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Professor Julian A. Dowdeswell, BA, MA, PhD, ScD

Professor Julian A. Dowdeswell, BA, MA, PhD, ScD

Emeritus Associate

Glaciologist, working on the form and flow of glaciers and ice caps and their response to climate change, and the links between former ice sheets and the marine geological record, using a variety of satellite, airborne and shipborne geophysical tools.


Julian Dowdeswell graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1980, and studied for a Masters Degree at INSTAAR in the University of Colorado and for a Ph.D. in the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.

His research interests include: (a) the dynamics of large ice masses and their response to climate change; (b) the application of airborne and satellite geophysical techniques in glaciology, and (c) processes and patterns of sedimentation in glacier-influenced marine environments. He has worked, on the ice and from airborne platforms, in a number of areas of the Arctic, including Svalbard, Russian Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya, Iceland, Greenland and Baffin, Devon and Ellesmere islands in Arctic Canada. He has also undertaken many periods of work on icebreaking research vessels in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea, in the fjords and on the continental shelves of Svalbard and Greenland, and in the Weddell, Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas off Antarctica.

Julian was Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute from 2002 to 2021.

Julian has been awarded the Polar Medal by Her Majesty the Queen for 'outstanding contributions to glacier geophysics' and has also received the Founder's Medal (2008) and the Gill Memorial Award (1998) from the Royal Geographical Society. In 2011 he was awarded the Louis Agassiz Medal by the European Geosciences Union for 'outstanding contributions to the study of polar ice masses and to the understanding of the processes and patterns of sedimentation in glacier-influenced marine environments.' In 2014 he was awarded the IASC Medal by the International Arctic Science Committee, and in 2018 the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London. He has recently been elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Julian is Brian Buckley Fellow in Polar Science at Jesus College.


  • 2023-present: Emeritus Associate, Scott Polar Research Institute
  • 2001-2022: Professor of Physical Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2002-2021: Director, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
  • 1998-2001: Professor of Physical Geography and Director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre, University of Bristol
  • 1994-1998: Professor of Glaciology and Director and Head of Department, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth (1997 to 1998)
  • 1992-1994: Assistant Director of Research, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
  • 1989-1992: Senior Assistant in Research, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
  • 1986-1989: Lecturer in Physical Geography University of Wales, Aberystwyth


  • B.A. in Geography, University of Cambridge,
  • M.A. University of Colorado, INSTAAR
  • Ph.D. Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
  • ScD University of Cambridge


Major research interests

  • Glaciological investigations of the form and flow of glaciers and ice sheets. Continuing integrated programme of field and numerical modelling work on high Arctic ice masses and their responses to climate change.
  • Processes and patterns of glacial sedimentation in marine environments, emphasising links between geophysical measurements and numerical modelling of sediment delivery to continental margins.
  • Satellite remote sensing studies of large ice masses. In particular, the quantitative analysis of satellite datasets to solve glaciological problems and to provide boundary conditions for numerical models.

Current research grants

Grounding-zone flux observations at a continental scale: the Antarctic Ice Sheet

PI: J.A.D.
Funding: Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation
€237,000 (2020-23)


Doctoral and Masters dissertations supervised include the following:

  • Deformable bed glaciology: measurement and modelling.
  • A glacial sedimentary system in north-west Spitsbergen.
  • Investigations of surge-type glaciers in Svalbard.
  • Numerical modelling studies of the Svalbard-Barents Sea ice sheet.
  • The seasonal evolution of meltwater discharge, quality and routing at a high Arctic glacier.
  • Glacimarine sedimentation and environments during the Late Weichselian and Holocene in the Bellsund Trough and Van Keulenfjorden, Svalbard.
  • Late Quaternary sedimentary environments on the East Greenland continental margin.
  • Numerical modelling of the dynamic response of glaciers to changing climate.
  • Large-scale sedimentation and ice sheet dynamics in the Polar North Atlantic.
  • Geophysical and numerical modelling investigations of the ice caps in Russian Severnaya Zemlya.
  • Remote sensing of glacierized area ice dynamics in the Russian High Arctic.
  • Modelling ice-sheet interactions with the ocean.
  • Slope stability on the Norwegian-Svalbard continental margin.
  • Marine geophysical investigations of iceberg scouring at the mouth of Hudson Strait.
  • Modelling iceberg and meltwater sedimentation from tidewater glaciers.
  • Reflection seismic investigations of the Canadian Beaufort Sea margin, Arctic Ocean.
  • Icebergs and iceberg ploughing of the Antarctic continental shelf.
  • Seismic investigations of glacier influenced sedimentation on high-latitude margins.


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External activities

  • UK National Antarctic Research Committee - Chair (2002-2006), Member (2006-)
  • Trustee of Royal Museums Greenwich (2018-)
  • UK Alternate Delegate to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) (2002-2006)
  • UK Member of the Council of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) (2002-2005)
  • NERC Peer Review College, Member (2002-2005, 2010-2015)
  • Geological Society - Chair of Marine Studies Group Committee (2002-2005)
  • Head of the Glaciers and Ice Sheets Division of the International Commission for Snow and Ice (ICSI) (1999-2006)
  • International Glaciological Society - Chair of Publications Committee (1995-2002)
  • Chair of Steering Committee for NERC British Ocean Sediment Core Repository (BOSCOR) facility (1999-2002).
  • NERC-nominated British representative on the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) working groups on Arctic Glaciers (1992-2016).