Rob Bryant

Reader in Dryland Processes


Room number: F6
Telephone (internal): 27966
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7966
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7966


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:

Desert Dust

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

Desert dust research

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

Ephemeral lakes research

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.

Applied Remote Sensing research
Spectroscopy Laboratory


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.

Rob teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

  • GEO108 Earth's Changing Surface
  • GEO211 Applied Remote Sensing
  • GEO232 Dryland Geomorphology
  • GEV6010 Introduction to Remote Sensing
  • GEO6804 International Development Field Class
  • GEO6807 Understanding Environmental Change

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three undergraduate levels in the following modules:

  • GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
  • GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
  • GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)
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 web site “Smog expert: Worsening Saharan dust storms to become an annual Spring fixture as climate changes”
  • 03/04/2014 Above story also features on, and - 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

View full list of publications