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Dr Melanie Froude

Postdoctoral Researcher


Melanie Froude obtained her BSc in Geography from the University of Sheffield in 2009 and stayed with the department to complete an MSc by Research supervised by Dr Nick Rosser and Dr Patrice Carbonneau. Her thesis, titled Predicting slope behaviour: deriving strain-rate from the surface expression of failing rock masses, considered applications of the inverse-velocity method to forecast the timing of slope collapse.

Melanie then moved to the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia to undertake a NERC-funded PhD, titled Lahar dynamics in the Belham River Valley, Montserrat: Application of remote camera based monitoring for improved sedimentological interpretation of post-event deposits. The project was supervised by Professor Jenni Barclay, Professor Jan Alexander and Dr Paul Cole (Montserrat Volcano Observatory/ Plymouth University).

After a short period in industry, Melanie returned to academia as a Research Associate in Landslide Hazards and Impacts for Professor David Petley. This post began initially with the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia before moving to the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield in November 2016.

Melanie is involved in a number of projects including:

Research interests

I am interested in the onset, dynamics and impact of landslides and sediment-laden flash floods.

  • Spatial trends in geomorphic hazards and risks
  • Pre-failure slope movement
  • Longitudinal evolution of lahar prone volcanic catchments
  • Processes of sediment transport and deposition during sediment-laden flash floods
  • Low-cost monitoring technology for slopes and channels
  • Slope-to-channel mass transfer
Current research

The Global Fatal Landslide Database

Compiled consistently since 2004 the database contains details of landslides which resulted in one or more human fatalities. Systematic metadata search tools are used to identify and filter relevant mass media reports on a daily basis (Petley et al., 2005; Petley, 2010; 2012; Froude and Petley, in review). Between 2004 and 2015, 4,437 non-seismic fatal landslides were documented, causing the death of 53,784 people. Seventy-four percent of global landslides (3,271 landslides) recorded between 2004 and 2015 were located in Asia, and the large majority were triggered by rainfall (78.9%); although human actions were significant in conditioning and triggering slopes to fail.

The database is a useful resource in our understanding of spatial and temporal trends in landslide occurrence. Currently we are investigating landslide occurrence in Nepal in relation to patterns of monsoon rainfall (in collaboration with Akiyo Yatagai, Hirosaki University, Japan), and road expansion; providing an update on Petley et al. (2007). Work has also been undertaken to constrain the spatial precision of each landslide event to improve analysis (Froude & Petley, in prep).

The database will be released open source later this year, hosted on a website designed by University of Sheffield Computer Science undergraduate students. The new interface will enable users to not only download data but also submit new entries to the dataset.


Lahars on Montserrat

Building on my PhD research, I will be part of the supervisory team for a new doctoral student starting in October 2017 on the project: ‘Modelling lahar hazard and landscape disturbance following a volcanic eruption on the island of Montserrat’. The student will initially use the lahar event record and archive observations of landscape change from my past PhD research (Froude et al., in prep), and the SedCas numerical model (Bennett et al., 2014) to reconstruct past lahar activity from 1995 to present, and then project the impact of future lahars on valley morphology.

The project will help the local volcano observatory to manage risk posed by lahars to local tourism, geothermal energy production and aggregate extraction in and around the port of Plymouth.


Low cost camera-based monitoring of geophysical flows

Making measurements of sediment-laden rapid-onset flows in often inaccessible channels requires non-contact or highly toughened equipment. Often this comes at significant cost and may only survive a single event. In collaboration with Tom Perring, we are developing novel low-cost monitoring devices for surface measurements of geophysical fluids to be employed in challenging settings. Building on our combined expertise working with bespoke field computers (based on the Raspberry Pi) and camera technology, we hope to develop a system and processing method to measure flows at high rates over day to week long periods.

Raspberry Pi Diagram


Observations during my PhD highlighted the prevalence of water-surface-waves during fast, sediment-laden flash floods, and the preservation of bedform architecture despite apparent violent wave breaking. The geometries of water-surface-waves (and antidunes) measured from a sediment-laden flash flood on Montserrat using a remote monitoring camera, were associated with flow velocity and depth. Lenticular structures in the event deposit were comparable to those generated by antidunes in flume studies. These structures may be under recognised in the rock record because of perceived low preservation, but are important for paleoflow reconstruction, because lens length may be related to antidune wavelength. Directly linking the geometry of structures with the geometries of waves measured in camera images, provided the first systematic study of antidunes in a natural setting (Froude et al., 2017). However, there remains great uncertainty in the preservation of lenses in event deposits, and further field-based studies are required to underpin this relationship.


MSc in Applied GIS

Department of Geography liaison officer for the MSc in Applied GIS led by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Dissertation supervisor for MSc Applied GIS (GEO6027 Dissertation, GEO6022 Research Proposal for Applied GIS)

Lecturer on TRP623 Applications of GIS

BSc Geography

Lecturer on GEO380 New Zealand field class

Guest lecturer on GEO116 Introduction to Geographical Methods

Key publications

Froude, M.J., Alexander, J., Barclay, J. and Cole, P. (2017) Interpreting flash flood palaeoflow parameters from antidunes and gravel lenses: An example from Montserrat, West Indies, Sedimentology, accepted and online, DOI: 10.1111/sed.12375

Froude, M.J. and Petley, D.N. On the loss of life from landslides from 2004 to 2015, Landslides, in review

Jones, R., Manville, V., Peakall, J., Froude, M.J., Odbert, H. (2017) Real-time prediction of rain-triggered lahars: incorporating seasonality and catchment recovery, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, in review and discussion (contribute here: )

Froude, M.J. and Petley, D.N. Spatial precision in hazard reporting: the landslide case, in prep

Froude, M.J., Barclay, J., Cole, P., Stinton, A., Smith, P., Odbert, H., Pascal, K., Alexander, J. Catchment dynamics driving channel response and recovery to multi-phase volcanic perturbations, in prep

Blog posts

27 January 2016, Landslides in Chile 4: The Punta Cola rock avalanche in Aysén Fjord

2 February 2016, Landslides in Chile Part 5: Water waves triggered by landslides and the Mentirosa Island Landslide complex

Other information

I have experience from a number of past projects working with historic maps and deeds. On completion of my PhD, I was employed as a GIS Technician on the Minerals Registration Project in the Property and Investment Department of the Church Commissions, Church of England. I maintain an interest in historic mapping and have assisted on several projects with archaeologists and historians.