Identifying topographic signatures of ancient and modern Martian surface processes

This project is available from the academic year 2025/26 onwards.

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Stuart Grieve

School of Geography, QMUL

Stuart Grieve's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Peter Grindrod

Earth Sciences Department, NHM

Peter Grindrod's Profile Picture

Additional Supervisor(s):
Joel Davis (Natural History Museum)

Project Description:

Since the 1970s scientists have been captivated by the complex topographic features observed on the surface of Mars, including apparent fluvial channels, lake deltas and mass movements. Recent discoveries have demonstrated that the modern surface of Mars is still experiencing a diverse suite of geomorphic processes, which both rework ancient, and develop new, features. This project will yield insights into the nature and rates of these geomorphic processes from ancient and modern Mars through the application of state of the art terrestrial topographic analysis techniques to the Martian context for the first time. The analysis of high resolution topographic data on Earth has led to fundamental insights into fluvial and hillslope processes, quantification of the impact of tectonics on surface morphology and tests for a range of theoretical sediment transport laws.

This topographic analysis will be performed using LSDTopoTools (, a state of the art software package developed at QMUL in collaboration with colleagues from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Durham Universities. Full training in software development and the use of LSDTopoTools, alongside opportunities to collaborate with other users of LSDTopoTools, will be provided to the successful student.

By combining these existing techniques with landscape evolution models and bespoke Martian topographic analysis methods developed by the student, a range of different topics can be explored, including (but not limited to):

– Identifying hillslope-channel linkages
– Comparative Martian and Terrestrial fluvial network analysis
– Using crater wall morphology to infer modern erosion rates
– Inferring ancient Martian climate signatures through channel morphology

Policy Impact of Research:

By studying landforms created under climate extremes on Mars, we will develop better insights into the impacts our changing climate will have on terrestrial landscapes and society.

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