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Dr David Amblas, MSc, PhD

Dr David Amblas, MSc, PhD

Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Scott Polar Research Institute


Degree in Geology (2002) and PhD in Earth Sciences (2012) at the University of Barcelona (UB) for the thesis entitled "Sedimentary morphodynamics of siliciclastic passive continental margins", supervised by Dr. Miquel Canals and Dr. Roger Urgelés. He has been a member of the GRC Marine Geosciences group (UB) from 2003 to 2016. He benefited from training stays at the universities of Duke (USA), Florida State (USA), New Brunswick (Canada) and National Taiwan (Taiwan), amongst others. He is co-author of 32 peer-reviewed articles, 20 other publications including book chapters and scientific and educational material, and 90 conference contributions (22 as a first author) at international venues. He has participated in 23 research cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, and off Antarctica (2 as IP). He has been actively involved in 34 Spanish and international research projects where he has provided marine geology expertise in research fields as diverse as climate change, tsunami risk, habitat mapping, offshore wind power and fisheries management. From 2007 to 2016 he has been the responsible of the geophysical equipment of the research vessel "Lluerna" (19 m length). Main contributions of his research are the knowledge of submarine canyons evolution (e.g. Geology, 2012) and the long-term effects of bottom trawling to the seascape over large spatial scales (Nature, 2012).


  • 2016-present: Postdoctoral research fellow (EU Marie S. Curie programme), Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge (UK)
  • 2012-present: Assistant professor, Dept. of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, University of Barcelona (Spain)
  • 2012-2016: Postdoctoral research fellow, GRC Marine Geosciences, University of Barcelona (Spain)


  • PhD in Earth Sciences, University of Barcelona (Spain) - 2012
  • MSc in Earth Sciences, University of Barcelona (Spain) - 2004
  • BSc in Geology, University of Barcelona (Spain) - 2002

Awards and scholarships

  • 2015: EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoc Fellowship (April 2016 - March 2018)
  • 2014: 1st Honorable mention at 2014 XVIII Prize of the Univ. of Barcelona Senate of Doctors. This award distinguishes PhD dissertations representing the most significant contributions in the field of human knowledge and scientific progress in the Univ. of Barcelona.
  • 2013: Extraordinary Doctorate Award of the Faculty of Geology (Univ. of Barcelona)
  • 2013: Josep R. Bataller Geology Award of the Catalan Academia for Language, Science and Humanities (IEC) to the best research work in Geology (period 2010-2012).
  • 2012: University of Barcelona travel award to support a short stay at National Cheng Kung University (Taipei, Taiwan).
  • 2011: American Geophysical Union award for Chapman Conference attendance and presentation (Oxnard, USA)
  • 2010: University of Barcelona travel award for Geohab Conference attendance and presentation (Wellington, New Zealand).


My research at SPRI aims to study the seafloor imprint of the dense water formed on the continental shelf of some marine regions around the globe, with a special emphasis on high latitude areas. The formation of dense shelf water is an atmosphere-driven seasonal phenomenon that occurs when surface waters over the continental shelf become denser than surrounding waters (by cooling, evaporation or sea-ice formation with brine rejection) and sink, generating a near-bottom gravity flow that moves downslope along the seabed. This process contributes to deep-ocean ventilation, plays a role in the global thermohaline circulation (and hence global climate), and involves the massive transfer of energy and matter (including sedimentary particles, organic carbon and pollutants) from shallow to deep waters.

The formation of dense shelf water is highly sensitive to temperature changes in both the lower atmosphere and the sea surface. In the coming decades global warming will likely modify its frequency and intensity, which could significantly affect the functioning of the deep-sea ecosystems. Overall, dense-water formation is expected to decline particularly in Arctic and sub-polar latitudes where sea-ice production is declining.

This research aims to contribute to a better understanding of the past and future effects of climate change on the formation of dense water through the analysis of its morphological and stratigraphic signatures, and through the use of numerical and experimental models. This project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme (grant agreement No 658358).


Featured publications

  • Lai, S.Y.J., Gerber, T.P., Amblas, D., 2016. An experimental approach to submarine canyon evolution. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, p.1-7.
  • Amblas, D., Canals, M., Gerber, T.P., 2015. The long-term evolution of submarine canyons: insights from the NW Mediterranean. CIESM Monograph, 47, p.171-181.
  • Puig, P., Canals, M., Company, J.B., Martin, J., Amblas, D., Lastras, G., Palanques, A., Calafat, A., 2012. Ploughing the deep sea floor. Nature, 489, p.286-289.
  • Amblas, D., Gerber, T.P., De Mol, B., Urgeles, R., Garcia-Castellanos, D., Canals, M., Pratson, L.F., Robb, N., Canning, J., 2012. Survival of a submarine canyon during long-term outbuilding of a continental margin. Geology, 40(6), p.543-546.
  • Amblas, D., Gerber, T.P., Canals, M., Pratson, L.F., Urgeles, R., Lastras, G., Calafat, A.M., 2011. Transient erosion in the Valencia Trough turbidite systems, NW Mediterranean Basin. Geomorphology 130(3-4), p.173-184.
  • Gerber, T.P., Amblas, D., Wolinsky, M.A., Pratson, L.F., Canals, M., 2009. A model for the Long-profile Shape of Submarine Canyons. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 114, f03002.
  • Amblas, D., Canals, M., Urgeles, R., Lastras, G., Liquete, C., Hughes-Clarke, J.E., Casamor, J.L., Calafat, A.M., 2006. Morphogenetic mesoscale analysis of the northeastern Iberian margin, NW Mediterranean Basin. Marine Geology, 234, 1-4, p.3-20.
  • Domack, E.W., Duran, D., Leventer, A., Ishman, S., Doane, S., McCallum, S., Amblas, D., Ring, J., Gilbert, R., Prentice, M., 2006. Stability of the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula during the Holocene epoch. Nature, 436, p.681-685.
  • Amblas, D., Urgeles, R., Canals, M., Calafat, A.M., Rebesco, M., Camerlenghi, A., Estrada, F., De Batist, M., Hugues-Clarke, J.E., 2006. Relationship between continental rise development and palaeo-ice sheet dynamics, Northern Antarctic Peninsula Pacific margin. Quaternary Science Reviews, 25(9-10), 933-944.


  • Teaching at University of Barcelona:
    • Degree in Geology. Subjects: Stratigraphy, Geologic Cartography, Marine Geology.
    • Degree in Environmental Sciences: Geology.
    • Master in Marine Sciences. Subjects: Observation and Sampling Techniques in Marine Geosciences, Marine Sedimentary Processes and Products, Practice on the sea, Geology of the Oceans, Marine Habitat Mapping (coordinator).
  • Training school in underwater geoacoustic surveys (2011, coordinator). Submerged prehistoric archaeology and landscapes of the continental shelf. SPLASHCOS project (COST Action TD0902)