Dr Darrel A Swift

Lecturer in Geoscience

Darrel Swift

Room number: E10
Telephone (internal): 27959
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7959
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7959
Email: D.A.Swift@Sheffield.ac.uk

Darrel joined the department in December 2006 as Lecturer in Geoscience. He was awarded a PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2002 and held a prestigious BP Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship at the University of Glasgow between 2003 and 2006. He is currently an Associate Editor for Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography and Director of the MSc(Res) Polar and Alpine Change programme.

Research Interests

  • Glacial erosion and long-term landscape evolution
  • Glacial sediment systems and landform evolution processes
  • Luminescence as a process tracer in glacial sediment systems
  • Glacier hydrology and fluvioglacial sediment systems

Current research

Long-term landscape evolution

This research focusses on the application of remote sensing-based landscape analysis and apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronometry to understand the long-term evolution of glaciated passive continental margins, including the origin of fjord systems and overdeepenings. The research has been supported by a BP Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship.

Glacial sediment systems

This research focusses on the significance of glacier structure and glacier-bed geometry for the entrainment, transport and deposition of distinctive sediments, sedimentary structures and landforms. Current work is focussing on the origin and significance of ogives and englacial thrusts, using analyses of glacier structure, sediment characteristics, and the chemical and isotopic composition of glacier ice.

Luminescence in glacial sediment systems

Luminescence can be used to date sediments but also to reveal sediment transport history. Sediment at the bed of Haut Glacier d'Arolla appears to be well-bleached (Swift et al. 2011); hence, I am currently undertaking ring-shear experiments to see if the luminescence characteristics of subglacial sediment can be used to indicate sediment transport history or residence time at the glacier bed.

Glacier hydrology and fluvioglacial sediment systems

My PhD research focussed on glacier hydrology and in particular the entrainment and evacuation of subglacial sediment by subglacial drainage systems. This is likely to play a key role in determining rates of glacier erosion and the evolution of major erosional landforms, such as overdeepenings. In turn, glacier-bed geometry (notably overdeepening) exerts a strong influence on glacier hydrology and pathways of glacial and fluvioglacial sediment transport.


My undergraduate teaching is strongly research-led and focuses mainly on my own research interests of glaciology and long-term landscape evolution. I achieve and seek to maintain high levels of teaching satisfaction by ensuring that my lectures and materials are accessible and understandable, but also engaging and stimulating by means of including the very latest research findings and developments. In addition, I seek to focus my teaching and feedback around the development of essential academic skills, notably independent research and communication skills, including presentation and essay-writing skills. Both aspects are essential for equipping graduates with highly-relevant subject-specific knowledge for further study and highly-developed transferable skills for the workplace.

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

GEO206 Environmental Change
GEO233 Glacial Environments

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)

Key Publications

  • Swift, D.A., Sanderson, D.C.W., Nienow, P.W., Bingham, R.G. and Cochrane, I.C. (2011). Anomalous luminescence of subglacial sediment at Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland – a consequence of resetting at the glacier bed? Boreas, 40(3), 446-458.
  • Swift, D.A., Persano, C., Stuart, F.M, Gallagher, K. and Whitham, A. (2008). A reassessment of the role of ice sheet glaciation in the long-term evolution of the East Greenland fjord region. Geomorphology, 94(1-2), 109-125.
  • Swift, D.A., Evans, D.J.A. and Fallick, A.E. (2006). Transverse englacial debris-rich ice bands at Kvíárjökull, southeast Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 25(13-14), 1708-1718.
  • Swift, D.A., Nienow, P.W. and Hoey, T.B. (2005). Basal sediment evacuation by subglacial meltwater: suspended sediment transport from Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 30(7), 867-883.
  • Swift, D.A., Nienow, P.W., Hoey, T.B. and Mair, D.W.F. (2005). Seasonal evolution of runoff from Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland and implications for glacial geomorphic processes. Journal of Hydrology, 309(1-4), 133-148.