Dr Frances Butcher
Department of Geography
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
+44 114 222 7972
Full contact details
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
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 am an Associate Editor for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf) and I am currently the Chair of the International Association of Geomorphologists Planetary Geomorphology Working Group, and curator of its 'Planetary Geomorphology Image of the Month' blog.
I also lead 'CryoMars', an informal network of UK researchers working on Mars' Cryosphere and Earth Analogues.
- 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).
- Numerical modelling of subglacial ribs, drumlins, herringbones, and mega-scale glacial lineations reveals their developmental trajectories and transitions. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.
- Permafrost molards as an analogue for ejecta-ice interactions at Hale Crater, Mars. Icarus, 391.
- Surface topographic impact of subglacial water beneath the south polar ice cap of Mars. Nature Astronomy.
- Effects of basal topography and ice-sheet surface slope in a subglacial glaciofluvial deposition model. Journal of Glaciology. View this article in WRRO
- Multiple sites of recent wet-based glaciation identified from eskers in western Tempe Terra, Mars. Icarus, 386.
- A billion or more years of possible periglacial/glacial cycling in Protonilus Mensae, Mars. Icarus, 385.
- A comparative view of glacial and periglacial landforms on Earth and Mars. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 53(4). View this article in WRRO
- Solar-system-wide significance of Mars polar science. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 53(4).
- Sinuous ridges in Chukhung crater, Tempe Terra, Mars: Implications for fluvial, glacial, and glaciofluvial activity. Icarus, 357. View this article in WRRO
- Landforms indicative of regional warm based glaciation, Phlegra Montes, Mars. Icarus. View this article in WRRO
- Morphometry of a glacier-linked esker in NW Tempe Terra, Mars, and implications for sediment-discharge dynamics of subglacial drainage. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 542. View this article in WRRO
- Modeled subglacial water flow routing supports localized intrusive heating as a possible cause of basal melting of Mars' south polar ice cap. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. View this article in WRRO
- Molards as an indicator of permafrost degradation and landslide processes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 516, 136-147. View this article in WRRO
- The 2016 UK Space Agency Mars Utah Rover Field Investigation (MURFI). Planetary and Space Science, 165, 31-56. View this article in WRRO
- Time will tell: temporal evolution of Martian gullies and palaeoclimatic implications. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 467(1), 165-186.
- Glacial and gully erosion on Mars : a terrestrial perspective. Geomorphology, 318, 26-57. View this article in WRRO
- Surface-based 3D measurements of small aeolian bedforms on Mars and implications for estimating ExoMars rover traversability hazards. Planetary and Space Science, 153, 39-53. View this article in WRRO
- Recent basal melting of a mid-latitude glacier on Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 122(12), 2445-2468. View this article in WRRO
- Are the Dorsa Argentea on Mars eskers?. Icarus, 275, 65-84. View this article in WRRO
- Water Ice at Mid-Latitudes on Mars, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science
- The Hydrology of Mars Including a Potential Cryosphere, Volatiles in the Martian Crust (pp. 185-246). Elsevier
Conference proceedings papers
- Ice sheet scale subglacial meltwater conduit dimensions and processes: insights from 3D morphometry of a large sample of eskers. EGU General Assembly. online, 19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021.
- Sinuous Ridges and the History of Fluvial and Glaciofluvial Activity in Chukhung Crater, Tempe Terra, Mars.. EGU General Assembly. online, 19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021.
- Molards as an analogue for ejecta-ice interactions on Mars. EGU General Assembly. online, 19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021.
- Potential for Sampling of Subglacial and Englacial Environments in Mars' Mid-Latitudes, without Deep Drilling.. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. online, 15 March 2021 - 19 March 2021.
- Multiple Sites of Amazonian Wet-Based Glaciation Identified in West Tempe Terra, Mars. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. online, 15 March 2021 - 19 March 2021.
- Molards - A New Landform Revealing Ice-Ejecta Interactions on Mars. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. online, 15 March 2021 - 19 March 2021.
- View this article in WRRO Internal Structure of a Glacier on Mars Revealed by Gully Incision. 51st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Physical Meeting Cancelled due to Covid-19. Abstract Available Online.
- Possible Transport of Basal Debris to the Surface of a Mid-Latitude Glacier on Mars. View this article in WRRO
- Modelling Esker Formation on Mars View this article in WRRO
Theses / Dissertations
- The effects of basal topography and ice-sheet surface slope in a subglacial glaciofluvial deposition model.
- A new, multi-scale mapping approach for reconstructing the flow evolution of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet using high-resolution digital elevation models..
- 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.