Physical Geography Research

physical-geography-collage.jpg Physical geography is the study of the natural features and processes operating at the Earth’s surface and their impacts on, and interaction with, human society. Our research focuses on fluvial, slope and coastal geomorphology, Quaternary biogeography, and environmental change. Geomorphic research has a “mountains to sea” theme, which recognises the landscape connections between slopes, rivers and coasts.

We publish GeoScience, a Working Paper series that publishes work in progress and serves as a means to publish preliminary findings, often in association with taught postgraduate work.

For more information about our research activity, select individual researchers' names below.

Our expertise

Fluvial processes

Research in fluvial processes focuses on river channel dynamics and sediment flux; alluvial histories and catchment response to environmental change; slope-channel coupling and catchment connectivity. Pure research in these areas is applied to address river managment issues. 

Contact Dr Ian Fuller
Contact Professor Mark Macklin

 

Coastal processes

We research the processes that drive changes in New Zealand's coastal landscapes. This encompasses changes driven by contemporary coastal processes, such as coastal erosion, to longer-term changes such as Late Quaternary coastal evolution driven by changes in global sea level.

Contact Dr Alastair Clement

 

Slope processes

In young, tectonically active landscapes like New Zealand, landslides are the dominant form of erosion. They can modify the landscape both gradually or dramatically, and affect infrastructure and communities. To reduce their impact we investigate the physical, environmental, and anthropomorphic conditions that bring about slope instability and change over human and geological timescales.

Contact Dr Sam McColl

 

Palynology

Palynology (the science of pollen) is an inter-disciplinary science that combines geography, earth science, plant biology and ecology. Massey houses a world-class palynology laboratory that uses pollen from ancient sediments to reconstruct past environmental change.

Contact Dr Kat Holt

 

Biogeography

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of living things across the earth. It draws on many scientific disciplines including ecology, biology, plate tectonics, statistics and molecular biology. We specialise in reconstructing past biogeography to understand how factors like climate change and natural and anthropogenic disturbance have modified the environment.   

Contact Dr Kat Holt

 

River solutions

We study hydrology, geomorphology and ecology to maintain water quality and quantity in our waterways while balancing ecological and human needs. Massey’s Innovative River Solutions research centre brings together research skills in physical geography, ecology, hydrology, soil science, and Geographic Information Systems to solve water-management issues.

Contact Dr Ian Fuller

Physical Geography post-graduate research projects starting 2015: 

Contact us about research opportunities

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these projects please contact either of the contact persons listed alongside each project. If you would like to chat about various post-graduate options, feel free to get in touch with any of the Physical Geographers.

Project title

Ideal programme

Contact person

Monitoring active landslides in glaciated valleys in the Southern Alps using time-lapse photographs

Hons, MSc, PhD

Sam

Age estimation for the initiation of the glaciated Mueller Rockslide

Hons

Sam

Unravelling the Holocene evolution of box-shaped valleys in the Manawatu

Hons

Alastair

Refining understanding of marine terrace development at Waimarama, east coast North Island

Hons

Alastair

Statistical analyses of earthquake-induced landslides

Hons or MSc

Sam

3D soil mapping using Ground Penetrating Radar for optimising agricultural irrigation systems

Hons or MSc

Sam/Landcare

Manawatu Catchment flow regime and cross-divide rainfall patterns

Hons

Sam/Ian

Reconstructing the impacts of landsliding on river behaviour in the Rangitikei

Hons or MSc

Sam/Ian

Modelling of glacial-isostasy in New Zealand

Hons, MSc  or PhD

Sam/Alastair

Palaeovegetation of MIS 3 and 4 in Northland: implications for the age of the Rotoehu Tephra

MSc

Kat

Improved age control in key palaeovegetation records through cryptotephra analysis

Hons

Kat/GNS

Enhancing taxonomic resolution in NZ pollen records through automated   palynology

Hons/MSc

Kat

High-resolution vegetation/palaeoclimate reconstruction from Taranaki

Hons/MSc/PhD

Kat/VRS

Extending flood series in the Manawatu and Whanganui Rivers using lagoon and slackwater sediment archives

Hons/MSc/PhD

Ian/Kat

Linking bed level changes in the Waiapu with catchment erosion

Hons/MSc

Ian

Mapping anthropogenic alluvium in New Zealand catchments

Hons/MSc

Ian

Developing an index of natural character to monitor change in river condition in response to river engineering

Hons/MSc

Ian/IRS

Mapping floodplain ecosystem services   

Hons/MSc

Ian/IRS

Monitoring and modelling erosion and sediment transfers, Stony River, Taranaki 

PhD

Ian/VRS

Quantifying metal contaminated floodplains and estuaries, Coromandel Peninsula

Hons/MSc

Ian/Alastair

Erosion detection of the Palmerston North Anzac cliffs using repeat laser-scanning.

MSc

Alastair/Ian

Stability assessment of the Palmerston North Anzac cliffs

MSc/PhD

Sam/UoA

Holocene evolution of the Lake Wairarapa basin and connecting catchments

PhD

Ian/Kat/Sam/Alastair

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soil@massey.ac.nz

easter-island.jpg

Solving the mystery of Easter Island

Renowned for its towering Moai statues, Easter Island has presented one of the greatest mysteries of our time. What happened to the people who built its massive statues? Why are there no trees on the island? The answers to these questions have now largely been answered, thanks to pollen.

Emeritus Professor John Flenley has devoted a considerable part of his research career to unraveling the vegetation and environmental history of this mysterious east Pacific island.

Professor Flenley collected sediment cores from several volcanic craters on the island, and extracted the pollen from them. This showed that the island once supported an extensive palm forest, which was progressively removed following the arrival of humans. Without trees, the island’s soils became degraded and were no longer productive, and the civilization fell.

Easter Island is now regarded as a microcosm for our own planet, and serves as a warning of the dangers of overexploitation of the environment.

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