Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

Graham Ferrier

Graham Ferrier

Senior Lecturer in Geography

Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

  • Profile
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications



I completed my BSc in Geology at the University of St Andrews, my MSc .in Mineral Exploration at Imperial College and my PhD at the University of Dundee.



  • 16123 : Geoscience
  • 16140 : Dangerous Planet
  • 16272 : Dynamic Planet
  • 16333 : Spatial Analysis (leader)
  • 16337 : Advanced Field Skills - Iceland (leader)
  • 16409 : Remote Sensing & GIS (leader)
  • 16411 : GIS and Environmental Modelling: Theory and Practice
  • 16458 : Principles of GIS (leader)



My research is aimed at enhancing understanding of how earth surface and environmental processes influence and effect man, how anthropogenic activity and climate change are affecting the environment and also how natural resources can be exploited as effectively and environmentally responsibly as possible. A major focus of my research has been the development of an investigative framework to integrate measurement and modelling techniques of earth surface and environmental processes at a range of spatial scales and at time-scales ranging from millions of years to milliseconds. My research also has very strong multidisciplinary and applied aspects. I am currently applying this integrated framework to a number of research projects :

Earth System Science : GeoHazards

(i) Advancing understanding of volcanic processes and hazards
The aim of this project is to characterise the interaction between the different types (and ages) of magmatism, and the distribution of geothermal and epithermal systems in order to gain a better understanding of the tectonic-magmatic processes occurring at extensional backarc tectonic settings. This project is focused initially on the Island of Milos, Greece. A remote sensing approach utilising airborne, hyperspectral, LiDAR and thermal imagery is being developed to resolve the key physical parameters of volcanoes : the composition of the volcanic rocks; the physical form of the volcanic structures; the surface heat flux; the type and concentration of gas emissions and the location and scale of geothermal and magmatic fluids and the volcanic rocks. The developed techniques will be applied to a range of volcanic terrains to assist understanding of volcanic processes and hazards.

(ii) Earth Surface Dynamics : Late Holocene Alluvial Fan Dynamics
This project seeks to reassess the role of alluvial fans as sensitive recorders of late Quaternary environmental change on the Sfakian piedmont, southern Crete. The impacts of climate change and tectonic activity upon fan deposition are being separated using an integrated remote sensing, field mapping, geochemical, geochronological (OSL and U/Th) and mineral magnetic analysis of post-incisive fan surface soils.

Environmental Monitoring

(i) Catchment-scale contaminated sediment transfer
The aim of this research sub-theme is to improve understanding of the processes controlling the dispersion, accumulation and geochemical evolution of sediment-borne contaminants derived from past and present mining activities in order to more effectively mitigate their long term environmental impact. A wide range of remote sensing, geomorphological and geochemical techniques and datasets are being utilised to study the complex interaction of sediment and solute transport. A remote mapping approach using an integrated observation dataset comprising imaging spectroscopy and LiDAR data provides the capability of mapping the distributions, concentrations and mineralogical and chemical composition of mine waste material at high spatial and temporal resolution at the landscape scale.

(ii) Development of an integrated monitoring methodology for the three-dimensional characterisation of environmental pollution from landfills and contaminated land
The aim of this project was to develop an operational, non-invasive, multi-scale, geophysical monitoring approach to aid environmental agencies and local authorities in the detection and characterisation and risk analysis of environmental pollution from landfill sites and contaminated land. This project involves development of methods to detect and characterise the nature and intensity of subsurface, surface and atmospheric pollution using the simultaneous deployment of a range of ground and airborne geophysical and remote sensing instruments.

(iii) Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Processes:

  • Estuarine Eutrophication
    This study is being carried out to examine the changes in the intertidal vegetation and state of eutrophication in the Eden, Montrose and Ythan estuaries. A range of image processing techniques is being applied to a remote sensing data archive extending over sixty years to resolve the influence of climate and anthropogenic processes on the temporal variation in the quantity and distribution of seagrass and algae biomass.
  • Physics-based monitoring of coastal habitats
    The aim of this research was to develop a quantitative methodology to derive measurements of water column and benthic substrate utilising an underwater radioative transfer modelling approaching parameterised by hyperspectral remote sensing datasets.
  • Estuarine Hydrodynamic and Sedimentary Processes
    This research seeks to quantify the effect of buoyancy driven convergent fronts on the environmental and sediment transport processes in estuaries. An integrated remote sensing approach utilising airborne multispectral, thermal, and along-track InSAR remote sensing data has been used to quantify surface flow velocity, surface roughness, temperature and suspended sediment concentration over entire estuaries. The results of the remote sensing study, combined with in situ sampling, CTD and ADCP measurements have been used to parameterise and evaluate numerical models.

(iv) Habitat Suitability Modelling : Management of bear population dynamics in Slovenia
The aim of this project was to integrate remote sensing, spatial analysis and knowledge-based approaches to develop a spatial decision support system as an aid to the management of brown bear populations in Slovenia. The system utilised a range of approximate reasoning methods to identify the key locations for habitat protection and remediation to maintain a viable population.

Natural Resource Evaluation

I am involved in a number of projects:

  • Development of a novel mineral exploration methodology using an integrated airborne hyperspectral reflectance, spectral emissivity, LiDAR and geophysical remote sensing dataset
    This project seeks to resolve the hidden structural and lithological features of globally important geological deposits in terms of its geodynamic situation and mineral resource potential in order to significantly improve our understanding of the linkages between crustal architecture, magmatism and mineralisation. A novel integrated spectral reflectance, spectral emissivity and LiDAR based geological approach is therefore being developed to overcome these mapping limitations and provide the essential geological information and the necessary spatial resolution.
  • Renewable Energy
    Quantifying the spatial variability of renewable energy resource and identifying the optimum sites for development involves integration of a wide variety of parameters. The requirement for a methodology for quantitative spatial analysis of the resource and the development costs and qualitative assessments of the environmental impacts of proposed developments requires a complex suite of spatial analysis and visualisation methodologies.
  • Characterisation of Geothermal Energy Resource
    This research seeks to develop a methodology that can remotely estimate the heat flow to the surface for systems with a discrete surface expression, providing a very low cost and fast means of measuring the natural heat loss of a geothermal system (which can be an indication of its maximum possible electrical megawatt output) at very high spatial resolution (1m2) at landscape scales (10-100km2) in remote and inaccessible areas.
  • Quantifying the On- and Off-Shore Wind Energy Resource
    This project aims to develop a Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS) to assist in the identification of the optimum locations for renewable energy developments, quantify the renewable energy resource and provide a marine ecosystem service identification and valuation capability. A comprehensive set of digital spatial datasets have been integrated with expert domain knowledge to assist in the identification of the best locations for development and quantify the development potential.



Ferrier, G., and Pope, R.J., 2012, Quantitative mapping of alluvial fan evolution using ground-based reflectance spectroscopy. Geomorphology. DOI - 10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.06.013.

Ferrier, G., Frostick, L.E., and Splajt, T. 2009, Application of geophysical monitoring techniques as aids to probabilistic risk-based management of landfill sites. The Geographical Journal, 175, 4, 301–314.

Ferrier, G, Hudson-Edwards, K.A.,and  Pope, R.J., 2009, Characterisation of the environmental impact of the Rodalquilar mine, Spain by ground-based reflectance spectroscopy. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 100, 11–19.

Pope, R., Wilkinson, K., Skourtsos, E., Triantaphyllou, M., and Ferrier, G., 2008. Clarifying Stages of alluvial fan evolution along the Sfakian piedmont, southern Crete: new evidence from analysis of post-incisive soils and OSL dating, Geomorphology, 94, 206 - 225.

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