Graduate Research Students

Susan Squibb (a.k.a. Sue Bird)

Transfer of geographical knowledges – Glass slide collection

Susan Squibb (a.k.a. Sue Bird) is a part-time D.Phil candidate, following her retirement as Geography Subject Librarian in the Bodleian Libraries. Her research focuses on 2 archives from the Geography collections, now in the Radcliffe Science Library but originating in the departmental library of the School. One is the teaching (glass) slide collection, augmented by personal slides, both glass and 35mm, taken by a number of former academics; the other a remarkable survival of undergraduate dissertations beginning in 1906 which includes their photographs taken in the field. The work discusses both production and transfer of geographical knowledges, not only within the confines of Oxford but also in the wider educational community as many of the undergraduates of the 1st fifty years of the School pursued careers in secondary schools as well as university departments.


Tim Baxter

Biodiversity and bioprotection of historic maritime structures: a possible win-win?

My project focuses on developing an understanding of the biodiversity value of historic maritime infrastructure such as harbour walls, fortifications and breakwaters. At the same time, it aims to identify protective functions of the species and communities that these structures support using a combination of desk-based research and experiments in the field and the laboratory, including field block exposure trials.

This project is undertaken through SEAHA CDT.


Sam Woor

Cultural Landscapes of the Past: Reconstructing Prehistoric Environmental Change in South-East Arabia

Sam’s research focuses on the Late Pleistocene and Holocene hydrological changes in southeast Arabia. Evidence suggests that the Indian Ocean Monsoon (IOM) system has shifted in its latitudinal position with the cycle of orbital precession (roughly every 23,000 years). These palaeoenvironmental dynamics had profound implications for early Homo sapiens, with changing water resources contributing to demographic shifts over the last few hundred thousand years. His work shall be focusing on the sensitivity of a fluvial drainage network in Oman to these climate shifts in terms of the timings and extent of environmental change which resulted. This aims to move beyond ideas of broadly homogenous environmental change within the Arabian Peninsula, and low latitude desert environments more generally, throughout the Late Quaternary by investigating how different parts of the system responded to orbital climate forcing.

He will employ a multi-proxy approach to understanding past environmental changes, utilising the Oxford Luminescence Dating (OLD) Laboratory to construct optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) chronologies for sedimentary deposits throughout the drainage system. His project will also have components of remote sensing analysis, in particular using hyperspectral analysis to attempt to map and identify palaeochannel deposits in order to define palaeohydrological systems in the region.

The deserts of the Arabian Peninsula are a region of significant geo-heritage value for understanding the interplay between the environment and our prehistoric ancestors. More broadly, Sam aims to highlight the value of Quaternary geoheritage and the threats posed to its preservation through human activity. The project will explore the merits of interdisciplinary work cross-cutting both palaeoenvironmental and heritage science.

This project is undertaken through SEAHA CDT.


Kathryn Royce

Mineral Instability within the Museum Environment

Approximately 10% of the 4,400 identified mineral species are susceptible to average indoor conditions found within museum stores and displays. Some can be damaged by light, whilst others are affected by changes in temperature and humidity. The most notable example is pyrite. Museum professionals have lamented over pyrite deterioration for hundreds of years due to its key role in the destruction of innumerable fossil and mineral specimens.
Undesirable outcomes from mineral deterioration can include loss of specimens, information, and use. In order to prevent such losses, research into mineral stability is necessary to determine and provide ideal storage and display conditions. While such research may have been performed in other sectors, little has crossed over into museum literature.

This research will analytically review the stability parameters – both from literature and experimentally – of the most susceptible minerals commonly found in museum collections. Defining and identifying early stages of damage will also be determined. Combined, these will ultimately produce useful guidance on the preservation and care of mineral collections for their owners and caretakers.

This project is undertaken through SEAHA CDT in collaboration with National Museum Wales Cardiff, OR3D Ltd., and BSRIA Ltd.


Dáire Browne

Breathing stones – Developing laser spectroscopic methods to study moisture uptake and release by historic limestone in polluted urban environments

Many important heritage buildings, monuments and sculptures in cities are constructed of limestone which is prone to deteriorate in polluted atmospheric conditions. Understanding moisture relations at the surface of limestone is fundamental both to understanding the reactions involved in limestone deterioration and to judging the success of conservation treatments. This project aims at addressing the lack of high resolution, near-surface methods to monitor the movements of pollutant gases and water vapour into and out of stone surfaces and identify how they are affected by conservation treatments.

Dáire’s project is undertaken in partnership with Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, University of Oxford Estate Services and Michell Instruments through SEAHA CDT.


Blen Taye Gemeda

A holistic approach to diagnosing the deterioration of rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Blen’s research is focused on developing a methodology to diagnose deterioration of rock-cut heritage sites using non-destructive and laboratory techniques. Rock-cut construction is an evolving architectural style that has its own challenges for preservation and restoration, yet little research has been done to understand the challenges that are faced or how to address them. A group of rock-hewn churches at the UNESCO world heritage site at Lalibela (Ethiopia) are investigated in this study with the aim of improving the techniques that are currently being used to monitor and conserve rock-cut heritage sites.

Blen’s project is undertaken in partnership with World Monument Fund and Fasil Giorighis Architects through SEAHA CDT.


Richard Grove

Improving the evaluation of conservation treatments for deteriorating sandstone in built heritage.

Richard’s project is based upon the monitoring of treated Sandstone in heritage settings. Sandstone buildings and monuments form a large proportion of the world’s built heritage, and can be some of the more vulnerable structures to environmental and human inputs. Efforts have been made over the last decades to develop consolidants and stabilising treatments for exposed or degraded stonework, but little is understood about their effectiveness and what impacts they may have on the treated material. This project will combine laboratory and field based assessment to design a range of evaluative techniques for use in practical conservation regimes.

Richard’s project is undertaken in partnership with Getty Conservation Institute and the sensor manufacturer TQC through SEAHA CDT.


Katherine Jang

Moss on Rocks: Evaluating bioprotection and biodegradation on stonework and cultural heritage

Katherine’s research project aims to analyze the physical and chemical effects moss growth on historic buildings, and to quantify and typify the chemical and physical changes that the colonization creates. The project combines lab tests, fieldwork, and non-destructive in-situ tests on historic buildings. This combination of lab and field design will ensure that what we see in the lab is replicable in ‘real world’ environments and confirmed by comparative analysis on historic buildings.

Katherine’s project is undertaken in partnership with The British Bryological Society.


Michelle LanzoniPortrait3_Box.BW

Rain Events and Recharge Processes in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado

The San Luis Valley is a high-elevation desert in the American West. It is home to the ancient Lake Alamosa and subsequent sand dunes, and snowmelt from surrounding mountains forms the headwaters of the Rio Grande. This study follows water through its air-surface-rock interactions and examines the geochemistry and isotopic signatures of water to determine major pathways and rates of recharge to the underlying aquifer system. This study also uses electrical resistivity and plant water analysis to examine water movement on the valley floor.

Michelle Lanzoni is a doctoral candidate in the School of Geography and the Environment where she teaches on the department’s MSc course in Water Science, Policy, and Management. This study is made possible through collaboration with Oxford’s Rock Breakdown Laboratory and the University of Wyoming’s Stable Isotope Facility.


IM_PhotoIan Maybury

Hyperspectral imaging in Heritage: From Books to Bricks

Ian’s project investigates the use of hyperspectral imaging (HSI) in a heritage context learning how to best use the equipment to extract information such as hidden text, relief details, the presence of organic growth, and signs of deterioration. HSI will be applied to books/papers, museum objects, and architectural/archaeological heritage materials.

The project is undertaken in partnership with Bodleian Libraries and Headwall Photonics through SEAHA CDT.


Martin Michette

Developing preventative conservation strategies for problem stones: Reigate Stone at the Tower of London

This project is part of ongoing research into the nature of Reigate Stone; assessing how and why condition varies across different locations and developing effective conservation strategies accordingly. The principle aim is to evaluate the success of previous conservation treatments of Reigate Stone, and propose improved strategies based on an increased understanding of decay mechanisms and making full use of novel techniques and technologies.

Martin’s project is undertaken in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces and Carden & Godfrey Architects through SEAHA CDT.


Jenny Richards

Learning from nature: evaluating site-based conservation approaches to mitigating climatic risks to earthen heritage sites in N W China.

Jenny’s project is aiming to  investigate the use of site-scale, natural approaches to preventive conservation of earthen heritage sites in NW China. Earthen heritage sites are deteriorating rapidly, often in response to climatic hazards such as storms, and their resilience in the face of future environmental change could be low. Previous conservation efforts have included consolidants, drainage system and sheltering but have had mixed success. A combination of fieldwork and modelling will be used to investigate future methods for earthen heritage conservation.

Jenny’s project is undertaken in partnership with the Dunhuang Academy and the Getty Conservation Institute through the SEAHA CDT.


Yinghong Wang

Deterioration and conservation of sandstone grottoes in Northwestern China

Grottoes carved in sandstone are common in China. They have been exposed to the environment for over one thousand years since they were initially created. Deterioration of sandstone grottoes has been occurring through time, resulting in serious weathering phenomena such as flacking, blistering, and loss of materials. Yinghong’s project is aimed at investigating the factors that cause the deterioration and evaluating which conservation treatments could address the main problems of sandstone grottoes in Northwestern China.


Former students

  • Dr Lucie Fusade (2019) – DPhil thesis “Mitigating driving rain to historic buildings: the use of additives in lime-based pointing mortar
  • Dr Scott Allan Orr (2018) – DPhil thesis “Wet walls: developing 4D moisture monitoring techniques for stone masonry
  • Dr Katrin Wilhelm (2016) – DPhil thesis “Improving non-destructive techniques for stone weathering in situ
  • Dr Cristina Cabello-Briones (2016) – DPhil thesis “The effects of open shelters on preservation of limestone remains at archaeological sites”
  • Dr Samin Ahmad (2015) – DPhil thesis “What controls algal greening of sandstone heritage? An experimental approach”
  • Dr Shuaishuai He (2014) – DPhil thesis “Developing relations between heritage conservation and urban revitalization: lessons from China”
  • Dr Jennifer Booth (2013) – DPhil thesis “Back to nature: geologically informed consolidants for stone museum artefacts”
  • Noreen Zaman – The role of soil as a method for conserving cultural stone ruins: effects of physical and chemical characteristics on stone weathering
  • Dr Lisa Mol (2011) – DPhil thesis “Sandstone weathering, Electrical Resistivity Tomography, and the deterioration of San Rock Art in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa”
  • Dr Dominique Chaput  (2011) – DPhil thesis “Structure, diversity and metabolic profile of lithobiontic communities inhabiting exposed Arctic granite : a molecular microbial ecology approach”
  • Chris Wood (2010) – MSc by Research thesis “Understanding and controlling the movement of moisture through solid stone masonry caused by driving rain”
  • Dr Satish Pandey (2010) – DPhil thesis “Dynamics of the transport, distribution and crystallisation of soluble salts in sandstone : implications for salt weathering in historic buildings”
  • Dr Abigail Stone (2009) – DPhil thesis “Multi-proxy reconstruction of late Quaternary climate dynamics in western Southern Africa.”
  • Dr Bethany Ehlmann (2007) – DPhil thesis “Developing quantitative techniques for evaluating rock breakdown morphology: a case study of basalt boulders in the channelled scablands, Washington, USA”