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School of Geography

Mark Smith Dr Mark Smith

Contact details

Room Garstang 10.36
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK


+44 (0) 113 34 31974

Student hours:

Research overview

My research interests lie in the fields of hydrology, hydraulics and process geomorphology. I am especially interested in the interaction of near-surface flows with the Earth’s surface. Specifically, my current research is focussed on two main areas: (i) parameterisation of the surface roughness of complex topographies across a wide range of process environments and (ii) coupling basic hydrological models with models of malaria transmission. Underlining both these research threads is an appreciation of the structural and functional connectivity of patterns and processes within hydrology and geomorphology at various scales with the aim of invoking this analytical concept to understand nonlinearities and thresholds within water and sediment transfer systems.

I am currently involved with the NERC HYDROMAL project, investigating hydrological and geomorphological drivers of malaria transmission in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania (NE/H022740/1) (Co-I).

Further Details

My research interests can be divided into two main themes:

(i) Parameterising the surface roughness of complex topographies. Specific areas of research include:

  • development of through-water terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) techniques to facilitate the three-dimensional high-resolution acquisition of submerged topography in shallow gravel-bed rivers;
  • examination of interactions between flow resistance, turbulence intensity, surface form, sediment transport and the dynamics of in-stream invertebrate refugia (both low and high flows) at plot and reach scales in marginally-inundated gravel-bed rivers;
  • incorporation of flow resistance−surface roughness relationships into hillslope hydrological models capable of analysing the interactions between overland flow resistance, infiltration and rainfall patterns on flood generation. This enables a quantitative representation of functional hydrological connectivity, regarded as a fundamental concept in semi-arid hydrology;
  • examining fine scale topographic structures of both glacier ice surfaces and deglaciated terrain;
  • monitoring the fine-scale transformation of surface form over eroding surfaces, including the BSG-funded BadlandScan II project. This research combines repeat TLS monitoring and Structure-from-Motion surveys of a large-scale badland system (Cinca catchment, NW Spain) to inform landscape evolution models.

(ii)    Understanding the dynamic hydrological drivers of malaria transmission. Specific areas of research include:

  • understanding the hydrological processes driving malaria transmission, especially focussing on the maintenance of dry-season refugia for mosquito larvae;
  • developing a hydrological and geomorphological context for observed mosquito dry-season refugia in the Kilombero valley (south Tanzania). This unique environmental approach aims to provide a dynamic malaria hazard map for the valley, but also offers the potential to target remediation activities to the greatest effect;
  • monitoring and modelling hydrological processes in large tropical catchments. Such areas are often ungauged and we know very little about the specific hydrological processes operating. This research aims to provide and interrogate an extensive dataset on the surface and subsurface hydrology of the Namwala subcatchment of the Kilombero River.

I'm also associated with two further research projects:

  • MorphSed: investigating the morpho-sedimentary dynamics of human-stressed fluvial systems and implications for ecological diversity on the Upper Cinca River, Cataluña (co-ordinated by Dr Damia Vericat, University of Lleida);
  • ReesScan: using high-resolution surveys to assess morphological changes in response to multiple flood events across a large reach of the braided Rees River, south Island New Zealand (co-ordinated by Dr James Brasington, Queen Mary)

PhD Supervision

I welcome PhD applications in the following areas:

  • Fluvial hydraulics
  • Fluvial erosion and sediment transport
  • Hillslope hydrology
  • Overland flows
  • Soil erosion
  • Surface roughness
  • Ice surface dynamics
  • Peat erosion
  • Environmental drivers of malaria

Research Students

  • Joshua Chambers (Ph.D) (2017 - )
  • Owen Lo (Ph.D.) (2017 -)
  • Duncan Livesey (Ph.D.) (2017 -) 
  • Thomas Smith (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Joshua Wolstenholme (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Matthew Buchan (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Andrew Carr (Ph.D) (2016 -)
  • Zora van Leeuwen (Ph.D.) (2016 -)
  • Manel Llena (Ph.D) (Universidad de Lleida) (2016 - )
  • Eleanor Pearson (MbR) (2015-2016) The estimation of grain size from surface roughness using SfM within a river restoration context.
  • Scott Watson (Ph.D) (2014 –2017) 'Himalayan glacier lakes and outburst floods'. Funded by Uni. Of Leeds scholarship
  • Joanna Matthews (Ph.D.) (2011-2015). KEES funded (with Welsh Water and Aberystwyth University) ‘Geomorphological and meteorological controls of suspended sediment dynamics in upland Wales.
  • Richard Williams (Ph.D.) (2010-2014) (with Aberystwyth University) ‘Multiscale monitoring and modelling of braided river dynamics’
  • Zöe Kershaw (MPhil) (2009-11) (Aberystwyth University) ‘Local policy and practice in flood risk management’.


Oral Presentations

Smith, M.W. Hydrological applications of Structure from Motion. BHS Pennine Group Meeting, Leeds.

Smith, M.W. and Vericat, D. Erosion and deposition in badlands: from experimental plots to experimental landscapes. EGU General Assembly.

Vericat, D., Ramos, E., Brasington, J., Monoz, E., Bejar, M., Gibbins, C., Batalla, R.J., Tena, A., Smith, M.W., Wheaton, J. Multi-temporal topographic models in fluvial systems: are accuracies enough to change the temporal and spatial scales of our studies? EGU 2015.

Smith, M.W. and Vericat, D. Erosion and deposition in badlands: from experimental plots to experimental landscapes. British Society for Geomorphology (BSG) Conference, Manchester.

Vericat, D., Smith, M.W., Muñoz-Narciso, E. Automatic digital photogrammetry in geomorphology: data collection and quality at multiple spatial scales. Avances de la Geomorfología en España 2012-2014. XIII Reunion Nacional de Geomorfologia. Universidad de Extremadura, Càceres, 351-354.

Vericat, D., Batalla, R.J., Gibbins, C.N., Brasington, J., Tena, A., Béjar, M., Muñoz-Narciso, E., Ramos, E., Lobera, G., Buendía, C., López-Tarazón, J.A., Smith, M.W., Wheaton, J., López, R., Verdú, J., Palau, A. Coupling channel morphology and ecological diversity in a gravel bed river: MorphSed conceptual approach and experimental design (Poster). Avances de la Geomorfología en España 2012-2014. XIII Reunion Nacional de Geomorfologia. Universidad de Extremadura, Càceres, 167-170.

Smith, M.W., Carrivick, J., Carrivick, D. High definition models of the proglacial geomorphology of the Tarfala Valley, Sweden. Invited presentation. Stockholm University.

Matthews, J.R., Brewer, P.A., Macklin, M.G., Pearson, P. and Smith, M.W. 2014. Understanding Sub-Catchment Raw Water Quality: Development of an Early Warning System. Institute of Water WRc Meeting (Safety In Numbers - Can Technology Provide Intake Protection?), Swindon.

Smith, M.W. 2014. Hydrological and geomorphological controls of malaria transmission. NERC Impact Workshop: Ifakara Tanzania.

Smith, M.W. and Hardy, A.J. 2014. Hydromal: Hydrological modelling of malaria vector habitats. NERC Impact Workshop: Ifakara Tanzania.

Irvine-Fynn, T.D.L., Chandler, J.H., Holt, T.O., James, T.D., Smith, M.W., Sanz-Ablanedo, E., Rutter, N. 2013. Exploring high-resolution supraglacial topography using close range digital photogrammetry. IGSBB, Loughborough University.

Matthews, J.R., Brewer, P.A., Macklin, M.G., Pearson, P. and Smith, M.W. 2013. Investigating the trigger mechanisms for suspended sediment “red events” in the Brecon Beacons. BSG. Royal Holloway, University of London.

Bracken, L.J., Ali, G., Roy, A.G., Smith, M.W., Tetzlaf, D. and Wainwright, J. 2012. Hydrological connectivity for catchment management: research approaches, pathways and future agendas. EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria. EGU2012-4463.

Smith, M.W., Bracken, L.J. and Cox, N.J. 2009. Overland flow resistance and flood generation in semi-arid environments. Invited oral presentation at the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) Conference, Melbourne, Australia.

Smith, M.W., Cox, N.J. and Bracken, L.J. 2008. Overland flow resistance and flood generation in semi-arid environments. BSG Annual Conference, Exeter.

Smith, M.W., Cox, N.J. and Bracken, L.J. 2007. Flow resistance equations and overland flows. International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) Regional Conference, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Poster Presentations

Kirkby, M.J., Hooke, J., Smith, M.W., Barbera, G.G., Garcia-Pintado, J.G. and Bracken, L.J. 2013. Hydrological impacts of floods in SE Spain, September 2012. IAG: Paris.

Matthews, J.R., Brewer, P.A., Macklin, M.G., Pearson, P., Smith, M.W. 2013. Trigger mechanisms for suspended sediment “red events” in the Brecon Beacons. BHS and Pennines Hydrological Group National Meeting and Workshop. 

Smith, M.W. and Vericat, D. 2012. Evaluating through-water terrestrial laser scanning under a range of flow and suspended sediment conditions. EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, EGU2012-4785.

Vericat, D., Smith, M.W., López-Tarazón, J.A., Tena, A., Brasingtron, J., Batalla, R.J. 2012. Monitoring topographic change in highly erodible landscapes by means of terrestrial laser scanning. EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, EGU2012-5543.

Smith, M.W., Vericat, D. and Gibbins, C.G. 2012. Through-water terrestrial laser scanning of gravel beds at the plot scale: a preliminary investigation. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco , EP53A-0597.