lead for the new BSc Geography degree based at Ambleside. I studied at Royal Holloway University of London for my BSc Geography (1994) and my PhD "The last glaciation of the North Sea Basin" (1998) and have a PGCTHE from Oxford Brookes University (2001). I was first appointed as a lecturer at Oxford Brookes University (1997-2006), moving to Queen Mary University of London (2006-2018), before joining the University of Cumbria in 2018.

For me, Geography is the study of the global grand challenges that face humanity in the 21st Century, and being situated at the interface between the natural and social sciences allows Geographers a unique insight into how to address such issues as climate change, sustainability, human security, development and inequality.

Qualifications and memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society;
  • Quaternary Research Association;
  • British Society for Geomorphology
  • American Geophysical Uniion
  • European Geoscience Union

Academic and research interests

I am a geomorphologist and sedimentologist by training, and my research mainly examines the interactions between climate, glaciers and landscape on short to long timescales. Increasingly, I apply novel techniques of micro-scale analysis that I have developed to key environmental contrexts. I am also interested in research that straddles the science-social science interface, particularly focusing on the communication of science, notably with respect to climate change and the concept of the Anthropocene, and how these frames relate to human interactions with the physical environment.

A: Micro-scale Analysis of Sediments:

My primary research expertise focuses on the techniques and applications of microscopic analysis of unconsolidated sediments. I have led developments in the production of thin sections of glacigenic sediments, developing standard criteria for discriminating between subglacial and glacimarine sediments. World-leading new research using SEM and 3D X-Ray CT, and automated analysis of thin sections are yielding fundamental new information on the behaviour and implications of deforming sediments and soils. Whilst I have previously focused on glacial environments, my more recent work has applied novel techniques to many different environmental contexts, examining the significance of sediment structure in estuaries and salt-marshes on pollutant fluxes, for example.

Current major projects I am involved in include:

  • NERC-FLOCS (2016-2020): Understanding 3D Floc structure and dynamics.
  • NERC RESIST-UK (2018-2022): Response of ecologically-mediated shallow intertidal shored and their transitions to extreme hydrodynamic forcing in UK settings

B: Past & Present Glaciation:

The main environmental context for my research has been the examination of the behaviour and dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets, both in the modern-day and past (Quaternary) contexts. Glaciers are considered by the IPCC to be the most sensitive indicators of climate change; they are a key factor in driving climate instability during the Late Quaternary and are a cause of significant uncertainty in predictions of near-term future climate change. I combine process studies of modern glacier behaviour in Iceland, Svalbard and the European Alps with studies reconstructing former glaciation at a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, in Southern Africa, Central Europe and the British Isles particularly developing methods of reconstructing former glacier dynamics and palaeoclimatic inference (temperature, precipitation) which have been widely adopted by researchers. Finally, I continue to work on the reconstruction of the extent, dynamics and stability of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet, particularly within the North Sea Basin.

Current projects I am involved in include:

  • X-Ray CT analysis of subglacial sediment deformation;
  • Thin section analysis of glacigenic sediments

C: Public Engagement with Climate Change & the Anthropocene

An emerging area of my research involves the examination of the interactions between science and social science research. My experience of witnessing dramatic glacier retreat in Iceland, and the increasing role of humans in disrupting Earth System structure and function have led me to start exploring how ‘wicked’ problems such as climate change can be explained, particularly within the emerging conceptual framework of the Anthropocene. I am currently developing research with ecologists, cultural and political geographers focusing on how to make these intangible global-scale challenges tangible, particularly focusing on how people define, perceive and relate to landscape and nature, and how to downscale often abstract and invisible global concepts into something that can be directly observed and understood by the individual.

  • IOSR Bugs Veggie & Worms (2019-21): Combining worms and vegetation to enhance dewatering of oil-sands tailings.

Research supervision

I currently or have previously (co-)supervised 3 Post-Doctoral Research Associates:

  • Dr Clementine Chirol (2018 – 2020); Post-doctoral Research Associate on NERC project UK-RESIST.
  • Dr Jonathan Wheatland (2016 - 2020); Post-doctoral Research Associate on NERC project 3-Dimensional Floc Structure and Dynamics.
  • Dr Stephanie Mills (2008 - 2010): Post-doctoral Research Assistant on Royal Society Project Climate and glaciation in Southern Africa at the Last Glacial Maximum.

I have supervised 11 PhD/MPhil research students:

  • John Groves (2012-2017, Full-Time PhD) Quantifying Three-dimensional Fabric in Tills using X-ray Microcomputed Tomography. QMUL Principal’s Studentship, Principal Supervisor.
  • Astrid Ruiter (2012-17, Full-Time PhD) The 3D architecture and structure of a tectonised glacigenic sequence in the Dogger Bank area of the Southern North Sea. Joint QMUL/BGS Studentship. Principal Supervisor.
  • Jonathan Wheatland (2012-2016, Full-Time PhD) Novel analytical protocols for correlative, multi-scale image analysis of the structure of complex environmental materials. EPSRC studentship, Second Supervisor.
  • Lucy Diggens (2012-13, Full-Time MSc by Research) Application of X-Ray CT to the investigation of hydraulic behaviour of de-embanked estuarine sediments. Principal Supervisor.
  • Clare Boston (2008-2012, Full-Time PhD, QMUL) Patterns and timing of Lateglacial glaciation in the Monadhliath Mountains, central Scotland. NERC Studentship, Second Supervisor.
  • Heather Channon (2007-11), Full-Time PhD, QMUL): Sediment strain at the boundaries of former ice streams: multi-scale analysis of the role and significance of subglacial sediment deformation. NERC Studentship. Principal Supervisor.
  • Lorna Linch (2006-10, Full-Time PhD, QMUL): Micromorphology of iceberg scour-marks. NERC studentship. Second Supervisor.
  • Peter Walton (2004-2010, Full-Time PhD, QMUL): The ‘added-value’ of eLearning in teaching environmental change in Higher Education. Self-funded project. Principal Supervisor
  • Danielle Pearce (2003-10, Part-Time MPhil, QMUL): Glacier response to climate change: assessing the significance of glacier climate as a regional proxy. Self-funded project. Principal Supervisor.
  • Christopher Coleman (2002-2007, Full-Time PhD, Oxford Brookes): The landscape response to rapid climate change: the Lateglacial of the Usk Valley, South Wales. Oxford Brookes University Studentship. Principal Supervisor.



  • Hiemstra, J.F., Shakesby, R.A., Carr, S.J., Owen, G. (2019) Reply to John “Comment on “Caldey (‘Kald ey’ in Old Norse) was literally a ‘cold island’, but was it under Devensian ice?” by John Hiemstra” Quaternary Newsletter 149, 16-20.
  • Hiemstra, J.F., Shakesby, R.A., Carr, S.J., Owen, G. (2019) Caldey (‘Kald ey’ in Old Norse) was literally a ‘cold island’, but was it under Devensian ice? Quaternary Newsletter 148, 21-31.
  • Dale, J., Cundy, A. B., Spencer, K. L., Carr, S. J., Croudace, I. W., Burgess, H. M., & Nash, D. J. (2019). Sediment structure and physicochemical changes following tidal inundation at a large open coast managed realignment site. Science of the Total Environment, 660, 1419–1432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.323 
  • Phillips, E., Spagnolo, M., Pilmer, A. C. J., Rea, B. R., Piotrowski, J. A., Ely, J. C., & Carr, S. (2018). Progressive ductile shearing during till accretion within the deforming bed of a palaeo-ice stream. Quaternary Science Reviews, 193, 1–23.
  • Phillips, E.R., Cotterill, C.J., Johnson, K.R., Crombie, K., James, L., Carr, S.J., Ruiter, A.S. (2018) Large-scale glacitectonism in response to active ice sheet retreat across Dogger Bank (southern central North Sea) during the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 179, 24-47.
  • Carr, S.J., Hiemstra, J.F., Owen, G. (2017) Landscape evolution of Lundy Island: challenging the proposed MIS 3 glaciation of SW Britain. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, in press: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pgeola.2017.06.005
  • Spencer, K.L., Carr, S.J., Diggens, L.M., Tempest, J., Morris, M.A., Harvey, G.L. (2017) The impact of pre-restoration land-use and disturbance on sediment structure, hydrology and the sediment geochemical environment in restored saltmarshes. Science of the Total Environment 587-588, 47-58.
  • Taylor, H.F., O’Sullivan, C., Sim, W.W., Carr, S.J. (2017) Sub-particle-scale investigation of seepage in sands. Soils and Foundations 57, 439-452: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sandf.2017.05.010. Awarded “Best Paper of 2017” by the journal Editorial board.
  • Spagnolo, M., Phillips, E., Piotrowski J.A., Rea, B.R., Clark C.D., Stokes, C.R., Carr, S.J., Ely, J.C., Ribolini, A., Wysota, W., Szuman, I. (2016) Ice stream motion facilitated by a shallow-deforming and accreting bed. Nature Communications 7:10723, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10723.
  • Boston, C.M., Lukas, S., Carr, S.J. (2015) A Younger Dryas plateau icefield in the Monadhliath, Scotland, and implications for regional palaeoclimate. Quaternary Science Reviews 108, 139-162.
  • Bendle, J.M, Palmer, A.P., Carr, S.J. (2015) A comparison between thin section and micro-CT analysis of Lateglacial glaciolacustrine varves from Glen Roy, Scotland. Quaternary Science Reviews 114, 61-77
  • Carr, S.J., Hiemstra, J.F. (2015) (Lack of) Sedimentary Evidence for the Glaciation of Lundy. Quaternary Newsletter.

Recent external roles

  • 2018 - present: RGS-IBG NW Regional Committee.
  • 2018 - present: Lake District National Park - State of the Park, Working Group on Soil and Water. This group informs the 5-year statutory reporting for the National Park on the environmental pressures, and I represent the University of Cumbria as one of the LDNP Stakeholders.
  • 2014 - present: External Examiner, BSc Geography/Physical Earth Science programmes, Swansea University.

  • 2015 2018: RGS-IBG Council: Council Member, Trustee, Honorary Secretary: Expeditions and Fieldwork Committee. Elected position.

  • 2012 - 2018: RGS-IBG Expeditions and Fieldwork Committee: reports to the council of the RGS-IBG on matters relating to expeditions and fieldwork. I was a member of the Steering Group for the RGS-IBG Field Research Programme (Migrants on the Margins), which involves ca. £1M of fundraising.

  • 2012 - 2016: External Stakeholder Advisory Group, Pearson Edexcel: I was one of two advisors representing Higher Education for the revision of the Pearson Edexcel GCSE Geography curriculum. This group advised on development of the GCSE curriculum within the context of DfE and OfQUAL benchmarking and subject specifications.

  • 2009 - 2014: Fforest Fawr GeoPark Strategy and Planning Committee: Strategic oversight for UNESCO/EU funded designated area of the Brecon Beacons National Park.