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Geography

Philip Hughes

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

Education 

BSc (Exeter), M.Phil., PhD (Cambridge)

Research interests 

  • Glacial history of the Atlas Mountains, North Africa
  • Glacial history of Spain and the Pyrenees
  • Pleistocene glacial history of Montenegro, Croatia and Greece
  • Modern glaciers and climate change in the Balkans
  • Glacial and periglacial landforms in Wales and neighbouring areas

My research has sought to describe and explain the spatio-temporal dynamics and wider palaeoclimatic significance of glaciers in the Mediterranean mountains. Building on my PhD research (2001-04), I published a series of papers on the extent, timing and palaeoclimatic significance of Pleistocene glaciations in Greece.

In 2005 I was awarded the prestigious Peter Fleming Award by the Royal Geographical Society to support my glacial research in Montenegro and neighbouring countries. This research has revealed evidence for previously undocumented modern glaciers and also very extensive and low-altitude Pleistocene glaciations. I have published several of my most important papers on the recent and past glaciers of this region.

I have broadened my research focus to include the western Mediterranean mountains. Research here was supported by a 2008 Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship, again from the RGS, to investigate the glacial history of the High Atlas at Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. This ongoing research project is also supported by NERC awards for cosmogenic isotope analyses (10Be and 36Cl) to provide exposure ages for the glacial landforms. This project will provide new insights into palaeoclimates at a strategically important interface between the North Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert. This project has also investigated the age and origin of catastrophic rock avalanches in the High Atlas. This research was recently published in Geological Society of America Bulletin (July 2014 issue) and has received extensive media coverage.

My ongoing and future research will expand in scope from Jebel Toubkal into other areas of the High Atlas and also the Middle Atlas as well as developing new research further north in Spain. I also aim to expand my Balkan research into southernmost Greece and Dalmatia, Croatia. Research in both the western and eastern Mediterranean region will provide important transects for glacier-climate reconstructions and offer new insights into moisture supply and atmospheric circulatory patterns during Pleistocene cold stages. The mountains of North Africa, Spain and the Balkans are in close proximity to routes of Palaeolithic human migration from Africa and the Near East to Europe, and strategically located for understanding environmental changes during Pleistocene cold stages.

Current supervision topics

  • A palaeoecological investigation into Mid- to Late- Holocene climate change, and the early anthropogenic impacts on the environment in the Middle and High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

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