Dr Rob Bryant

PhD

Department of Geography

Reader in Dryland Processes

R.G.Bryant@Sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 7966

Full contact details

Dr Rob Bryant
Department of Geography
F6
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
Sheffield
S3 7ND
Profile

Rob gained his BSc (hons) in Geology from the University of Reading in 1989. This was followed by a PhD at PRIS/Department of Geography, University of Reading investigating the "sedimentology and hydrochemistry of the Chott el Djerid, Tunisia using remote sensing" which was completed in 1993. He has been a Research Assistant at Reading (1993) working on the pre-processing of AVHRR data, and then spent a summer in Iceland assisting Jukka Käyhkö on a project focused on monitoring aeolian processes.

He then went on to take up a Postdoctoral Fellowship (1993-1995) and Lectureship (1995-1998) at the Department of Environmental Science, University of Stirling where his research broadened into the use of airborne remote sensing and field spectroradiometry. He was appointed Lecturer in Applied Remote Sensing at Sheffield in 1999 and in doing so returned to lecturing and researching drylands. He was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2004, and Reader in Dryland Processes in 2007.

Research interests

I'm interested in the global dust cycle, with particular emphasis on geomorphological and hydrological processes that occur within "dry" arid basins. As part of this, I've also worked on aspects of the remote sensing sources of dust in the climate system.

As a side line, I've also worked on projects involving airborne remote sensing and field spectroscopy of a range of environments (rivers, wetlands, coasts).

As part of my Dust research, I have recently been currently part of the RCUK-funded DO4 Models programme, involving collaboration with Oxford, Imperial and UCT. The overall aim of this research was to collect the first dust source-area process data tailored to climate model grid-box resolution from targeted remote sensing and fieldwork in order to develop a new generation of model dust emission schemes. Recent work was featured on the BBC News.

Current research

My current work falls within the following three themes:

Ephemeral Lakes and Dust Emissions

Development and evaluation of remote sensing techniques to understand land/climate interactions, and controls on mineral aerosol emissions dryland regions.

Atmospheric mineral aerosols impact global climate through the absorption and scattering of incoming solar radiation and outgoing planetary radiation, as well as affecting ocean and terrestrial biogeochemistry. Due to the prevalence of arid surfaces with reduced vegetation cover and high velocity winds, much of the observed atmospheric dust is derived from susceptible surfaces within dryland regions.

Work has shown that topographic lows are the predominant sources of atmospheric desert dust within drylands. However, there are no general theories of why some basins are more active dust sources than other regions. Gross changes in the hydrology of an ephemeral lake system can lead to extreme changes in regional dust emissions (eg Owens Lake). It is possible, therefore, that changes in the frequency and extent of natural inundation occurring on large ephemeral lake systems may lead to significant fluctuations in regional dust loadings on a seasonal and inter-annual basis.

Research here focuses on using a range of remote sensing approaches (eg TOMS, POLDER, AVHRR) to constrain the affect of inundation on dust emissions from ephemeral lake systems in Africa.

Including Collaboration with: Natalie Mahowold (UCSB/NCAR), Giles Wiggs (Oxford), Frank Eckhardt (UCT) and Richard Washington (Oxford). Funding from NERC and the Royal Society.

Monitoring Ephemeral Lakes

The use of global time-series of moderate resolution EO data (e.g. MODIS, SPOT-VGT, AVHRR) to determine inundation frequency and groundwater levels for large un-gauged ephemeral systems. Monitoring of the geochemistry and surface morphology of ephemeral lake systems

In drylands past fluctuations in climate have resulted in relatively extreme changes in regional precipitation regimes. However, within most drylands contemporary changes in regional rainfall patterns are difficult to assess by direct measurement, and are best indicated and preserved by studying changes in the level and chemistry of closed or "non-outlet" lakes. However, many of these basins are un-gauged, and relatively little is known about their hydrologic response to climate inputs.

Research here focuses on the use of time-series EO data to determine inundation frequency and groundwater levels for large ephemeral systems. These data are used to estimate regional hydrologic inputs, and generate simple hydrological models.

Including collaboration with: Dr Charon Birkett (GSFC), NERC Dundee Satellite Receiving Station, NASA Surface Water Working Group. Funding from NERC and the Royal Society.

Applied Remote Sensing

Use of airborne remote sensing and deployment of field spectroradiometry to constrain simple radiative transfer models for use in monitoring/evaluation of surface vegetation, sediments and soils.

Research here has focused on the innovative application of airborne remote sensing (principally CASI, CASI SWIR and Daedalus ATM) to estuaries, rivers, and wetlands, and a range of other environments. These dynamic and important environments require both progressive and innovative use of remote sensing techniques.

The work has included collaboration with Andrew Tyler and Dave Gilvear (Stirling), Andrew Baird and Angela Harris (Sheffield), Graham Ferrier (Hull). Data from NERC ARSF and FSF facilities.

Publications

Journal articles

Chapters

Conference proceedings papers

Teaching interests

I have almost 20 years of teaching experience in a range of universities in the UK and other countries (eg Finland, Zambia and Namibia), and have taught classes of all levels and sizes. I currently teach a range of modules at the undergraduate and postgraduate level based on topics that I find to be both exciting and enabling. The major themes of my teaching are driven by my research interests and experience and encompass aspects of dryland geomorphology and the use/exploitation of a range of earth observation approaches. At all levels I encourage learning through inquiry, seek to expose students to the most up to date technological advances in geographical research, and aim to include both field and laboratory components wherever possible.

Professional activities

Editorial responsibilities

  • Co-Editor of the Journal AREA for the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • Journal Reviewer for >20 International, peer-reviewed journals

Committee/panel activities

  • NERC Peer-Review College (2007-2011).
  • NERC EO Mission Support Scheme Moderating Panel (2007).
  • NERC Services Review Group (2008).
  • NERC steering committee for the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS) and the NERC -Remote Sensing Data Analysis Service (RSDAS) (2001 - 2006).
  • Council Member of the British Society for Geomorphology (BSG: 2006-2008)
  • Council Member of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc: 2000-2002).
  • Advisor to USGS Dust Source Monitoring Workgroup (2007)

External Examiner roles

  • University of West Indies (Degrees in Geography) 2007-2011
  • Kings College London (Masters Programmes in Geography) 2012-2015
  • I have undertaken 27 PhD Examinations (12 external and 15 internal) - including overseas

Invited Lectures and Visiting Positions

I have given 26 departmental lectures/seminars at a range of locations
Invited research visits to USDA, Texas, ICESS, University of California Santa Barbara,
Invited Visiting Lectureships at the University of Zambia, University of Turku, Finland, and the University of Namibia (via a DAAD Humboldt Fellowship).

Press and Media

  • 02/04/2014 Featured in a Live Blog on air pollution. Quoted in The Guardian
  • 02/04/2014 Weather Alert. Quoted in the Belfast Telegraph and other local newspapers via the Press Association
  • 03/04/2014 Sheffield air pollution rise caused by Sahara dust. Quoted in the Sheffield Star
  • 03/04/2014 The hazy shade of Spring. Quoted in the Yorkshire Post
  • 03/04/2014 Warning to cut outdoor activity - Quoted in the Belfast Telegraph
  • 03/04/2014 Discussion of Saharan dust which was blown over to parts of the UK resulting in a layer of smog covering some towns and cities. Interview with the Independent
  • 03/04/2014 Discussion of Saharan dust which was blown over to parts of the UK resulting in a layer of smog covering some towns and cities. Interview with the BBC (National News)
  • 03/04/2014 Discussion of Saharan dust which was blown over to parts of the UK resulting in a layer of smog covering some towns and cities. Interview on BBC Radio Sheffield
  • 03/04/2014 Discussion of Saharan dust which was blown over to parts of the UK resulting in a layer of smog covering some towns and cities. Interview with Sheffield Star
  • 03/04/2014 Discussion of Saharan dust which was blown over to parts of the UK resulting in a layer of smog covering some towns and cities Discussion with the Guardian
  • 03/04/2014 South Yorks smog explained and YOUR photos. Sheffield Telegraph
  • 03/04/2014 “Smog expert: Worsening Saharan dust storms to become an annual” ...Large Feature (I’m the expert) in the Independent
  • 03/04/2014 Featured on the Nationalheadlines.co.uk web site “Smog expert: Worsening Saharan dust storms to become an annual Spring fixture as climate changes” Nationalheadlines.co.uk
  • 03/04/2014 Above story also features on worldnews.com, and news24.com - along with a quote from me. “The toxic smog that smothered most of Britain this week will become more frequent in coming years, experts warned last night.”
  • 04/04/2014 “999 calls soar as vulnerable choke on smog” – Quoted in The Scotsman
  • 04/04/2014 Is Saharan dust cloud just a load of hot air? Experts divided as even PM gives up his morning jog because of 'poor air quality' – Quoted in the Daily Mail
  • 04/04/2014 Further discussion with the Daily Mail about camel hair found in dust on a car in London!! – Daily Mail
  • 04/04/2014 Further discussion with the Times about the frequency of Saharan dust events, and a subsequent mention in the Sunday Times – The Times
  • 04/04/2014 ….the above "Dust from the Sahara - and more is UK bound“ story was also picked up by the New Zealand Herald and the Sheffield Star “Sheffield air quality 'will get worse'”. New Zealand Herald and Sheffield Star
  • 05/04/2014 “Sahara disease threat: Britain faces potential foot-and-mouth outbreak from smog” Quoted in this article in the Daily Star
  • 06/04/2014 Mentioned prominently in two articles discussing dust and foot and mouth and dust and climate change in general “Climate change to bring years of toxic smog” and “Britain's toxic smog leaves millions of people at risk of heart disease”. The Daily/Sunday Express
  • 06/04/2014 The above story was also picked up by the Star - Star/Star on Sunday
  • 06/04/2014 My outputs were featured on the RGS #geogtoday news feed. Royal Geographical Society
  • 18/3/2015 Daily Mirror quotes me in “Toxic smog hits UK: Air pollution health alert is set trigger asthma attacks and ...”
  • 19/3/2015 Birmingham Mail – Quoted my stance on air pollution complexity and the import of air masses and pollution from Africa from 2014.
  • 19/3/2014 The Daily Record also runs with my suggestions from 2014 in relation to the Smog event in March 2015.
  • 19/3/2015 The Daily Mirror [Toxic smog hits UK: Live updates] also picks up on the same story – and quotes me in a range of contexts.
  • 19/3/2015 Belfast Live picked up on the same story as above….
  • 19/3/2015 The Loughborough Echo does the same….as does the Cheddar Valley Gazette.
  • 8/12/2015 BBC News at 10 Coverage by David Schukman from Etosha Pan regarding the DO4Models project. Lengthy segment which highlighted the global importance of the research programme.
  • 9/12/2015 BBC Science and Environment Editorial about the RCUK funded DO4Models project. This was picked up by a range of other news outlets
Additional research projects

Ephemeral Lakes and Dust Emissions

Atmospheric mineral aerosols impact global climate through the absorption and scattering of incoming solar radiation and outgoing planetary radiation, as well as affecting ocean and terrestrial biogeochemistry. Due to the prevalence of arid surfaces with reduced vegetation cover and high velocity winds, much of the observed atmospheric dust is derived from susceptible surfaces within dryland regions.

Work has shown that topographic lows are the predominant sources of atmospheric desert dust within drylands. However, there are no general theories of why some basins are more active dust sources than other regions. Gross changes in the hydrology of an ephemeral lake system can lead to extreme changes in regional dust emissions (eg Owens Lake). It is possible, therefore, that changes in the frequency and extent of natural inundation occurring on large ephemeral lake systems may lead to significant fluctuations in regional dust loadings on a seasonal and inter-annual basis.

Research here focuses on using a range of remote sensing approaches (eg TOMS, POLDER, AVHRR) to constrain the affect of inundation on dust emissions from ephemeral lake systems in Africa.

Including Collaboration with: Natalie Mahowold (UCSB/NCAR), Giles Wiggs (Oxford), Frank Eckhardt (UCT) and Richard Washington (Oxford). Funding from NERC and the Royal Society.

Dust plumes

(A) MODIS Visible (250m – Channel-1) image of dust plumes which seem to emanate from the southern part of Sua Pan (B) SeaWIFS (Channel-2) image of a similar dust plume 10 days later. Here the dust plume also seems to emanate from parts of Ntetwe Pan (C) Near Infra-Red (Landsat ETM-Channel 4) Image showing the extent of standing water on Sua and Ntetwe Pan following heavy rainfall associated with Tropical Cyclone Eline.

Sua pan

Landsat ETM+ image of the Northern edge of Sua pan after the flood event of 2000.

Sua Pan in dryer times

Monitoring Ephemeral Lakes

In drylands past fluctuations in climate have resulted in relatively extreme changes in regional precipitation regimes. However, within most drylands contemporary changes in regional rainfall patterns are difficult to assess by direct measurement, and are best indicated and preserved by studying changes in the level and chemistry of closed or "non-outlet" lakes. However, many of these basins are un-gauged, and relatively little is known about their hydrologic response to climate inputs.

Research here focuses on the use of time-series EO data to determine inundation frequency and groundwater levels for large ephemeral systems. These data are used to estimate regional hydrologic inputs, and generate simple hydrological models.

Including collaboration with: Dr Charon Birkett (GSFC), NERC Dundee Satellite Receiving Station, NASA Surface Water Working Group. Funding from NERC and the Royal Society

Magkadigkadi Basin observations

Time series of observations for the Magkadigkadi Basin, (A) Lake inundation data at Sua Pan derived from AVHRR and MODIS data; a time series of NIR reflectance and the percent of the lake area covered by surface water. Key flood events are highlighted, (B) rainfall within the Nata River Catchment derived from gridded climate data (0.5 degree) and flow on the Nata River, (C) Average and anomalies in FASIR FAPAR data for the Makgadikgadi Basin, (D) monthly normalized anomalies (monthly mean minus the mean of the monthly means normalized to one standard deviation) for TOMS AAI v8 (NIMBUS7 and Earth Probe) 1980 through 2005 and wind speed data derived from the ECMWF ERA-40 gridded climate product (1 degree); (E) Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for the Dipole Mode Index (DMI) and Pacific (ENSO3.4) regions. The landfall of Tropical Cyclones on the Eastern Coast of southern Africa are also noted [L]

Applied Remote Sensing

Research here has focused on the innovative application of airborne remote sensing (principally CASI, CASI SWIR and Daedalus ATM) to estuaries, rivers, and wetlands, and a range of other environments. These dynamic and important environments require both progressive and innovative use of remote sensing techniques.

The work has included collaboration with Andrew Tyler and Dave Gilvear (Stirling), Andrew Baird and Angela Harris (Sheffield), Graham Ferrier (Hull). Data from NERC ARSF and FSF facilities.

Cors Fochno (Borth Bog)

Daedalus ATM Image of Cors Fochno (Borth Bog) collected in May 2002 as part of a project targeted at understanding and mapping the effects of water stress on Sphagnum spp - and thereby derive proxy measures of seasonal and sub-seasonal water table fluctuations

Cors Fochno (Borth Bog)

Co-ordinated Fieldwork at Cors Fochno in May 2002 : (a) Location of the study area, (b) Comparison of monthly rainfall totals for 2002 and mean total rainfall throughout 1981-2003, (c-d) A map of the locations of field sampling sites, and a photograph of typical primary and sub sampling stations

Field and Laboratory Spectroscopy

The Sheffield Spectroscopy Laboratory

Reflectance spectroscopy is the study of light as a function of wavelength that has been reflected or scattered from a solid, liquid, or gas. Spectroscopy is therefore a field and laboratory research tool that can be used to identify and map specific materials by detecting specific chemical bonds. As a result it is an excellent tool for environmental assessments, mineral mapping and exploration, vegetation communities/species and health studies, and general land management studies.

Field/Lab Spectrometers

Within the Department of Geography, Sheffield we have a laboratory facility with associated dark room, lights sources and controller PC. We have one ASD Fieldspec-3JR (0.4 - 2.5 micron) spectrometer and one ASD HH (0.1-1.1 micron) spectrometer to measure samples and provide in situ calibration of surface directional reflectance/radiance for terrestrial imaging spectroscopy studies. They also serve as laboratory spectrometers when rapid spectra are needed. We have a series ASD attachments and software to that enable us to analyse a wide range of soil, sediment, rock and vegetation samples.

Southern Tunisia

ASD Fieldspec HH being used to characterise soil reflectance at field sites in Southern Tunisia

Milos, Greece

NERC FSF ASD Fieldspec Pro being used to characterise a kaeolinite target reflectance at field sites on the island of Milos, Greece as part of an airborne remote sensing campaign


Graph

Typical field spectral signatures for S. pulchrum collected in May and September 2002 as part of a laboratory and field campaign targeted at understanding and mapping the Effects of Water Stress on Sphagnum.