Dr Frances Butcher

School of Geography and Planning

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Frances Butcher profile photo
Profile picture of Frances Butcher profile photo
+44 114 222 7972

Full contact details

Dr Frances Butcher
School of Geography and Planning (nee Geography)
Room C5
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I am a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at Sheffield. I am a planetary scientist and glacial geomorphologist researching the history of glaciation on Mars and Earth.

I obtained a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge in 2015 before moving to The Open University to undertake a PhD entitled 'Wet-Based Glaciation on Mars', which I completed in 2019. I then moved to the University of Sheffield as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the ERC-funded PALGLAC project (PI: Prof Chris Clark), using glacial landforms to reconstruct the flow dynamics of the former Scandinavian Ice Sheet on Earth.

I began my current Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship at Sheffield in 2022. I use data from satellites orbiting Mars to analyse the landscapes generated by past and present glaciers on the Red Planet. In doing so, I aim to better understand the history of environmental change on Mars, with a particular focus on the history of glacial meltwater production.

My research aims to inform future robotic and human exploration of Mars’ ice deposits. For example, I was selected by NASA and the Canadian, Japanese and Italian space agencies to serve as a member of the 'Measurement Definition Team' for the International Mars Ice Mapper (‘I-MIM’) Mission.

I founded and lead the 'CryoMars' network of UK researchers and international collaborators working on Mars Cryosphere and Earth Analogue topics. I am also on the Science team for the CaSSIS camera on ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, and serve on the UK Space Agency's Space Exploration Advisory Committee.

I am also an Associate Editor for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Research interests
My key research interests include:
  • Landforms produced by glaciation and glacial meltwater on Mars, and their implications for environmental conditions in Mars' recent and ancient past.
  • Current ice deposits on Mars, their implications for recent environmental change, and their potential for future sampling and in situ resource utilisation by human/robotic missions.
  • Landforms produced by past ice sheets on Earth, and their implications for ice sheet dynamics.
  • Using comparisons to Earth to better understand glaciation on Mars (and vice versa).


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

Theses / Dissertations

  • Butcher FEG (2019) Wet-Based Glaciation on Mars. RIS download Bibtex download




  • 2022: Principal Investigator, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship. 'Deciphering Mars’ glacial landscapes to underpin science goals of human missions'.
  • 2020: British Society of Geomorphology Conference Support Grant (£500): CryoMars meeting, University of Sheffield.
  • 2019: International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Conference Grant (€1320).
  • 2019: Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Development Award ($1500).
  • 2019: GeoPlanet Research Mobility Grant (€1200): Awarded by Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique, University of Nantes.
  • 2018: Royal Astronomical Society Travel Grant (£900).
  • 2018: British Society for Geomorphology Postgraduate Conference Attendance Grant (£300).
  • 2017: Pierazzo International Student Travel Award ($2000): Awarded to one non-US graduate student globally per year by the Planetary Science Institute.
  • 2016: Europlanet Grant: Full funding to attend Europlanet RPIF 3D training workshop, Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
  • 2016: 6th International Mars Polar Conference European Student Travel Grant (€666): Awarded by the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences.
  • 2015: Ogden Trust Trustees' Award (£900).
  • 2015: British Society for Geomorphology Postgraduate Conference Attendance Grant (£850).
  • 2015: ProViDE Summer School EU Student Travel Grant (£500).
Teaching interests
I teach on the following modules in Sheffield:
  • Polar and Alpine Change MSc(Res) Research Project
  • The Planets
  • Our Frozen Planet
  • Critical Digital Geographies in Practice (MSc Applied GIS )

Past teaching activities include:
  • Guest lectures for 'Digital Terrain Analysis' module, University of Manchester MSc Geographical Information Science (2019 and 2020)
  • Invited Workshop Coordinator: 'Planetary Geomorphology in Mars Landing Site Selection', South East Physics Network GRADnet Planetary Science Workshop, National Physical Laboratory, London, (2016).
  • Demonstrator: Natural Environment Research Council CENTA Doctoral Training Program ArcGIS Training Course, The Open University (2016)
Professional activities and memberships
  • 2nd prize for '3 minute thesis' competition (2018), Open University STEM faculty.
  • Nature Astronomy Prize for Best Student Presentation (2017) at the 1st British Planetary Science Congress, Glasgow, UK, 4-5 Dec. 2017 (Poster).
  • Paper subsequently reported in a Nature Astronomy Research Highlight
  • John Glen Prize (2017) for the best student talk at the International Glaciological Society's British Branch Meeting, Lancaster University, UK, 5-7 Sept. 2017.
  • Prize for best student talk (2017) at the Astrobiology Society of Britain: Habitability Beyond Earth conference. Open University, UK, 13-14 Sept. 2017.
  • William Vaughan Lewis Prize (2015), University of Cambridge prize for undergraduate geography dissertation.
  • Corpus Christi College Prize (2015), Corpus Christi College (University of Cambridge) prize for undergraduate dissertation.
  • Hewitt Exhibition (2015), Corpus Christi College (University of Cambridge) prize for contributions to outreach and admissions initiatives between 2012 and 2015.