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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor John Wainwright

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Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43499
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: S212

Contact Professor John Wainwright (email at


My research interests, which focus on past, present and future human interactions with the environment, arise from a varied background.  I have a BA in Archaeology and Geology from Bristol University, where I also studied for my PhD on "Erosion of Semi-Arid Archaeological Sites: A Study in Natural Formation Processes", working on sites in Southwest France. Then I moved to Keele University to work as a post-doc on a NERC-funded project on overland-flow dynamics in the context of vegetation change.  Following a temporary lectureship at Southampton University, I took up a lectureship in physical geography at King's College London in 1993, where I was subsequently reader (2000) and professor (2002).  

In 1999, I received the prestigious Gordon Warwick award of the British Geomorphological Research Group, recognizing my innovative work in the understanding of past and present semi-arid environments. I have also previously been Honorary Secretary and Membership Secretary of the BGRG, which is now the British Society for Geomorphology.

In 2005, I moved to Sheffield as Professor of Physical Geography, and spent three years as a Visiting Professor at Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg.  I was appointed as Professor in Physical Geography at Durham in October 2011.

I have carried out extensive field research, especially in drylands, with an emphasis on the Mediterranean, the US Southwest and sub-Saharan Africa.  Computer modelling is central to the methods I use to link data with theory, and I have also carried out laboratory experiments on slope and channel processes to make this link.

Research Interests

  • Modelling of human-environment interactions using agent-based models and other interdisciplinary approaches
  • Geomorphology and geoarchaeology of arid, semi-arid and Mediterranean regions
  • Processes of overland flow and soil erosion
  • Links between hydrological, geomorphological and ecological processes (ecohydrology and ecogeomorphology)
  • Laboratory modelling of hydrological and geomorphic processes
  • Computer modelling of hydrological and geomorphic processes
  • Theoretical geomorphology

Please contact me if you are interested in discussing possible PhD or MRes research projects on any of these themes.

If you would like copies of any of my publications, please get in touch.

Research Groups

Department of Geography

Research Projects

Department of Geography

  • Dynamics of Runoff And Erosion Modelling (DRAEM)

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Show all publications


Selected Grants

  • 2019: i-CONN: Interdisciplinary connectivity: Understanding and managing complex systems using connectivity science, Interreg (ERDF) Europe, €4 million, 2019-10-01 - 2023-09-30
  • 2013: Vegetation shifts in desert environments: a multi-scale ecohydrological approach for the analysis of grassland-shrubland transitions (£165202.29 from European Commission)
  • 2012: Understanding Runoff and Erosion Dynamics (£73762.33 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)