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Dr Ian Willis, BSc PhD

Dr Ian Willis, BSc PhD

University Senior Lecturer

Glaciologist with interests in the meteorology, thermal regime, mass balance, hydrology and dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets.

Biography

Career

  • 2002-Now: Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2003-2004: Visiting Academic, University of Canterbury, New Zealand (while on leave from Cambridge)
  • 1994-2002: Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 1995-1997: Visiting Scholar, Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington (while on leave from Cambridge)
  • 1989-1994: Assistant Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 1985-1986: Research Assistant, Department of Geography, Polytechnic of North London

Research

My current areas of research include:

  • Meteorology, mass balance and surface hydrology of debris covered glaciers in the Himalaya
  • Antarctic ice-shelf hydrology, instability and break-up
  • Surface and subglacial hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Surface characteristics and mass balance of Icelandic ice caps
  • Mass balance of glaciers in Svalbard
  • Glacier geomorphology and sedimentology

My research involves a combination of field-based geophysics (ground penetrating radar, weather stations, dye tracing, borehole investigations, surveying and GPS, seismometers); ii) airborne (lidar and optical imagery) and satellite (radar and optical imagery) remote sensing; and iii) physics-based computer modelling.

Supervision of Doctoral and Masters dissertations

Recent Doctoral and Masters dissertations supervised include the following:

PhD

  • Using semi-automated methods to map glacial geomorphology from remotely sensed data
  • Spatio-temporal variability and energy-balance implications of surface ponds on Himalayan debris-covered glaciers
  • Modelling the hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Spatially distributed modelling of regional glacier mass balance: A Svalbard case study
  • Soft-sediment deformation beneath a surge-type glacier
  • A distributed, physically based snow melt and runoff model for alpine glaciers
  • The hydrology and dynamics of polythermal glaciers
  • Hydrological influences on the dynamics of valley glaciers
  • Seasonal and spatial variations in the surface energy-balance of valley glaciers
  • Dye tracer investigations of glacier hydrological systems

MPhil

  • Examining surface and subsurface melt-water ponding and refreezing on the Bach Ice Shelf, Antarctica using satellite optical and radar imagery
  • Glacier surging in the West Kunlun Shan
  • Analysis of the surface hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet using Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar
  • Coastal meltwater plume detection and its response to melting variations around the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Modelling the future mass balance of glaciated Northwest Spitsbergen, Svalbard for a range of socio-economic trajectories
  • Enhanced melting beneath supra-glacial lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Energy balance modelling at the glacier surface: model comparison and implications for mass balance calculation, Langjökull, Iceland
  • Surface reflectance characteristics of Langjökull, Iceland
  • Modelling meltwater drainage in the Paakitsoq region, western Greenland, and its response to 21st century climate change
  • Application of Wavelet Analysis for Examining Climate and Meltwater Runoff in the Paakitsoq Region, West Greenland
  • Surface Topography and change, Langjökull, Iceland
  • Climate and pro-glacial discharge interactions in the Paakitsoq region of Western Greenland
  • Recent changes in the surging outlet glaciers of Langjökull, Iceland
  • Temporal and spatial patterns of supraglacial lake drainage and implications for the hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Recent changes to Langjökull , Iceland: An investigation integrating airborne lidar and satellite imagery
  • A distributed, physically based model of glacier hydrology applied to Paakitsoq, Ilulissat, western Greenland
  • Numerical analysis of rapid water transfer beneath Antarctica
  • Development, testing and application of a one-dimensional mass balance flow model - Midre Lovénbreen, Svalbard
  • A sedimentological investigation of glacigenic deposits in Iceland

Publications

[Publications will appear automatically from the University's research database.]

Outreach

I am involved in many public / media outreach activities to widen the public's interest in and involvement with my own research and with polar science more generally. Examples over the last 5 years include:

Talks

Interviews with and reports in the media

My own recent research activity:

Polar science more generally:

External activities

I have been a Council Member and the Treasurer of the International Glaciological Society since 2006.

I am a regular reviewer of academic manuscripts for Nature; Science; Nature Geoscience; Journal of Geophysical Research; Geophysical Research Letters; Environmental Research Letters; Journal of Glaciology; The Cryosphere; Remote Sensing of Environment; Annals of Glaciology; Journal of Hydrology; Hydrological Processes; Boreas; Progress in Physical Geography; Earth Surface Processes and Landforms; Arctic and Alpine Research.

I have reviewed book proposals for Blackwell and for Stanley Thornes Publishers.

I am a regular reviewer of grant proposals for: NERC, UK; Leverhulme UK; NSERC, Canada; NSF and NASA, USA; Swiss National Science Foundation, Switzerland; Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Netherlands.