Jon MacKay

University of Birmingham


Glacial, hydrological and landscape change in a deglaciating catchment: Virkisjokull, Iceland


N.E. Barrand, D.M. Hannah, S. Krause, C.R. Jackson, J.D. Everest, G. Adalgeirsdottir

PhD Summary

I am going to study a rapidly retreating outlet glacier situated on the Southern tip of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap. Using data collected from this glaciated catchment, I’ll be investigating the rate at which the glacier is retreating and how this is impacting the downstream hydrology (important for hydro-electric power plants that use meltwater from outlet glaciers) and geomorphology (important for infrastructure such as the building of roads). To do this I’m using a series of linked computer models, which represent different aspects of this system, to investigate how climate drives glacier evolution, and how these changes propagate as downstream hydrological and geomorphological responses.

What inspires you?

Two people more than anything: My A-level physics teacher and David Attenborough!

Previous Activity

I was lucky enough to work at the British Geological Survey (BGS) for four years as a hydrologist/numerical modeller. I used and developed numerical models to help understand surface and groundwater flow processes and how natural and anthropogenic effects may influence these in the future. I’m undertaking this PhD study as part of a “career break” from the BGS, so I’ll be heading back their once I finish!

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

As well as broadening my employment opportunities for the future, I love doing research, and I would like the opportunity to dedicate myself to one topic for an extended period of time. I hope to finish with a new set of skills that build on my past experience and that I can apply in my future work. This particular project combines my past experience in hydrology and modelling with two new fields for me (glaciology and geomorphology) and I am thoroughly looking forward to investigating the dynamics and potential linkages between these disciplines.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

CENTA combines highly respected university academics with leading research scientists in industry. In my case, I will continue to work with colleagues at the BGS while gaining new expertise from working with my supervisors from the University of Birmingham and the University of Iceland.

What are your future plans

When I finish my PhD, I will be heading back to the BGS to continue working as part of the Environmental Modelling team. The skills that I develop while undertaking this PhD will certainly help me to advance my research career at the BGS, and perhaps beyond one day.