Members of the Engineering Geology and Natural Hazards Research Group have internationally recognised expertise in the fields of Engineering Geology & Geomorphology, Geotechnical Engineering, Remote Sensing, Disaster Management and Geographical Analyses.

Our work is supported by the Royal Thai Government, Government of Greece, Federal Government of Nigeria, Ministry of Defence (MoD), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Leverhulme Trust, National Environment Research Council (NERC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Ordnance Survey. We also carry out commissioned research on behalf of industrial partners.

We're part of the Centre for Applied Geoscience (CAG), which brings together applied geoscience research and consultancy activities carried across four departments. CAG specialises in the investigation and management of natural and man-made hazards and the conservation of our geo-heritage. Its aim is to carry out research that has a direct impact upon communities, helping them to adapt to environmental change and improve the resilience and sustainability of homes, jobs and cultures.

Our research

Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunami 

This research is focused on four topics:

  • Paleoseismology and neotectonics of seismically active regions
    Working with partners in Turkey, Crete and Kyrgyzstan, we use remote sensing, geophysics and field investigation to identify indicators of ancient and modern earthquakes.
  • Mechanisms, causes and premonitory signals of volcano failure
    With the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology we are investigating the mechanisms, tectonic and geotechnical controls on Mt Etna and other volcanoes. Our NERC funded research on El Hierro investigated the curious large-scale ground movement that accompanied the 2011/12 eruption.
  • Volcanic activity and lava flows modelling
    Understanding effusive activity and lava movement is crucial to managing hazards on volcanoes. We use analogue modelling, remote sensing and field investigation to examine the origin, evolution and associated hazards at Mt Vesuvius, Mt Etna and Tenerife.
  • Identification of tsunamigenic slope instability
    Several slopes on the island of Dominica, Lesser Antilles and the Canaries show signs that could create tsunami waves if they move suddenly. We are using remote sensing and high resolution geological modelling to identify possible zones of instability both on land and offshore.

Environmental monitoring and modelling

  • Landscape evolution and disasters
    Using mountainous and coastal landscapes in Asia, Europe and Africa we are examining how different tectonic and denudation processes combine to produce terrains with different hazard potentials. Our work involves combining high resolution optical and radar remote sensing with field exploration, before and after disaster events.
  • Landslide enhanced models of engineering geology
    The Hampshire Basin provides us with a great opportunity to investigate how features visible at the surface (landslides) can be used to predict geotechnical properties buried underneath. Understanding landslide occurrence, morphology, and stability characteristics can be used to improve geotechnical models where there may be limited physical data.
  • Gis for monitoring, modelling and managing flooding and coastal change
    Understanding how different coastal terrains will react to environmental change, predicting how they will evolve in the future and providing this information to management authorities is being researched using remote sensing, GIS.
  • Monitoring and modelling hazardous dusts
    Working with DustScan Ltd, Grundon Waste Management and Leeds University, we are examining several aspects of contamination including metal partitioning in rocks and soils; bio-accessibility of micronutrients and toxic metals; metal chemistry; and source attribution of nuisance dust.

Geoconservation and heritage science

  • Conservation of cultural heritage
    We are examining how different types of rock decay can be linked to factors such as industrial pollution, weather patterns and climate change. We are using a number of techniques including LiDAR and VIS/NIR spectroscopy to understand and quantify the fundamental decay processes and controls associated with heritage materials. We are modelling and predicting the usefulness of different conservation treatments under changing environmental conditions.
  • Geoconservation of rocky coasts
    Using the coast of Malta as our laboratory, we are measuring the nature and rates of erosion on rocky coasts and modelling them in context of different environmental parameters. This will enable a better understanding of the temporal and spatial variability of erosion risks to rocky coasts.
  • Biodiversity in disturbed landscapes
    Using a range of field and remote techniques we are investigating the connection between geomorphological units and the ecological niches they create and maintain. Working at the Black Ven landslide complex in West Dorset, and concentrating upon plant species, we hope to answer some key questions regarding the timescale, controls and reversibility of ecological complexity and succession.

Disaster risk reduction

  • Economic and social impacts
    Globally and locally, we are increasingly aware of the true costs of natural hazards. A little researched aspect is the cost in financial terms and their effects upon business and planning decisions. Our multidisciplinary programme examines how natural hazards impact on economic and social environments. 
  • Geo-environmental security
    Our research in this field seeks to develop cost-effective but robust vulnerability assessment procedures for those states that lack the funding or technological infrastructure to use what can be expensive and inaccessible proprietary data and software.
  • Low cost tools for disaster risk reduction
    CAGs Derek Rust is responsible for the delivery of the University of Portsmouth’s package within the NATO funded ‘Science for Peace’ programme; investigating the risks to people and property in a seismically active region of Kyrgyzstan.